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.

1 comment:

  1. Horrible. Yes this is Swaziland and you put exactly as is. It is very sad, such a lovely country with wonderful people .watching it go down the drain because of bad leadership is so painful. Back to the unionists that got invited to discuss or part take in the AGOA discussions. government is playing with words here. saying they sneaked out, yet they know very well that these two gentlemen were funded by the US government to attend. Swazi government instead of standing face to face with the US government they decide to take it on these two. when SD government failed to pitch for the US independence celebration what did they think. probably trying to get back at the US for slamming the AGOA door on our face. That shows immaturity for the lack of a better word here. If someone has given you straight directives and then you do not follow them really what do you expect. We need to face our music and get this thing right. pushing blame does not help. Sadly the same US we would love to hate is building their base in SD. The PM was actually joking about him withdrawing his statement. knowing that man I am willing to bet my last cent that when he said abakhanywe he meant it but was joking to say he was withdrawing his statement. This is the joke of the century. If you want to put to test to my statement and test it veracity try go to the chiefdoms where these men come from. Their families are being abused from right to left. The father of one of the unionist was not playing when he said his son must go and apologize. ask him if he has not been paid a visit by the boys in blue. It is so bad. I just hope that the do not send them packing out of these chiefdoms