Tag Archives: People

The Things I Love and the Things that Drive Me Crazy in Swaziland


1)    People’s names: Innocent, Sunshine, Lucky, Fortunate

2)    Warm greetings from people you don’t know. It is common, polite practice to say hello to everyone you meet on the street. Big smiles from strangers are also common.

3)    Mangos the size of my head.

4)    Avocados creamy and heavenly.

5)    The way women carry babies on their backs, tied in place with a kanga (cloth), towel or blanket. The children put their arms around mom’s neck while she ties them into place. You always know a woman is carring a baby when she walks towards you and see the knotted blanket and two tiny feet sticking out.

6)    Well-behaved children. I have not heard one tantrum in the grocery store!

Green beauty on the way to Pigg’s Peak.

Swazis, not Hobbits, live here.

A stunning lodge — Maguga Lodge, near the dam, in northern Swaziland.

7)    The beautiful lush, green, hilly landscape.

8)    Price of South African wine – very decent bottles for $5 Cdn.

9)    Spring…cool evenings for sleeping and warm sunny days.

10)                  Braai culture: parties consist of BYOB and BYOM (meat) – all year round.

Cows are money in the bank for Swazi people.

11)                   Cows and goats on the road – so non-Canadian!

12)                   Beautiful butterflies and moths.

A beautiful moth who alighted on my locker at the gym.




1)    Swazi time. I went to an International Women’s Day event on Friday, scheduled for an 8 am start. It began at 11:30 am.

2)    Kombis. This mode of public transport, mini-vans, legally hold around 15 people. Often they get packed with around 25. Perfect TB incubators.

3)    Drivers. Either they think they are on the Autobahn (100 in a 40 mph zone), or they’re afraid they’ll lose control if they go more than 1/2 the speed limit.

4)    Cows and goats on the road – one of the main causes of car accidents. Often owners let them wander freely, grazing by the side of the road, but they also tend to pop out in front of vehicles.

5)    The phone system. There are new networks – one is for cell phones, the other for landlines, and never the twain shall meet. Both are government owned, but the cell-phone company prevails (MTN). If you try to call one from the other, it is VERY expensive. Actually all calls are quite expensive. Texts cost around 10 cents (Cdn) each and a 10-minute cell call will cost around $1 (Cdn). Ouch!

6)    Government process…Lots of talking, but little action. Activists have been pushing for the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence law to be passed for more than 10 years. The judicial system must rely on laws that are very out of date and perpetrators are often given light sentences.

7)    The belief in demons and witchcraft. Very disturbing and very prevalent.

8)    Reading announcements of police officers getting 30% pay increases, while teachers (who make very small salaries) can’t get a 4.5% increase. (Teachers went on strike last year, were fired by the Prime Minister, then pardoned by the King but still can’t get their 4.5%.)

9)    Polygamy.

10)                   The fact that women have constitutional rights, but many don’t know it. They continue to suffer gender-based violence and just figure that’s a woman’s lot in life – some even think it means the man is still interested in her.

11)                   Yucky giant bugs.

A dead giant being devoured by ants.



1)    The Sunday Time’s editor is named Innocent. He jumps at every opportunity to publish scandal, often based on rumor. One instance was publishing a nude photo of a Swazi embassy employee in the UK provided by her angry ex who was blackmailing her for reneging on a financial agreement. Not really news, and not so innocent.

2)    A man was chewed up by machinery in the sugar mills. The only way they could identify him was by testing for DNA in the sugar. His name was Lucky.

Swazi Politics and Day-to-Day Life

A non-traditional billboard that the “maidens” had nothing to do with.

“The maidens compose and rehearse song dismissing multiparty democracy as evil.” Wow, a headline like this is bound to pique curiosity. From what I can figure out, “maidens” are young, marriageable virgins … they take part in the Reed Dance every year, where King Mswati III has been known to chose a mate. The story in today’s Times of Swaziland noted that 500 maidens had been picked from the country’s 350 chiefdoms to rehearse a new Reed Dance song dissing political parties. The song roughly translates to “Your Majesty, political parties set people against each other. Your people could start fighting each other.” The newspaper said the song was composed by “certain traditional authorities who felt they were not properly represented in the recent People’s Parliament.”

An explanation is in order. Politics are complex here. There is the absolute monarchy of King Mswati III, and then there is a Parliament, headed by a Prime Minister. Parliament consists of an 82-seat House of Assembly (55 who are voted in) and a senate of 30, 10 voted in and 20 appointed by the king. The Prime Minister is appointed by the king. Political parties are banned and in the last election only non-partisans were elected. From what I am told, most of the cabinet ministers are in line with the king. There’s an election coming up in April 2013 and I’ll be really interested to see how it goes. There is a lot of unrest with trade unions that chafe against the ruling elite. The ruling elite generally uses the term “traditional” when it comes to protecting its priviledge. And there seems to be some confusion when it comes to the origins of tradition since many rituals and cultural ceremonies have morphed over the years. Marriage is one, and I’ll get into that in another posting.

The socio-political situation here is fascinating for an outsider to observe. Tradition seems to boil down to not upsetting the status quo. Kind of like the attitude of American Republicans towards public health care. You can bet those maidens didn’t come up with the idea for their new Reed Dance song on their own. I wonder if Carl Rove has ever been to Swaziland?

On a lighter note, I took a short stroll around Manzini this afternoon and here’s what I saw:

The city has many ingenious entrepreneurs.

This building is near my office. A sign calls it Dups Mall. It is not a mall. It is the morgue.

This car wash turns beer/DJ emporium on weekends.

Another popular spot for beer … and breakfast.

Fun in the grocery store…sardines from Canada! But wait…. they are “substandard.”