17 April 2014

Swaziland: King's Defiant Subjects 'Will Burn'

King Mswati III's right-hand man has told a community they 'will burn' if they continue to defy instructions from the King.

And, the Swaziland King ordered a 'complete silence' from his subjects in the kaLuhleko chiefdom about his decision to appoint their chief.

The warning was delivered by Ludzidzini Royal Residence Governor Timothy Velabo Mtetwa, who is commonly known in Swaziland as the 'traditional prime minister'. This means he is the voice of the King and more powerful than Barnabas Dlamini, the man the King appointed as Swaziland's figurehead PM.

Mtetwa and a delegation from the King visited kaLuhleko on Monday (14 April 2014) to issue a dire warning. The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, who is sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, reported 'Bhekwako Dlamini of kaLuhleko has been mobilising the people to snub meetings called by the newly appointed Chief Zulwelihle Maseko, who was blessed by Their Majesties last June.'

The newspaper reported, 'His Majesty roared through Ludzidzini Governor Timothy Velabo Mtetwa commonly known as TV.

'"It has gotten to the attention of His Majesty the King and the Queen Mother that there is something irregular happening here and that is why we are here today," he said to deafening silence.

'"There is a bad habit that has come to the attention of the authorities that there are some people who still choose to defy the chief and do not recognise a man who has been appointed by the King. Where have you ever heard of that? This is the person who has been chosen to take over from Mfanwenkhosi Maseko and I have been sent by His Majesty to order that there be complete silence in this place," said the tough talking Mtetwa.'

The Observer reported Mthethwa warned that people who did not adhere to the directive issued by the King 'will burn'.

Swazi chiefs have enormous power. It is through chieftaincies that King Mswati maintains control of his people and chiefs do his bidding at a local level. People know not to get on the wrong side of the chief because their livelihood depends on his goodwill. In some parts of Swaziland the chiefs are given the power to decide who gets food that has been donated by international agencies. The chiefs quite literally have power of life and death in such cases with about a third of the population of Swaziland receiving 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 (US$500) fine, the equivalent of more than six months income for many.

He said his subjects had illegally built homes on land put aside for grazing.

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