Like animal farm so are the days of our lives

When pondering on the recent ‘Hallelujah’ Campaign declared by His Majesty King Mswati III, the timing cannot be ignored especially if we want to decipher the meaning of the recent horrendous actions of the government.

On the day that we marked our Independence on September 6, our people chose to make it a day of peace and self-reflection while the government on the other hand announced the launch of the Economic Recovery Fund. To track back a little on what this is, here is a quick recap. Following the political events that took place in June--July 2021 where over 70 unarmed civilians were shot at close range by the security establishment, the government came out several times to dispute any culpability. Instead the government claimed it was an attack by foreign mercenaries. This claim does not add up if weighed against evidence that has since became known. In any event, it is is important to remember that armed forces in the country are called “His Majesty's Correctional Services”, “Royal ESwatini Police Service” and “Umbutfo ESwatini Defense Force”. All these different branches of law enforcement have different commissioners overseeing them but their ultimate Commander in Chief is the King. If at all any tactics are being used to conceal the King’s involvement, it is all in vain because we already know he commands them all—the army in particular.

Subsequent to the protests, we saw lootings taking place and a mass destruction and burning of several top businesses and some privately owned small enterprises. This, unfortunately, is the only aspect of the unrest the government is willing to talk about. Evidence has since surfaced showing the involvement of members of the police in the lootings and burning of property. The recent arrest of a senior police officer is but one glaring example of this. Barely a week after the massacre, the Deputy Prime Minister, Themba Masuku, was seen touring locations of destroyed infrastructure. What was disturbing though was how possible that within such a short period of time the government was able to valuate the loss and declaring it to have cost the economy E3 Billion. Meanwhile, a simple count of dead bodies to date has still not been done. In fact, it is not even acknowledged.

When the king announced Sibaya on July 6 he mentioned that he will launch a E3 Billion economic Reconstruction Fund meant to fix this “problem of people burning his properties”. He went on to remind anyone who cared to listen that “everything in eSwatini belongs to the king.” There was no acknowledgement of deaths or any other pressing issues being addressed—just money talk and extreme gas lighting. Fast forward to the 6th of September during a launch of this Recovery Fund and suddenly E1 Billion was reportedly pledged. The honors were placed on the business sector to raise the remaining E2 Billion. On September 15, a parliament report showed that the damage was actually E800 Million. Then you wonder, what was the Reconstruction Fund launch for then? We can then surmise that the launch was a declaration of the Hallelujah campaign.

In this writer’s opinion, the Hallelujah campaign is but a vile tactic because it holds a symbol of deception that was highlighted in George Orwell’s Animal Farm when he sold the idea of a Candy Mountain.

With his tales of the "promised land" to which all animals retire after death, Moses- a raven- is the "religious" fanatic of the novel. Like his biblical counterpart, Moses offers his listeners descriptions of a place — Sugarcandy Mountain — where they can live free from oppression and hunger. At first, the pigs (eSwatini government) find him irksome, since they want the animals to believe that Animal Farm is a paradise and fear that the rest will be prompted by Moses' tales to seek a better place. However, as conditions on the farm worsen, the pigs allow Moses to stay because his tales offer the animals the promise of rest after a weary, toilsome life. As Karl Marx famously stated, "Religion is the opium of the people," and Moses' tales of Sugarcandy Mountain likewise served as an opiate to the animals' misery.

Before this unrest, Swazis could have easily caught on and ridden with this ‘Hallelujah’ fairytale but after the massacre the eyes of the nation were opened. Swazis are today questioning the relevance of this declaration. For a long time, issues such as unemployment were not of concern because the church could propagate that suffering is okay because ‘sibekelwe imichele ezulwini’. However, looting of public funds has gone on for too long where only a few benefited, and the masses have decided they want to have a heaven here on earth and not the one up pie in the sky.

What makes this hallelujah campaign a vile tactic is that it does not have the significance of its biblical foundations. It is being used out of context to buy time for the regime and distract important conversation. When exploring the foundations of the praise phrase or word “Hallelujah”, you find one of two meanings: rejoice in praising God or God be praised (occasionally expressed as alleluia as well). And now show me a single thing, in this context, we ought to be praising for?

Speculative as it may be, it is information that can be confirmed that the king did not concoct this idea on his own. After all, his theological aptitude is questionable - he did stumble over simple words such as Communion (calling Sidlo---Sidliso). It comes at a very difficult time, where during and after the protests church bodies which form part of civil society were quiet. No one even came to at least petition for a ceasefire or peaceful dialogue. The only time the Conference of Churches came out was on July 4th to appreciate the government for setting up a platform for sending petitions on an email that was not even functional. Then followed up by joining a secret delegation to the SADC organ Troika to represent civil society without the nation’s knowledge- yet now they want us to shout hallelujah? Following that, the president of the Conference of Churches appeared as a representative of civil society at the fact-finding mission initiated by SADC, which also had no fair representation and yielded no tangibles outcomes.

The only use of religion for the regime is to control the masses and cleansing and transformation of themselves. As it stands, the campaign is a sham and should be seen as such. All contributors to this campaign deserve the dutiful sanctions for their contribution in aiding and abetting a criminal government to commit crimes against humanity.

The recent coming out of Housing Minister Prince Simelane to declare that "cursed are those who burn hallelujah banners” is another aspect of their tactics of misquoting scripture to aid their sins.

What is of urgency is a government of the people and by the people. Sanctioning of a criminal government, and doing away with Tinkhundla, unbanning political parties and letting our nation have a fresh start. The entire game with religion and mind games has to come to an end.

NB:This article is a submission made to the Taiwan Chapter of the Global Swazi Lives Movement in their campaign; Animal Farm 2.0