Tag Archives: Media


Things I’ve noticed

1)    Swaziland roads are covered with speed bumps. They are everywhere, especially at intersections.

2)    There is roadside litter, but unlike in North America there a total absence of Styrofoam coffee cups since Swazis aren’t really into coffee.

3)    There are a lot of Mercedes and BMWs here. Some old, some brand, spanking new. Of course, that’s along with double cab trucks (usually with a UN decal) and kombis, which are mini vans with a capacity of 15, but usually stuffed with 25, no seat belts.

4)    24-hour gospel prayer gatherings are really popular. Yesterday was Good Friday and the bass was booming all over town from 7pm to 7am this morning.

5)    The newspaper has a regular gospel section.

6)    Lots and lots of people are pastors. There is no training necessary. Pastors shout out about the evils of demons on buses, vegetable markets and under trees.

7)    Mega churches are popular. There are many large structures and tents where people gather. One popular “prophet” predicts people’s futures.

8)    Sunday afternoon is really big drinking day. Many a time I’ve been on a kombi and had conversations with inebriated seatmates. Most of them ask me if I’m a Christian.

9)    More than 80% of the population lives in rural areas and lives on less than $2 a day – no running water, pit latrines.

10)                  The countryside is also scattered with monster mansions, reputedly owned by royalty or the elite, also knows as “untouchables.”

11)                   The constitution of 6 September 1968 was suspended 12 April 1973 by a State of Emergency decree imposed by King Sobhuza II, the father of the current King Mswati III. The decree gave absolute power to the monarchy and banned organised political opposition to royal rule.

12)                  A new constitution was promulgated 13 October 1978, but was not formally presented to the people.

13)                   The current constitution was enacted in 2005 but most people have no idea what is in it, including the politicians. When in doubt, they rely on “tradition” since there is a dual system here…Swazi Tradition and Cultural Law, and Constitutional Law. Check out this paper “A Constitution Without Constitutionalism” presented by Thulani Maseko at the African Network of Constitutional Law conference on Fostering Constitutionalism in Africa Nairobi April 2007 www.publiclaw.uct.ac.za/…/Maseko_ConstitutionMakingInSwaziland.doc

14)                  Media is severely censored and predominately owned by the state (ie the King, who has absolute power). The usual ethics of journalism do not apply. Many stories don’t really make sense. Here’s a link that explains why Swaziland ranks 155 among 179 nations in the world in regards to press freedom. http://allafrica.com/stories/201302111702.html

15)                   My job is to deal with the press daily. Here’s a link to a story: “Hubby Beats Wife for Wearing Trousers” which I had to comment on on behalf of SWAGAA. Believe it. http://www.times.co.sz/News/85584.html

16)  If people speak out about the unfairness of the political system, they often lose their jobs, their cars and their dignity. So there isn’t a lot of speaking out.


Members of the Swaziland Zionist Church, circa 1974. This shot is by Ludo Kuipers, Sun Apr 14, 1974 and taken from World Pics.

Here in Swaziland, there is often a blurring of the lines between magic, witchcraft and Christianity. Here are some odd things I’ve seen in the newspaper lately…

A talking calabash, which reporters from the Swazi News went to take pictures of. They were afraid it was possessed by demons. The father of a soldier, killed by other soldiers, heard the calabash speak. Soldiers dying at the hands of other soldiers have been in the news a lot lately. The father said the calabash was revealing details about his son’s death.

The following story concerns Zionists and I should explain a little about this dominant form of Christianity in Swaziland. It’s a mixture of Christianity and African traditional religion. The following explanation was gleaned from the Encyclopedia of African Christianity.

Zionists marching on Easter weekend to the King’s residence, 1970. Photo: Ludo Kuipers. They still dress in a similar way and I see them often on a Saturday, heading out to an all night prayer session.

“The Zionist churches are characterised by a commitment to faith-healing, to river-baptism (in a “Jordan” river or sea) and to the Pentecostalist gift of speaking in tongues.

“The Zionist churches were founded by the missionary PL Le Roux, an Afrikaner who had become committed to faith healing. In 1903 Le Roux left the Dutch Reformed church to join a group dependent on the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church which had been founded in the USA by John Alexander Dowie and was focussed on the city of Zion, Illinois, near Chicago. Le Roux had a close and happy relationship with Africans, and easily conveyed the tenets of Zionism to the African Church he served. They called themselves the Zionist Apostolic Church. A few years later Le Roux moved on from Zionism to Pentacostalism, carrying his flock with him from faith-healing to speaking in tongues, but retaining their name.

“The Zionist Apostolic church developed an African leadership very early. Daniel Nkonyane replaced Le Roux as the principal leader of the Zionist Apostolic Church in 1908 when Le Roux went on to join the newly formed Pentecostal church.

“Structurally Zionist churches stand half way between the “Ethiopian” churches and the prophetic churches. Like the “Ethiopian” churches they have clear missionary roots, but they are even more fully enculturated than the Ethiopian churches, openly accepting polygamy and fitting in to the structures of African traditional religions in terms of spirit-possession, faith-healing, manifestations of spiritual power and the like. Like the prophetic churches, they share the same basic assumptions about the reality of witchcraft and the spiritual dimensions of reality, while rejecting witches and spirits as evil beings to be cast out.

“By the 1920s the Zionist churches began to share the look of prophetic churches, donning distinctive white robs, carrying prophetic staffs and observing the same kind of food taboos as the prophetic churches did.”

Women Zionists, Easter, 1970. Photo: Ludo Kuipers.

Here’s a little summary of the story in the newspaper…

There was a disappearance of a Zionist in a river, at a place used by Zionists as a cleansing ceremony pool.  I’ve seen it…there were candles, egg shells and milk carton strewn around, even a chicken head floating in the water. It’s a popular place to exocise demons. One day as I was walking along the rocks at the river’s edge, I heard some frantic shouting. Peeping over a boulder, I spied a Zionist preacher in his blue robes, shouting at and shaking a young woman who stood in her jeans and t-shirt as river water poured over her. The spot is very picturesque, a little waterfall runs into a pool, collecting before it continues downstream. But back to the newspaper story…The man’s sister pointed out his clothes by the river bank, to prove he had been there. She arranged a ceremony with a Zionist preacher, sacrificed a cow into the river (it was alive, and swam to the other side). It was reported that the brother may have been taken by the spiritual river snake and kept underwater to undergo special training to become a spiritual healer. The sister claimed he would emerge from the river the next day. Reporters and onlookers went, but he was a no show. Then the sister said he would emerge from a dam in South Africa. She had the police escort her to the dam…and there he was. A photographer took his picture, looking very wet. People were outraged. It was a “sham,” a “waste of the police’s time”… “Zionists don’t believe in spiritual snakes.” We still don’t know the whole story.

Here’s a link to a fascinating video by Kyle Meyer who was in the country last year documenting a rural Zionist Church. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1791225461/touch-of-god


Zionist preacher Jeffery Mdalodze at a baptism waterfall. Photo by Kyle Meyer.

Next story..Muti, Democracy and Communism!

Last week there was a ceremony in South Africa for the “Break the Chains” campaign, for the release of political prisoners and the “unbanning of political parties” in Swaziland. It was hosted by the South African Communist Party and members of the Vhembe community did a prayer ritual, to send muti to Swaziland to assist with the breaking of the chains, ie the stranglehold various elites have on the country. (This really boils down to royalty.) Interestingly, the SACP was calling for democracy in Swaziland. Outraged MPs in Swaziland responded, saying muti (a sort of medicine/witchcraft involving ancestral spirits) could never travel that far, and sure as heck couldn’t cross rivers.

Abducting girls for sex is a crime….Times, Jan. 18th, 2013

SWAGAA’S VOICE IN A STORY THAT APPEARED IN TIMES OF SWAZILAND JAN. 18th, 2013  http://www.times.co.sz/News/83642.html

The Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGGA) has said abducting young girls for the purpose of having sexual intercourse with them is a crime and cannot be cloaked under the guise of ‘traditional marriage’.The organisation was reacting to a story that appeared in this publication yesterday, where a 21- year-old man abducted a 15- year-old girl for the purpose of traditionally marrying her.

Mfanufikile Dlamini, of Maphalaleni, was arrested and charged for abducting the girl with intent to have sexual intercourse with her or to marry her. He, on Wednesday, appeared before Mbabane Magistrate Phathaphatha Mdluli, who cautioned and discharged him.

Dlamini claimed he was preparing to marry the young girl and had already introduced her to his parents.

SWAGAA Communications Officer, Maureen Littlejohn, said although traditionalists such as acting Ludzidzini Governor, Timothy Velabo Mtetwa, have said underage girls can traditionally marry as long as they and their parents have agreed, this notion was highly disturbing.

“Swazi law states it is illegal to engage in sexual relationships with girls under the age of 16 (Girls And Women’s Protection Act of 1920).

“What is most disturbing is the fact that most of these ‘marriages’ are forced, with the young girls having little or no say in being married to much older men. “The situation is often forced because either the family wants to receive payment or, if sexual relations have occurred (usually forced upon the girl), the family wants to save face.”

She said they have read many tragic stories in the newspapers recently involving these types of marriages; from girls being forced to marry after being raped, to getting pregnant and dropping out of school as well as attempting suicide.

Littlejohn said what these girls were enduring in the name of ‘traditional marriage’ was a human rights violation.

She said Swaziland signed the Human Rights Declaration and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“The Children’s Protection and Welfare Act of 2012 received assent from King Mswati III to protect the lives and dignity of all children in Swaziland.

“Protecting young Swazi girls from traditional marriages that they don’t want is a matter of principle. It is not a complicated legal issue, but is simply a matter of upholding human rights and Swazi law,” she said.


Is early or forced marriage legal?
Marriage by definition is a formalised, binding partnership between consenting adults. An early or forced marriage however refers to the marriage a child, usually someone under 18. Although the Marriage Act, 1964 stipulates the minimum age for a civil rites marriage, there is no corresponding provision for a customary marriage. Unfortunately in Swaziland there is a prevalent culture of young girls being forced into marriage, usually in terms of Swazi Law and Custom.
According to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) – marriage before the age of 18 shouldn’t be allowed since children don’t have the ‘full maturity and capacity to act.’  The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that marriage should be ‘entered only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.’ Where one of the parties getting married is under 18, consent cannot always be assumed to be ‘free and full.’  There are many reasons why girls are forced into marriage in Swaziland. These may include: gender inequality – women and girls often occupy a lower status as a result of social and cultural traditions, attitudes, beliefs that deny them their rights and stifle their ability to play an equal role in their homes and communities.
•    Poverty – in families on a low income, girls may be viewed as an economic burden. The perception of girls’ potential to earn an income as comparatively poor pushes girls out of their homes and into marriage
•    Negative traditional or religious practices –     such as the importance attributed to preserving family ‘honour’ usually where the girl child has fallen pregnant before marriage or whilst at school. There is a belief that marriage safeguards against ‘immoral’ or ‘inappropriate behaviour’ which results in parents pushing their daughters into marriage well before they are ready. A lot of it, though, is due to the failure to enforce laws. Sometimes families are not even aware they are breaking the law. In some countries early marriage is so prevalent, prosecutions are seldom brought

What are the consequences of early and forced marriage?
Early and forced marriage further drives girls into a cycle of poverty and powerlessness. They are likely to experience:
•    violence, abuse and forced sexual relations – women who marry younger are more likely to be beaten and to believe that husbands can justify it
•    poor sexual and reproductive health – young married girls are more likely to contract HIV than their unmarried counterparts because of their greater sexual exposure, often with an older husband who by virtue of his age is more at risk of being HIV positive
•    illiteracy and lack of education – girls tend to drop out of school shortly before or when they get married. There is a commonplace view that once a girl is married she has crossed the threshold into adulthood and no longer needs an education.
Getting and keeping girls in school may be one of the best ways to foster later, consensual marriage, while also contributing the delayed sexual initiation, lower rates of HIV and AIDs and greater gender equality.
Swaziland is a signatory to many of the conventions that are relevant to forced and early marriage. The Child Protection and Welfare Act of 2012 also provides that a child  has a right to refuse to be compelled to undergo or uphold any custom or practices that are likely to negatively affect the child’s life.  SWAGAA calls for the proper enforcement of such provisions in Swaziland to ensure that the rights, dignity of every child is safeguarded and girls can also reach their potential in life

All Tabloids Are Alike!

The Swazi News had the most captivating cover today.

Every day I try and read the newspaper. There are two main papers, the Swazi Times and the Swaziland Observer. Plus there are others like the one pictured – Swazi News. They are all quite similar, but the Observer is run by the government and tends to be a little more conservative. Part of my job at SWAGAA is to go through the newspapers and circle stories of gender-based violence. But on the weekend, I’m free to ponder over all the journalistic wonders I can devour. There’s no denying the Swazi News gets thumbs up for most captivating cover this weekend. The young lady pictured is no other than Princess Sikhanyiso, King Mswati’s daughter. She recently announced the dates for this year’s Reed Dance, or Umhulanga. The picture is from last year’s Reed Dance. What the heck is a Reed Dance? It’s a huge celebration, where thousands of young Swazi “maidens” gather for three days to cut reeds that are given to the Queen Mother for her roof, and later they dance for the King. It’s very traditional, and one year the King picked one of the maidens for his wife (he has  14, but rumor has it one or two may have left the royal household). The Reed Dance celebration starts on September the 1st and I am going. SWAGAA actually does some outreach work with some of the girls. I can’t wait. It is supposed to be beautiful. And you can bet all the guys love it.                                                         Here are some other bits from the news:

A typical caption under photos: “The people in this picture have nothing to do with the story.”

Canada got in the news today! We are one of the countries around the world that allow inmates conjugal rights.  The story was about the fact that prisoners will be allowed two hours of free time to enjoy conjugal rights with their spouses. Here’s an excerpt:  The house will be called a guesthouse and inmates will have to make bookings in advance to use it. Warders who normally guard them would stand outside the house and only knock when time was up for the cozy couple. Bedding which includes sheets and pillow covers will be changed after each use of the facility.”

Some of the day’s headlines…


NO REFUNDS FOR WORM-INFESTED MEALIE-MEAL (a course flour made from corn used to make a porridge that is similar to grits)

DRIVERS SHOULD PRAY BEFORE DRIVING – As a means of reducing the number of accidents on the country’s roads drivers of public transports have been urged to pray before driving. “Drivers should pray before touching the steering wheel so that God could protect them during the journey.”

WHEN WOMEN VOTE FOR MEN – Velisizwe Mhlanga, 33 of Ebenezer stated categorically that she did not have trust in women candidature, but was however, not forthcoming with the reason for her stance…..She preferred younger candidates because she believed a lot could be achieved by young energetic blood. “Once a person gets older chances are whatever they do could be inspired by selfish tendencies,” she said.

A small paraphrased slice from a complicated story about a teachers’ strike….The Swaziland National Association of Teachers went to Ludzidzini with two cows to thank His Majesty for his directive in solving their impass with government. (The teachers have been on strke and the Minister of Education fired all the striking teachers.) It has been quite a row. At a big meeting with the nation last week, the King said the teachers must go back to work. But the minister had fired them…It was quite a bruhaha. Now the government (Cabinet) is saying the King’s word is final. But last week it sure didn’t look that way. Hence the cows.