It was at the height of the recent unprecedented protests that Prince Masitsela gave another cryptic hint about the king’s state of mind. The senior prince had been lobbied by one of his sons, Prince Themba, to either persuade King Mswati or mobilize other senior royalty to convene and package a message that would commensurate with our tumultuous times.

At the time a conspicuous void had been created by the king’s telling silence and absence following the uprising and subsequent deaths of up to 70 people around June and July. The King's prolonged silence and absence was itself a serious misnomer for a leader of whatever definition. As if to conceal his dejection, the senior prince employed deep SiSwati colloquial to parabolise the king’s indifference to whatever advice and persuasion.

"Kulukhuni kuphikisa lasakushito weKunene… angati ke ngoba konkhe kulapha etulu esibhakabhakeni…, angati ke kutsi lilada lekufika lapho ngingalitsatsaphi. … solo siyatingela sifuna licebo lekuyofika kuye ngoba nguye lowanikwa lepenseli…’ (Once he conceives of something, he believes and steadfastly holds on to it no matter what. But we are still brainstorming of ways and means to persuade him because (unfortunately) it is him who is on the throne).

The Prince's view of the King's attitude was contained in a widely circulated voice note where the old prince was responding to pleas that he talks sense to the king. Ironically, this was the self same Masitsela who felt the wrath of the nation in August 2012 when he ‘warned’ the country about being over excited at the prospects of making submissions the then Sibaya. the Prince told us to our faces that our submissions were inconsequential.

Once again speaking in deep SiSwati the nonagenarian said ‘niyatihhamula nje’ (you’re merely letting off steam). It is the verbatim of the deep vernacular that the prince’s despondency lays bare. It is also here that the ‘inaccessibility and indifference’ is actually a euphemism for a suspicious state of mind.

In both instances, as in other numerous occasions where the king put a foot in his mouth, we as a nation couldn’t smell the coffee. Of course, there has been a number of times when in our private, and sometimes not so private chats, we would speak of the king as being ‘mad’. But such talk has been more to ridicule and despise a man and/or an institution we hold responsible for our daily suffering and subjugation.

Our demented king…


Just how could we have been blindsided for so long? Could it be that our propensity to overestimate situations means we end up missing the obvious? Perhaps yes. Especially considering some displayed understanding about the sophistry behind the ‘Hallelujah’ royal decree.

In his recent address, It can be said that the king was strategically entrenching his hegemony given the disproportionately high number of churches per capita in the country, and therefore a relatively high number of Christians. The expression of worship’s prevalence is almost a guaranteed certainty even if we were to resist the inscriptions with all its hyperbolic effects, someone reasoned, obviously overanalysing and giving sophistication to plain buffoonery.

As I listened, I must have been gradually slipping into a trance of absent mindedness when I chuckled to myself as I remembered a classically funny case of our ‘overestimating syndrome’ I read about in 2016 in the Guardian newspaper, a story is told of two teenage pranksters who visited a renowned art gallery. Once there the two lads placed on the floor a pair of eyewear to test the reaction of art lovers. As more art enthusiasts and wannabe fundis flocked into the museum, the two delinquents watched with great amusement from a corner as cameras clicked and flashed from different angles and positions at almost frantic speed and turns. The eyewear art was ‘obviously’ captivating.


We seem to be wired with some default cognition of any phenomenon as complex and sophisticated. It is this default position that made us assume that our subjugation at the hands of King Mswati and his associates was a function of a well thought of, systemic and sophisticated process. And we couldn’t be faulted especially coming from an era of King Sobhuza whose finesse, political acumen and manoeuvres were way above average. 

Even when mobilizing for international solidarity we don’t say that a big part of our problem is that the king’s mental faculties are somewhat suspect and/or destitute of any coherence because we never fathomed that such could be the case. Until quite recently of course. Yet the signs were always there,  few and far in between at first. In 2011 for instance, the king stunned everyone when he proclaimed to all and sundry that he had witnessed a practical manifestation of anointment.

The occasion, he said, was when he was preparing for a sermon when all of a sudden a remote control that has been quite far from him on a coffee table suddenly found its way to him in a manner clearly beyond all earthly beings. It was a ‘tongue in the cheek’ remark, some amongst us were quick to reason.

Prince Masitsela

Besides, there was nothing manifestly harmful about it. Life went on. And not for the first time. In 2008 while preparing for and justifying then impending PUDEMO proscription, he had in a fit of rage declared war on ‘dissidents/ terrorists’ instructing that ‘abekhanywe’.

So brazenly out of taste was his remark that his trusted lieutenant at the time tried to spin the remark, its context and meaning. Barnabas Dlamini, then Prime Minister claimed the king meant to say ‘abekhanyelwe’ – meaning the dissidents should be properly advised and inducted into the Swazi (and democratic) way of doing things. It was a very rare cringing moment for the remarkably heartless prime minster.

A former member of the defunct Business, Economic and Advisory Panel (BEAP) once indicated that he believed it is his unhealthy strong belief in muti is the reason behind the king’s warped thinking and reasoning. That observation corroborates the assertion that the signs have always been there. The 1996 ‘hlalani etindvukwini majaha’ speech could have been easily mistaken for an infantile bravado.

If there is an event or two that put everything beyond doubt, the last two (Sibaya and Mandvulo) public addresses should combine to be that one event, not only because of his flagrant ‘indifference’ to loss of multiple lives, but because of his failure to realize what ought to be of paramount interest to him: that his support and respect are waning at an alarming rate.

He seems oblivious that totally gone is his reverence. For someone whose stranglehold depends so much on respect and fear, it should be alarmingly obvious that the line of fear has been crossed for good. It should be clear that the end game is nigh. It is, of course tempting to emphasize that the man is playing blind as a result of his arrogance. Maybe or partly. 

For our part, the sooner we appreciate that his behaviour is more of a medical disorder than anything else the better view we have of the magnitude of our problems. We will know, for instance, that any form of meaningful dialogue is too farfetched a dream.

The realization of the extent of the (medical) problem shouldn’t necessarily induce any sympathy for him neither should we organise ourselves a ‘pity party’ for having missed the obvious for so long. Instead, it imposes on all of us a need to hasten the process with even greater precision, for we now know we have a troubled soul in the cockpit of flight Swaziland.

NOTE: Back by popular demand, this editorial throwback  is being published for the third time today. In all instances, it has been necessitated by King Mswati's indiscretion betraying the extent of monarch's mental ineptitude. His recent Police Day address, like many of his speeches before, confirm that - most unfortunately, we have a mad man for a king. Editor in Chief.