WHAT IS A KING TO A SWAZI PERSON?
Recently during a dialogue of Swazi people a South African Activist who has internalised the plight of the Swazi people so much that when I first saw her talking on the Swazi situation, I had no doubt that she was a Swazi person. When I was told that she is not a Swazi, I then asked how she could feel so strongly on a pain that was not hers. I was then told that she visits Swaziland regularly and she interacts with the Swazi people in pain, at the locations where the misery obtains. It then all made sense how this lady could identify with Swazi people at such an intimate level because it is said that if you are not the one being beaten, stand next to the one being beaten, at the time that they are being beaten, and after a couple of beatings, it would be as if you too are being beaten.
|A protest in London against the absence of |
democracy in Swaziland
This good person made a statement that, “Swazi people love their king”. At face value, such a statement wouldn’t sound untrue, hence how it has come to enjoy unearned credibility. But in seeking to bring some clarity on this matter, or maybe even to inspire further dialogue on the issue, I stood up to challenge this statement. Not really to accuse the activist of speaking an untruth but to bring caution to the loose use of this statement.
WHO AUTHORED THE STATEMENT?
It would be very hard to trace the originator of the statement that Swazi people love their king, but Swaziland at a glance would deceive anyone into regarding this statement as fact. Even though the numbers have dwindled, it is fact that when the king summons us to wherever, we attend in numbers. At such events we sing songs that not only declare our undying love for the king, but such love is paraded so dramatically that it would be likened to worship.
In our everyday language we directly and indirectly communicate this love for the king. Sowutenta inkhosi! (You are behaving like a king!), is a statement issued when someone demands service that the other feel is undeserved because it Is the king that must always be served, deserving or undeserving. Actually the language that a king does not deserve anything does not exist in Swaziland; the king is always deserving of any anything.
When we communicate shock we say, “Nkhosi yami?” (My King!). When we communicate sympathy we say, “Nkhosi yami!” We refer to God as Inkhosi (King), and we also refer to the king as Nkhosi (King). We also refer to Jesus Christ as Nkhosi (King). We say the king is the sun; he is what brings us light. We say to the king, “Bengiyini mine, ngiyinja nje!” (What am I but just a dog in your presence). We are not supposed to maintain eyelevel height with the king as it is a sign of being equal to the king hence the crawling on the knees, crawling on the buttocks, and crawling on the stomach when in the presence of the king. The women are not supposed to be in the presence of the king when in mourning because they carry “darkness” which might just dilute the king’s light.
Traditionally we are not supposed to taste our agricultural produce until the king has tasted the first produce of the year and has given us permission to do so. We cannot have a homestead until one of the king’s representatives, which is the chief, has allocated us a piece of land which is referred to as “the king’s land”. Actually we cannot grow anything in the ground until the king’s representative has allocated us a piece of “the king’s land”. Before our children can go to school, the king’s representative must give a stamp of approval that we are worthy Swazis. Almost everything of significance prefixes or suffixes with “Royal”.
With over two thirds of the population living in poverty, almost every cent of currency and almost every grain of food in charity comes in the name of the king. It is said that the king is back from his friends overseas and he asked for something for us because he loves us so much. We become very gratefull to the king for such kindness of “caring” about us.
From childhood it is an unspoken known that to participate in the royal structures is a ticket to acceptance from one’s immediate community up to being accepted for a job interview in adulthood. Allegiance through participation is the foundation that decides one’s success or the lack thereof. It is fact that almost every door that one needs to open, the stamp of approval of the king’s representative who is the chief is a must, and if the subject has been disobedient to the king’s representative, it almost a guarantee that a person will not taste success within the confines of Swaziland.
ARE WE ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTION?
It may then seem that the question to ascertain if the people love the king would be an unfair and leading. It then seems that the appropriate question to ask would be one that ascertains if the people have a choice not to love the king. So the appropriate debate subject would be: WHAT ARE THE CHANCES THAT ONE WOULD FIND SUCCESS IN SWAZILAND IF THEY PUBLICLY DECLARED THAT THEY DO NOT LOVE THE KING? OR DO THE PEOPLE REALLY LOVE THE KING?
What has been outlined above is just a tip of the iceberg on how the Tribute Extraction machinery operates in Swaziland because if we can go further and outline mythological Swaziland, it becomes more clear that the love question is not a typical one in Swaziland, and if we could further interrogate the cult of personality, things get more complex. The fact that the Tribute Extraction machinery might seem primitive does not necessarily equate to that it is ineffective, hence its ability to mislead even the most of well-intentioned people. It is a system that was designed to mislead and over the years it has been fine tuned to also accommodate the arrogant mind that has declared that academia is the only place for intellectual enhancement.
So to answer the question as to what the king is to the Swazi people. He is the mother, the father, he holds the key to shelter, to nourishment, to social status, and when it suits the agenda, he can be the child of the nation. He is a national philanthropist considering that all that comes to the people must come in his name and not much charity escapes the stamp of the king. In short, the king in Swaziland is the very existence of Swazi people. So to ask if the people love the king is like asking if Swazi people eat food to survive. So, that either people love or don't love the king is an irrelevant question.