Friday, December 20, 2013


A ceremony in which King Mswati III of Swaziland reportedly has sex with a bull, ‘is probably the most important tradition of the Swazi people’, according to a newspaper in effect owned by the King.

The Incwala or First Fruits Ceremony is ‘our unique identity’, the Swazi Observer said in an editorial comment.

Incwala is a controversial ceremony that takes place between November and January each year. Traditionalists say Incwala is a ‘national prayer’, but Christian groups have criticised it for being ‘un-Godly’ and ‘pagan’.

The ceremony is shrouded in secrecy and participants are barred from talking about what happens. The Observer reported ‘hordes’ of tourists attended the ceremony (50,000 are expected this year, according to one public relations handout), but in fact no one is allowed to witness one part of the ceremony, described by the King’s newspaper as ‘heritage which sets us apart from other tribes that we are branches of’.

The Observer said the rites of Incwala were ‘mystical’ and, ‘it becomes imperative that it cannot be documented by modern documentation apparatus like cameras and video recorders’.

It added, ‘Hence most of the information about such a ceremony can only be gleaned from those who have attended it through word of mouth, further mystifying the ceremony.’

Journalists who try to report the event are harassed and in 2011 a street vendor who sold pirated DVDs of Incwala was hauled in by the police and handed over to traditional authorities for a grilling. He was ordered to reclaim all the copies of the DVD he had sold.
Failure to do so might have seen him banished from his homeland, local media reported at the time.

In its editorial, the Observer also made an oblique reference to ‘the accuracy of the first person accounts’ that had emerged from the ceremony.

It said the accounts, ‘[C]annot be said to be spot on, as there are some elements that are out of bounds to the commoner, while the high priests are naturally sworn to secrecy such that even if they can tell about the rituals, there are those that they know they should not or cannot divulge’.

Although it did not say so, the Observer was probably referring to a first-hand account of the activities of Incwala that emerged in 2011. Then, a number of media outlets, including the Southern Africa Report and Africa is a Country, reported an eyewitness testimony of Incwala.

Africa is a Country said, ‘The ceremony is cloaked in secrecy and marks the king’s return to public life after a period of withdrawal and spiritual contemplation.

‘Among its highlights is a symbolic demonstration by the king of his power and dominance in a process involving his penetration of a black bull, beaten into semi-conscious immobility to ensure its compliant acceptance of the royal touch. The royal semen is then collected by a courtier and stored, for subsequent inclusion in food to be served at Sibaya – traditional councils – and other national forums.’

It also reported, ‘Swazi police has since jumped onto the “testimony” with “an appeal to the nation for assistance in identifying and arresting certain individuals who are printing and distributing pamphlets in business and other public areas” (that’s Scribd and Facebook).’

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