Saturday, August 16, 2014


After many years of being known as the Lightning Arrester, Prime Minister of Swaziland Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini had to forgo his street credentials by withdrawing a threatening statement he had ushered in a dirty effort to instil fear in “unionists” who had gone to Washington DC to partake at the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) deliberations.

Swaziland Prime Minister Sibusiso Dalmini
AKA Fire and Brimstone Surfer
Having realised, or most probably having been pressured, the Thunderbolt Grabber had to descend from his high horse and become a mortal, and was compelled to “unconditionally” withdraw his statement. 

None is privy to the reason why the Lightning Kamikaze had to utter such explicit lyrics without giving care to beliefs and prejudices of the audience. The most probable reason might be in relation to reports that king Mswati III and his entourage didn’t receive the most heroic of welcomes in Washington DC when the latter attended the recent US/Africa Summit. That there were protests within Restraining-Order distance, and that such protests were zooming in on prisoners of conscious that Mswati III had left languishing in jails in his Kingdom might be suspect. This might serve as lousy evidence as to the cause of the fumes that were spewing through the Prime Minister’s nostrils when he, in no uncertain terms, ordered Members of Parliament to khama (strangulate) the “unionists”. This is pure speculation, but what can we do but speculate in a country where almost all information is on a need-to-know bases, and if the need to know arises, it is further denied through the if-culture-permits security measure.

None can also conclusively say why America had to issue a no-nonsense statement on the etiquette of Dances-In-An-Electric-Storm. Considering that Mswati III and his government has recently called America’s bluff in the poker game of AGOA and its conditions, is maybe the reason that America has just about had it with the diplomacy of beating about the bush. As much as Mswati III and his government might view this as another poker game at the expense of the Swazi people, to the people affected, it is nothing less than the dangerous game of Russian roulette, and America is beginning to realise this. 

What is not speculation though is that the Prime Minister of Swaziland is planets apart from his nickname’s sake. What he has been able to do in office as the Boss Minister was to put in place policies that in the short term work some magic for the dictatorship, but in the long term spell nothing but disaster for the Monarchy. Such can hardly be viewed as arresting lighting but an effort in short-circuiting governance in a way that the national government grid has become a bevy of explosive sparks and instead of arresting the voltage, he is perilously searching in his hand bag of bully tricks. 

There is another lightning bolt, in the form of Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi, that is running loose in dire need of an arrester but Sbu Kamikaze is caught in between misleading parliamentarians and throttling unionists. Appreciating recent lightning bolts that threatened to smite Swaziland into a failed State might showcase the achievements of the Swaziland Prime Minister.

In 2011 when Swaziland was in a financial crisis, had he been a lightning arrester, he would have at least tried to formulate sustainable measures that would get Swaziland out of its fiscal slumber and keep it there. Instead of taking some counsel from the International Monetary Fund, he cheered with the rest of the royal applauding-squad when Mswati III took the begging bowl to South Africa.  Suffice to say that South Africa had conditions attached to the loan which were a little bit more that the interest that would be charged. Viewed in perspective, the conditions of the South African loan, in context, are almost verbatim to those attached to AGOA by the United States of America. 

It is also good to note that the Thunderbolt Manipulator was there in the thick of issues when, after a windfall of the SACU receipts, the then Minister of Finance Majozi Sithole caused  a celebration pandemonium when he declared nirvana and much decent bubbly was popped and finger delicacies were nibbled in celebration of Swaziland being "out of the financial crisis". You needn't have been a certified numbers cruncher to appreciate that the prudent thing to do was to bring umcombotsi (traditional brew) and ask the ancestors to intervene instead of degrading the French bubbly gods by sipping their crystal in a celebration of a postponed financial crisis.

Had the Prime Minister been the hurricane surfer that he is known to be, he would have at least tried to council Mswati III on the wisdom of meeting some of the conditions of the American preferential trade agreement. Such would have feigned willingness while he went shopping for the latest magic carpet. That America has effortlessly snapped the carpet right from under his feet and extinguished the fire from his nostrils with a single statement is to show the lack of foresight on the part of the Brimstone Snapper. But again, it is said that domineering breeds mediocrity.

The Textile Lightning  
There is a standard number of 17000 that has been thrown around in relation to the loss of jobs with the loss of the preferential trade agreement with the United States.  But regardless of the number, the reality is that many people will lose their livelihood. Even if the employment of the textiles workers is highly exploitative, the humbling truth is that their employment helps in keeping the vultures at bay.

Would it have made the Prime Minister less of a storm chaser, if he would at least amended the Industrial relations act and drafted a few pointers to guide the etiquette of the boys in blue and green? Would it be worth the humiliation of withdrawing one’s words to absolve union leaders of the liability of damages incurred during a strike action? Maybe America would have understood had he told them that he was still “mulling over” the flagship piece of legislation which is Suppression of Terrorism Act, but he should have at least presented an amended Industrial Relations Act as a show of some commitment. But he and Mswati III decided that they would keep singing the perpetual “soon come” to the Americans. The landlord is surely to view you negatively if you can’t give even a fraction of the rent. But it seems like such is not the logic in the higher echelons of Swazi governance.

This is not to lambast the Prime Minister as a complete failure, but to put caution into the overestimation of our leaders’ capabilities. I am sure the Current Terminator has his strengths, but fairness and accounting to
the ordinary people is not one of them. Judging from the almost non-existent Foreign Direct Investment, Swaziland’s overreliance on the SACU receipts, high unemployment rate, clampdown on basic freedoms and almost three quarters of a population who live in poverty, exposes a man who doesn’t care about the prosperity of the majority of the Swazi people.

America has stated clearly that its preferential trade has conditions and it is upon King Mswati III and the Prime Minister to ensure that such conditions are met, as powers to meet these conditions are exclusively vested in them or rather that Mswati III, in consultation or not in consultation with the ghost advisory squad, instructs the Prime Minister on pertinent issues of governance, especially where it has to do with giving dissent some space to manoeuvre. It would be an insult to even insinuate that Members of Parliament have a say in this issue because history warns us that whatever powers they are purported to have, boil down to rubberstamping the king’s wishes.

The legacy of kukhama (To strangulate)
The Brimstone Bender might fool some on the “unconditional withdrawal” of his careless statement, but as Swazis who have been on the receiving end of the repression we know that the statement was not just empty threats of a politician who blundered.

Strangulation has been part of the Tinkhundla regime as much as the teargas and the baton have been. "Tubing", which is the technique used to strangulate, has been used to instill fear in criminals and political activists for many years. Both Vincent Ncongwane and Sipho Gumedze, who were being threatened with strangulation, are well aware of the horrors of being “tubed”.

Having personally undergone this torture procedure at the hands of the Swazi police, I can sum it up that it is one of the most painful abuses I have had to undergo in my entire life. After having been “tubed”, I was coughing blood and clots for almost a week.

It was with horrifying recollection that I had to watch someone cough blood during my recent incarceration. The said inmate who was accused of stealing car mirrors, was taken by detectives from the holding cells under the cover of darkness, and when he came back he was coughing blood and relayed some of the abuses he had gone through. A customs official who had been arrested on alleged fraud also relayed on how he had been beaten and “tubed” by the Swazi detectives. A young man, who was arrested for disappearing with his friend’s slipslops and E100 (10 dollars), was also taken by the detectives and when he came back he relayed how he had been beaten. A guy who had allegedly stolen copper cables was brought in after having been severely beaten and was later taken by detectives and he came back relaying how he had been further bitterly beaten. All this torture activity happened in the few days, which were less than a week, the duration which the seven of us were being held at the Mbabane holding cells before being transferred to Sidvwashini prison.

It is through such bitter experience that we refuse to even feign conviction that Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini has somehow found Jesus Christ and has developed some on and off spurts of kindness. This individual has sat as the Chief Overseer to much torture that has been meted on the Swazi people, and when he said that the “unionists” must be strangulated, he meant it because strangulation continues to be a tool that is used to acquire evidence from alleged criminals and quash dissent from human rights proponents and political activists.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Swazi Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi


Recently, the judicial offshoot of the political problem has received quite some reasonable attention due to the peculiar manner in which the judiciary handled the contempt of court case preferred against Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu and that was followed by the arrest of people for wearing t-shirts. As much as the authorities would have liked the t-shirt story to be paraded as Terrorism, the fact that there were people arrested for the mere act of wearing t-shirts was not lost to both the local and the international community. Suddenly people wanted to know if there was no other offence besides the wearing of the t-shirts that was committed which could justify the arrest of seven people.

When Justice Mumcy Dlamini broke with protocol and released Human Rights Lawyer Thulani Maseko and Nation magazine editor Bheki Makhubu, a lot of eyebrows were raised due to the fact that what was expected was that she would do the opposite. The norm is that if anyone criticises or defies authority in Swaziland, that surely such a person will be taught a lesson or part with a number of cows to appease the king. Such was the case with the people of Macetjeni and KaMkhweli who up to the present moment remain a displaced people because they dared to defy authority when they questioned the right of king Mswati III to impose a chief on them. It is the same norm that got Judge Thomas Masuku fired because he dared criticise the king. The fate of this well respected judge was sealed by Chief Justice Ramodibedi whose reputation has been tarnished by a multitude of issues, from the allegations of sexual harassment in Swaziland, and a hasty resignation in his home country where he is facing a number of issues that range from an impending impeachment and insurance fraud allegations.

In keeping with the norm, Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi brought eyebrows back at ease when he quickly issued a warrant of the re-arrest Of Maseko and Makhubu. Regardless that the chief justice holds his position unconstitutionally, he is not keen on keeping a low profile. Considering that back in his country he allegedly behaved in a manner of the priest who dipped his fingers in the tithing envelope, the expectation would be that he should lie low while drawing the Swazi salary, but such is not the style of the Lesotho national.

We now sit with an appointing authority whose tribute coffers come in a form of a cattle kraal and a chief Judge who is too willing to furnish his kraal with a number of beasts. We ask of the fate of justice when the same cattle herding Chief Justice fired another judge who he accused of disrespecting the very appointing authority who he pays homage to. We ask why it shouldn’t be considered a bribe that the chief justice can present cows to the same person who appoints Swazi chief judges and has appointed him in a blatant disregard for the very flawed constitution that a number of professional legal bodies have advised that its separation of powers aspect must be thoroughly revised. Separation of powers being the very bedrock that a constitution is supposed to be founded on is almost non-existent in the Swazi constitution.

No One Is Immune
It was when I had two weeks sitting in confinement that I really got to appreciate the number of people that get indirectly affected through the relentless campaign by the Tinkhundla Regime to silence any dissenting voice that seeks to expose that all is not well in Swaziland. By appreciating the number of people that were affected through my incarceration was how I got to be conscious of the reach of Tinkhundla regime’s bullying and how such has created a nation who would rather be quite than talk and be subjected to all manner of abuse.

There is a mocking bird that was killed as early as 1990 when PUDEMO President Mario Masuku and a number of political activists were paraded in the courts for treason. Because king Sobhuza II had done the ground work of stigmatising political parties, people thought it was the egg stealing mongoose that was getting massacred. It can also be said that that mocking bird was killed when Prince Mfanasibili and his alleged co-conspirators were put behind bars for assuming starring roles during the dethronement of the Queen Dzeliwe saga. Maybe it can be said that the justice mocking bird was killed when Dr Ambrose Zwane and Prince Dumisa Dlamini of the NLLC had to be continually incarcerated when they expressed opinions contrary to those of the ruling elite.

In the person of Nation magazine editor who carries no political tag, the people have seen that anybody can get arrested and be paraded in the courts in leg irons for the act of expressing opinion. It has now dawned that such harsh treatment is not an exclusive preserve for political activists. As much as the mocking bird of justice was killed many decades ago, in the eyes of a good number Swazi people the guilty verdict and the stiff sentence meted on Maseko and Makhubu signals the death of justice in Swaziland. For this mass awakening we only have chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi to thank.

The reality is that when the authorities abuse others the collective will suffer in one way or the other even if the people choose to acknowledge such or not. The main tool of Tinkhundla regime has been to divide and rule where the slaves are awarded varying importance. We ask if such was not the same modus operandi of the South African Apartheid regime where the black community was placed at the bottom of the racial chain and Indian and coloured where placed above them so slave could monitor slave while the elite race gorged itself on the resources that the earth provided.

Unity Is Strength
My name is Brian Ntshangase and I care not to memorise my prison number even though wisdom counsels me that I might need it in the near future. It is my counsel that now is the time that we should all work against the varying importance degrees that the regime awards us. That the comfortable positions we occupy today might be the perpetrators of our crucifixion tomorrow.  Such is none other than a tool to keep us divided and maintain us in perpetual enslavement. That the Mamba clan might be a little more important than the Tsabedze clan is nothing but maintaining a rank structure that has one serving the other and confusion on how important is one clan over the other. That people should spend time trying to establish their importance by trying to establish how well they are related to the royal family is nothing but foolishness.

Such serves to relegate the question to less relevant issues instead of asking why Mswati III’s salary is many times that of Barack Obama when almost three quarters of the Swazi Nation lives in poverty, or maybe to ask why over seventy members of the royal family get stipends for doing absolutely nothing while the elderly are given less than 25 dollars a month to survive on.