Swazi queen’s sorry tale of patriarchal abuse

By Lungile Dube

Every girl grows up dreaming of a fairy tale ending but that’s not always the case, especially in real life.

This reminds me of a young lady who became the envy of almost every woman who grew up believing in Cinderella tales. Nothando Dube became Swaziland king Mswati III’s 12th wife at the age of 16.

She met her prince charming at a party and shortly thereafter became a member of the royal family. At that age, which girl would think of any horrific events unfolding in a life of royalty? In fact, at that age which girl is capable of making a sound decision especially one of marriage?

Swaziland has a high level of poverty and is one of a few countries that is still under a monarchy. It makes me wonder if the thousands of young girls that attend the annual reed dance hope to be chosen as another wife to escape the impoverished conditions at home? Or is it a justification of tradition that has seen girls like Nothando trapped in unwanted marriages?

Well, that’s a subject for another day. But the once-teen wife who is younger than Mswati’s first born child has grown up to be a young queen who has learned that life is not so glamorous in the palace.

Now, aged 23 she is a mother of three and kept in solitary confinement at the royal mansion she was built when she got married. Why? Because she was accused of bedding the king’s friend and Justice Minister Nondumiso Mamba, who has since resigned from his position.

Maybe this is punishment or a way of teaching her a lesson. But aren’t queens human beings who are also entitled to rights? Oops … human rights may not even exist in the king’s vocabulary. Excuse me your highness, my mistake! So, after a year of being refused contact with friends, family and the outside world, the queen decides to break her silence and reach out to the media in a plea for help.

Not only does she want her freedom back but she also wants to break away from the beatings she allegedly endures from the security guards.

In any other country, she would have filed for divorce, packed her bags, and even opened a criminal case of assault against the security guards. But unfortunately for her, she lives in a country where only one man decides for the whole nation and that one man’s word is final.

Maybe her decision to speak out may be a lesson to all parents of young girls who are yet to become victims of statutory rape and physical abuse. Question is, where do we draw the line between tradition and abuse? Maybe the minute a democratic system is introduced as a revolutionary measure for the advancement of those trapped in a traditionalist hand.

Pity I can’t promise that Nothando’s voice has screeched enough into the ears of the South African government. No offense, but President Jacob Zuma has his own fair share slice of the polygamy cake. Will it really make sense to him as a man that strongly believes in tradition to entertain another man’s family woes? I dare you Mr Zuma!

Fact is, there are a lot of women like Nothando who experience severe abuse in the name of tradition, while the world looks on. Like Bob Marley says in one of his songs “It takes a revolution to make a solution” and until then … Bob’s song is just going to play on deaf ears while many suffer in the name of tradition and cultural politics!

Read the story here.

  • Akanyang Merementsi

    Any relation?

  • Nixgrim

    There are many traditions that are wrong. They may have made sense in a bygone era, but they don’t anymore. Many of those traditional practices only serve to keep the poor poor and make the rich richer. Such is the nature of tradition.

    It’s not just in black cultures either – think of feudalism and serfdom in Europe. That was wrong too, but deeply entrenched in the culture and tradition. Any tradition is wrong, whether it is part of a belief system or not, if it causes harm to others. But many traditionalists are too blind to see it.

    Sadly, in our country currently, that often means that people like those living in townships who have strong links to their rural traditions are the ones who lose out. If my experiences in dealing with them are anything to go by, there are countless reasons to sacrifice animals (and I won’t even get into animal sacrifice here) which cost them thousands of Rands they do not have, but must find somewhere. The result is that they find themselves deeper and deeper in debt they have no hope of getting out of, and all to serve a tradition that no longer makes sense in this urban environment.

    Maybe we first need to help them find a way to translate their traditions and beliefs into the modern culture, before we look at what is going on in other nations.

  • MMbethe

    Just visit Swaziland and do a proper investigation, interview people and get first hand information instead of writing this shallow hogwash.
    So you think South Africa doesn’t have a high level of poverty. Explain the high prostitution, crime and corruption.
    For your info, all Royal Wives have cellphones paid for by the State and they call wherever and whenever. That they can’t communicate is a blatant lie.
    No Royal guard can dare hit any of the King’s wives nor children you are telling green lies.
    This is not about tradition, but choice. I bet you have more than one partner as at now, but have the audacity to critisize other people.
    So there is no rape and abuse in South Africa or any of the so called democratic countries? Please spare us your opinions. We can read and do watch news globally. If you are advocating for change do it the right way and stop being a wolf in a sheep skin. It is people of your calibe that makes us all sceptical of the so called change you are advocating. You just want to be in power, period. We have seen that happening here in Africa, so do not think that your opinions are facts. Leave the King of Swaziland alone and mind your business. I bet you fail even to feed your parents and children. Chances are you don’t even help your community, but think you can help the country of Swaziland. Please !!!!

  • Julius Caesar

    Very sad story indeed. Reminds me of Spivak’s classic piece, ‘Can the subaltern speak’? Nothando’s story is found in many parts of Africa, in which justice serves the interests of the rich and powerful. This is a classic case of abduction and human rights abuse. If the King does not want her, then let her go. If he wants her, then treat her as a wife. Where are her relatives even here in RSA? She should start keeping a diary. Remember Anne Frank!

  • http://google tsepang

    Well said and just to add on to what you are saying I always find myself asking a question of when will somebody stand and challenge customs such as that one.Not that I am suggesting we challenge our African customs but some are really cruelty to humanity if there is such and as for a country like Swaziland it is just plain pain and I pray that atleast someone will hear of the painful plight of that nation and do something about it.

  • Walter Bennett

    This piece is well written but not accurate.

    Swaziland is a Kingdom owned by a family of not so well educated people. A lot of what goes on in Swaziland is considered custom by most when in fact it is the style of a group of people whom do not know a different way.

    If King Mswati was better educated life would be very different in Swaziland.

    My fear for Swaziland is that diseases and infections of HIV are running the minds of the leaders and also taking them and the people down a path of slow death.

    Mswati is very un likely to live very long. Very soon the realities of this world will touch him.


  • prophethal

    So very true mbethe, its ironic how south africans advocate for democracy yet their government is chowing millions and billions(cele) and people get no service delivery. When the people complain they get shot at by their so called democraticly elected government.

    Abject poverty people eating from rubish bins. Why did she cheat on her husband and why dnt you condemn infidelity? Hypocrite

  • star

    “Why did she cheat on her husband and why don’t you condemn infidelity?” I shudder at that line, it could only have been written by a man. Condemn infidelity? What exactly does that mean? Stone her to death, maybe? Or just isolate her from her friends till she learns her lesson?

  • Stuart

    Walter, Mswati WAS well educated. Better educated than many people in SA. He went to a public school in the UK, not a top one like Eton perhaps but, nevertheless, a public school.

    And remember how long his father lived?

  • Stuart

    Imo no woman should get married before the age of 20 anyway!

  • pete ess

    When I hear a man fiercely defending abuse as “custom” or “tradition” I hear an abuser.

  • Ntjapeli

    He is a PIG.
    I have never
    approved MORNACHY
    anyways. To be honest,
    am not surprised. He should
    be overthrown like the CREEK mornachy too.

  • Motea-phala

    let her have her cake and eat it, she said she wanted to be a queen, this is what it takes to be a swazi queen.

  • Ernie Okeke

    Quite a sorry tale but heard too many times from a such lovely and docile people …perhaps too docile for their own good.
    The complainant is the 12th wife. There were those before her, some of whom could not stand the heat in the kitchen and decided to beat a path to freedom!
    Now the lesson here,if it will ever be learned, is for the next brides- to- be to make the run for it before there families trade them off. Perhaps the lure for social and economic status is just irresistible.

  • Stanley

    I work with people from Swaziland……….and they say “if you are from Swaziland and you come and stay in South Africa for a while and yet still you want to go back to SD,you stupid”

  • http://Maill&Guardian WiseDarkie

    Nothando (with the help of her family) made her bed, rightly or wrongly. They made a wrong call. Simply put, in ‘Decision Theory’, do not expect a reward for making a lousy call… She must simply lay in the bed ‘they’ made for her. It’s quite ingenious that when our dreams do not materialise, we then appeal for public sympathy! I trust that young ladies (potential future queens?) would also realise all that appear to glitter is not always gold. They will also define their future well-being not by who they marry, but rather what they bring to the union.

  • all about home improvement advantages

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  • Princess

    Ever heard of the Zulu saying, “A stick doesn’t build a home”? While it was seen as a man’s right to hit his wives and children as punishment, it is not advised that a man should beat or abuse his wives. Also, a mother can beat her son, even if he is grown man.

    It is also not okay that she is being punished for an alleged affair, not something that is proven, but still, they have no right to oppress her like this, rather divorce. Mswati should learn from this. It’s impossible to give 14 women your undivided attention and satisfy them emotionally and physically. Women have needs to, however it’s unfortunate that this young lady has found herself in such circumstances.

  • pat

    Its a pity to be trapped in this situation I suggest she goes back to school make a career so that she can look after her kids she’s only human who made a mistake and its not late to recover from the mistake.

  • http://mail&guardian Candy

    This poor young woman needs to get out of there an go an do something better out there.It doesn’t matter how but if she gets a chance she must just vanish an seek help from outside bcos all she’s going to get is more an more pain.This man doesn’t care about anyone but himself.Oops.Sorry Your Highness.Your too hush for my liking.Marrying a woman at 16(under age) an abusing her this much at her age(you really have a nerve of calling yaself Royal Highness.These Royal stories are really bitter..look at how Princess Diana died…by the hands of her Royal Highness father inlaw.People should really dont allow this to happen to their daughters.I’ll rather stay in porverty than this hell.

  • sifiso

    i think mbethe is cannot comment about poverty btw sd and sa since you dobt have statistics of the havent seen budget allocation in relation to grants and poverty numbers.i think you should shut up because theres no sense in you on human look like one of those connected to statutary rape cases.are u a security guard?it looks like you hiding something.big ups Dube its an interesting story and these are the things affecting africa.plans to change education systems is a first priority and kids will grow to learn the revolution.

  • sifiso

    well said Bennet.realities of the world,and the education profile to the Dlamini clan.
    but the question is how do tge citizens escape that kind of ignorance when there is a premier who has to show the way to the cabinet and restructure operations internally to fit in the outside world.

  • sifiso

    wisedakie dont crucifythe innocent lady.she went in the at her early teenage stage and definately nothing senseful in marriage could have been known.unfortunately the humanrights couldnt play its role to protect the girl.thats the reason we have those sectors of the UN.i dont know how but they should have a way of dealing with it

  • Mzwa

    These are lies! Swaziland is open to anyone who wants to visit and get to know about her culture and everyday way of life, so why lie instead of hearing it from the horses’ mouth? The king had 14 wives and 2 of these decided to leave the royal house because of reasons best known to them. Why is this queen not doing that? I can vow that no one has denied her the right to leave, only that she has to leave the royal children behind. Or is she too afraid to leave the luxury that she is still afforded despite her ‘solitary confinement’? And what sort of confinement is this as I have personally seen the queen and her entourage just recently at a shopping mall?

    Enough said for today!

  • George Ikolito

    After all that education, one will think that Mswati is emancipated. It is sad that say that the man is still very primitive. He is not different from an animal.

  • http://gmail khadi

    To urr is human, yes she cheated, who doesn’t?? not that i condone cheating, did she have to be punished?? y not send her away?? the second thing is, why did she allow to become the 12th wife?? what was she thinking of?? money is the root of all evil.

  • 138751bd

    all in the name of one a vailid reason why journalist should be gagged. You spew a whole lot of gabbage with any regard for the lives involved. The Kings wives who regard a polygamous royal life as not comfortable for them are at large living a free life but well taken care of ,free to marry.It was so even with the previous King. King Mswati does not have streak of violence in his bone, neither for detractors and definately non for his wives. You more tha err in your story. Get your facts straight in the interest of good ethics of journalism.

  • Thabisile Dube

    My name is Thabisile Dube flesh and blood aunt of Nothando Dube, my first born brother Mbongwa Alfred Dube’s child, who passed away in 1992 due to a car accident. I reside in the US now since 1997, I first heard of the news of my niece married to the Swazi king at the age of 16 in 2004, my heart broke in pieces, she was too young but then again she loved every minute of it, I went to Swaziland to visit in 2005, met her and her first born baby girl at her mansion, it was evident to me that she was just a child with a baby, savants and a mansion, she had no clue what was going on, how to run the household. I asked what she wanted to become in life outside of all of this life, she said, nothing, I suggested that she went back to school, she never spoke to me again after that. Regardless, she is my brothers child, my niece, flesh and blood, I love her, she can not be treated like an animal, it’s not right. If you read this Nothando, im so sorry this happened to you, I love you always will. God bless you and your children, hopefully something positive will come out of all this cruelty. God bless and be with you