Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Prince Masitsela: One of the main achitects of the
undemocratic Tinkhundla Regime
Swazi people have never been given an opportunity to independently decide if they want to be ruled through a multi-party democratic system. On the run-up to the 1964 elections king Sobhuza 11 had already voiced his reservations concerning political parties. The reason that there were three elections conducted under multi-party democracy was because the first two elections were conducted under the threat of an independence that hadn’t been officially granted by the British administration.

The reason that in 1973 Sobhuza 11 had to finally undemocratically steal all ruling power was because the campaigning for the 1972 elections had proven to be a nightmare for the Imbokodvo National Movement (INM).

 One Swazi woman recalls on how Price Masitsela would appear at all manner of ungodly hour at her homestead to request services of her husband who was known for his oratory skills. Apparently NNLC’s education on the benefits of multi-party democracy had more than taken root but were flourishing in spite of a barrage of state funded propaganda that multi-democracy was an equivalent to bloodshed. What terrified the living daylights out of the woman was that her husband had been a member of the NNLC previously, and was viewed as a traitor by members of the NNLC.

Competition for votes was so intense that the woman felt very unsafe when her husband had to leave with Prince Masitsela on many occasions. She said times of Masitsela’s arrival at her homestead ranged from 11 PM to 3 AM, because later than that another, Prince or another INM campaigner would have already arrived to whisk  her husband away to wherever area the NNLC  had gained popularity. Apparently Masitsela was the early riser or non-sleeper as he was the one that acquired the services of the orator most of the times as the elections campaign turned him into a nocturnal creature.

She said that at times the situation would get so terrifying that, “At one time I had to ask Masitsela to drop me off at my sister’s place because as soon as he had left with my husband, I wouldn’t be able to sleep thinking the NNLC members would break into our house”

She said the reason that she feared for her life was because some NNLC members would talk about killing her husband when they were aware that she was within hearing distance. She said her husband would shrug it off as propaganda tactics of which he was well aware of, but she said that to her it was a time of heightened fear.

It was not only the woman that was terrified but Sobhuza 11 and most of the aristocracy were at pains to contain an NNLC which had made inroads into areas that the aristocracy wouldn’t have dreamt that it (NNLC) would penetrate.

According to the woman almost every area that her husband would visit with Masitsela or one of the princes, would convert from being an NNLC area to an INM area. She says her husband was so gifted with his oratory skills that king Sobhuza 11 gave him the name, MdumbadumbanePresumably the other enhancer of the oration was that it was based on a lie that instilled fear in the audience, which made it easy for the people to change their minds.
 Funny enough Swaziland was to be later subjected to a State indoctrination radio show called Khala Mdumbadumbane.

The INM based its 1972 campaign on a lie that political parties brought violence. When I asked the woman on what else she could remember about the wording of the INM’s 1972 elections campaign besides that political parties brought violence, she said, “Angitsi nguloko lokwakumcoka kutsi batfu bavele basabe ema-party.” (What was important was that people should fear political parties.)

The fact that Sobhuza 11 had his preconceived fear of political parties was the reason that the INM’s 1972 election campaign was based on a lie. Sobhuza 11 made his reservations  on political party democracy known to the British Administration prior to the 1964 elections by mentioning that he did not think that it would work well with the Swazi way of life.

But on the backdrop of two successive defeats, and a mildly restricted political campaigning, the NNLC proved that multi-party democracy might after-all, contrary to Sobhuza’s beliefs, work quite brilliantly with the Swazi way of life when it won three seats in parliament.  The Mpumalanga constituency had given a king an effective thumbs-down. Three seats might have seemed like a humble representation to a regular person, but it was more or less a massacre to the INM and the aristocracy at the time.  Sobhuza 11could not let the people catch on like that and disturb the accumulation machinery, so, “walugoba lusemanti” (struck the iron while it was still hot) through a decree that from that day on, all power was vested in him. He went on and even banned political parties. 

Not only was the control of the governing tool important for the sake of comprador  accumulation, but it  insured that  it was complemented by state controlled accumulation. With winning three seats, the NNLC had shown potential to be a ruling party. With the NNLC in the driving seat, the possibility of clamping down even on the compador accumulation was very high. So Sobhuza was not going to take chances by letting a bunch of "wannabes" take control of government. Actually for the fact the all the wealth held by the king was held under the claim of holding it "in trust of the nation" required that Sobhuza stay in power, otherwise on securing power the NNLC could say that it was then the representative of the people and could demand that Sobhuza hand over all the wealth.

It would have been prudent for the king that came after Sobhuza 11 to backtrack to his father’s mistake of violating the sacred Swati saying that, “Inkhosi yinkhosi ngebantfu” ( A king is a king because of the people). But king Mswati 111 was not to do that. He was to use his father’s blunder as a stepping stone to deviate further from the Swazi way of life.  In 1989 on the backdrop of people’s demands, he uttered the first public insult to the Swazi people that was to serve as a starting point for more blatant insults directed at the nation. That insult was also to serve a starting point to stepped-up arbitrary arrests enforced through the Apartheid style, 60 day detention.

It is on this knowledge that we stand confident that until Tinkhundla Regime backtracks to 1973 and take lessons from that point, it will continue to be asked to continuously clarify what Tinkhundla system is, and it will continue to give an incoherent answer because was the system to be defined for the repressive tool that it is, it would appear like the wolf that it is and not the sheep that it is being sold as by those that accumulate through it. It will continue to have its supporters clutching at straws trying to find adequate definitions even to the point of seeing visions through bad weather,  but beyond the dilly-dallying it will remain a tool of accumulation which has submerged over two thirds of the population in poverty, has created the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the world, and according to Forbes magazine it has left Mswati 111 with an estimated 200 million dollar as his personal fortune, besides the billions generated by Tibiyo Takangwane which is supposed to be a national fund but is used as the aristocracy’s personal bank account.  

Even if the supporters of Tinkhundla could write a book thicker than two leather-bound king James version of the bible, they still wouldnt be able to explain Monarchical Democracy which is a confusion of two opposing words. Actually it would be wiser for king Mswati 111 to write a document responding to the 2012 Sibaya recommendations because it is almost a given that writing a book explaining a Monarchical Democracy would only be of interest to Trevor Noah, and would do nothing to address the economic crisis that is still hanging over Swaziland like a thunderstorm that brings no visions, and the continued demonisation of political parties. 

The people will continue to educate one another on multi-party democracy up to the point that they will be so aware that they will stand up at Sibaya and demand multi-party democracy as they did at the 2012 Sibaya. But if the regime continues the culture of 1973, it will come to the point that the people will not even attend Sibaya because recommendations made in that forum are nothing more than kutihhamula (chit-chatting).

At the 2012 Sibaya it was the “ordinary” people that stood up to demand multi-party democracy, and at the 2013 Sibaya T.V Mtseftwa, the Traditional Prime Minister called the people timfucuta (filth). It is quite clear that as the people continue to be more aware of their plight and the cause, the aristocracy continues to be more arrogant and uncaring.

Many have been the lessons but too little has been the will to learn by the aristocracy and all its arms. The clock is ticking and the people’s conscious on self-determination continues to rise, in spite of the clamp down on some of the lessons. The word sedition which is used to torture and imprison democracy activists will not prevent the people’s conscious from rising and will not prevent the activists from advocating for democracy. Much has been the brutality on the people and still they advocate for democracy. Even if the Tinkhundla regime can spill more innocent blood like the apartheid regime did to the Soweto students in 1976, still the people will continue to advocate for democracy and Human Rights as the people of South Africa so resiliently did not so long ago. History in all its gory tells us that once a people begin a campaign for the freedom, they will not let -up until they attain that Freedom. But history also tells us that there is no dictatorship that had common sense enough to figure out that the inevitable fall of previous dictators might just apply to his dictatorship.

It is now time for the Tinkhundla Regime to swallow its pride, cut its losses and humbly allow the free flow of information in Swaziland. It is time to unclasp that cold hand of fear that is clutching the door handle to free expression. It is time to allow the people to assemble in peace without the fear of the security forces. But mostly it is time to let go of Sobhuza’s fear that political parties are a prelude to violence. We have seen South Africa expand out of the clutches of apartheid. When all inclusive multi-party democracy was introduced in South Africa, it was then that children of the Swazi elite were taken to South Africa in droves, and the king’s children now go to South Africa to get medical attention. If multi-party democracy is so violent and unworkable, then why are the king of Swaziland and the elite the first in line to reap the fruits of multi-party democracy in South Africa and other countries of the world?

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