Monday, January 21, 2019

Swaziland chief bans alcohol. Shows how chiefs have complete control in area they rule

A chief in Swaziland / eSwatini has banned alcohol in his area. It is another example of how chiefs in the kingdom have complete control over their people.

The ban happened in Qomntaba. Chief Gasa waNgwane Dlamini issued the ban after youths allegedly got drunk and attacked elderly people with spears. 

Chiefs are appointed by King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland. They rule in his name and have unlimited powers; sometimes literally of life and death.

The international news agency AFP reported a spokesperson for the chief saying, ‘The violent behaviour of drunk youths who spear and assault elderly people is the reason why the chief decided to ban alcohol.

‘In this area we have a problem of a high rate of drinking among youths caused by high unemployment.

‘This causes them to spend a lot of time drinking traditional concoctions and smoking dagga (marajuana).’

Chief Gasa waNgwane Dlamini was in the news ahead of Swaziland’s national election in September 2018. In April there was a campaign at Lavumisa that includes Qomintaba.

The Swazi Observer reported at the time people were angry at ‘the draconian laws imposed allegedly by the leadership of the area’. 

Lavumisa Chief Gasa WaNgwane’s main royal residence is Qomintaba. There are almost 16 mini-chiefdoms in Lavumisa, all which report to Qomintaba. Constituencies under Lavumisa include Sigwe, Somntongo and Matsanjeni South. 

The Observer reported, ‘There has been instability in the area with some of the residents, including close family members of the ruling household, questioning Gasa WaNgwane’s leadership style. It is said some of the close family members and residents no longer participate in activities organised by the leadership.’

Chiefs in Swaziland are appointed by King Mswati and wield tremendous power over their subjects. They can, for example, determine whether people are allowed to live in the area, or whether children can attend universities and colleges. In some cases they decide who lives and who dies as they are in charge of distributing international food aid to starving communities. About a third of the population of Swaziland receive food aid each year. 

Chiefs can and do take revenge on their subjects who disobey them. There is a catalogue of cases in Swaziland. For example, Chief Dambuza Lukhele of Ngobelweni in the Shiselweni region banned his subjects from ploughing their fields because some of them defied his order to build a hut for one of his wives.

Nhlonipho Nkamane Mkhatswa, chief of Lwandle in Manzini, the main commercial city in Swaziland, reportedly stripped a woman of her clothing in the middle of a street in full view of the public because she was wearing trousers.

In November 2013, the newly-appointed Chief Ndlovula of Motshane threatened to evict nearly 1,000 of his subjects from grazing land if they did not pay him a E5,000 (about US$500 at the time) fine, the equivalent of more than six months income for many in Swaziland.

In March 2017 the Swazi Observer reported the EBC told residents during a voter education exercise at Engwenyameni Umphakatsi, ‘it was not acceptable have elected politicians to behave as if they were above community leaders’.

It added, ‘Chiefs remain superior to any other person in communities as they are the administrative arm of His Majesty King Mswati III.’

See also 

Chief punishes residents with fine

Bullying chiefs rule in Swaziland

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