An open letter to my friend Princess Sikhanyiso
Sivusele Nkhosatana Ndvuna. I’m so used to calling you Pashu, which is what only your closest friends get to address you as. Maybe I’m overstepping by sending this in a public forum instead of texting you directly, but I hope by the end of this letter, we will still be the closest of chums! Princess, you’ve always struck me as an iconoclast.
Truly your mother’s daughter, you have had an uncanny ability of challenging the exegeses of Swazi culture and society. In a society where daughters were mainly meant to be seen, you were determined to be heard. So why have you been so silent these last few months? Don’t tell me about the diatribes you have to BBC. That wasn’t you.
That was your father’s voice; we could tell by how incoherent it was. Your voice was last heard on SBIS, when you acknowledged the excesses of the royal family. When you saw the situation needed strong leadership, and you took it, when the men and elders of your family faltered. I was filled with such tears of pride when you offered your apologies to the Swazi nation.
That was the girl who I knew. Alas, you subsequently chose another path. Princess, I know the tongue lashing you received from the powers that be was enough to chastise you. However, I know in your heart of hearts, you understand what is going on. You have been exposed to some of the most vibrant western democracies, from the sunny shores of California to the land down under.
King Mswati's eldest daughter and Minister Princess Sikhanyiso.
You have experienced first hand how emancipating it is to be able to speak one’s mind and not be censored. Surely, you can agree the people of eswatini deserve to experience that without having to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in university fees? On the monumental documentary, Without the King, you gave the rest of the world a window into your mind.
You addressed your fathers penchant for marrying progressively younger women, which culminated in him marrying 16 year old Nothando Dube. You lamented the fact that your new mother was younger than you. I know you to be smart enough to see that that was abuse - the King was already middle aged at the time. We saw how dejected your face was when the king visited you accompanied by LaNgangaza.
You even explicitly said you were not happy about this decision. What struck me the most on Without the King was your criticism about the poverty in eSwatini. These were words we had heard you say in private, but to see you speak them into a camera was groundbreaking. You laid it at the feet of “government,” but surely Princess, you knew government is not the problem.
Government’s only power is to try and keep the gears of the country working, but they can not make structural changes. The true power lies with the king. And with absolute power comes absolute responsibility, a responsibility your father has failed at every turn. Nkhosatana, you may not have much power in the governance of the country, but you have a voice.
I know that you have tried to advise your father behind the scenes, but he remains recalcitrant. It is time for you and like minded royals to stand up to the tyranny. You’re well educated. I’m sure you’ll find a job fine in the new Swaziland. Ask yourself if the 18 year old who challenged the leaders of the country to do more would be proud of you for standing with your father as he murdered people.
Ask yourself if Phiko will be proud of you. Pashu, this is the moment for you to cement your legacy. Speak out for the youth of Swaziland. Let the rest of the world know the wisened young woman I know exists under this Princess Sikhanyiso exterior. A woman raised in her mother’s image, not her father’s.
Sinethemba Kunene is a pseudo name for one of Princess Sikhanyiso's close friends. Some details have been altered to conceal her identity