Chief Lucas Mangope, of the erstwhile homeland of Bophuthatswana, once told a story about his childish indiscretions while wandering home, barefoot, through a watermelon field after a parched day tending sheep and cattle.
Like all fallible humans, he became susceptible to the sweet lure of the bulbous fruit. Mangope told of his father’s admonition and the severity of the punishment that followed.
The severity of the crime was increased by the perpetrator’s status, and the punishment was to fit that of a chief’s son. Lashes were followed by a period of ostracism. But more painful than the physical hurt was the awful sense that he had abused his father’s trust.
He recounted these words from his father, Chief Lucas Manyane: “The son of a chief does not steal; whatever you take illegally for yourself deprives your people of their means of life. The son of a chief must learn that he is responsible for the well-being of each tribe member. You must serve your people, not abuse them.”
I have often wondered whether King Sobhuza II had not sat down his son, King Mswati III, during his formative years and taught him the responsibilities that the monarchy had to its people. Mswati’s early coronation at the tender age of 18 years wrenched him into a premature burden of responsibility; it deprived him of his youth and immediately thrust him into the realm of adulthood and statesmanship.
It has become apparent during Mswati’s reign of pillaging the kingdom’s resource that either his father never warned him to the shamefulness of a hand caught in the cookie jar or perchance the young king is only defiant.
Mswati’s reign since 1986 in Swaziland has been a tragic affair. More than 40% of a tiny population of just over a million is unemployed and a staggering 70% live below the poverty line; all this while Mswati and his entourage of young wives live an existence of opulent extravagance.
Mswati is simply stealing from his people, whom he has subjected to an ignoble and pitiful existence. His people have to contend with dehumanising conditions of abject poverty, often resulting in thousands of half-naked maidens parading themselves and dancing to the drooling monarchy with the hope of marriage to the king extracting them and their family from poverty.
If the people of Swaziland have a desire for a shift in their political landscape from autocratic rule to democracy, where they can have a voice through elected representatives and a head of government who is not a mere puppet of the king, then they will rise up against the absolute monarchy and seek their freedom.
Peasants led a widespread insurrection in 1381, and in the many years that followed peasants revolted against any form of subjugation and affirmed their right to justice. The Swazi should obtain inspiration from their neighbours in South Africa who rose against the tyranny of apartheid and liberated themselves. King Sobhuza and his son Mswati have prepared a fertile soil from which a revolution could blossom.