King Mswati Castigates Cowards and Sell Outs As Panic Engulfs The Royal Family

When Princess Sikhanyiso recorded and circulated a mea culpa at the height of the recent unprecedented protests, not only did she annoy a lot of Swazis, but she also elicited the ire of his father, King Mswati III. In a rather stern rebuke, the king castigated his eldest daughter for being “irresponsible, coward and selling out”.

In not so many words, the Monarch accused the Princess of "legitimizing the protests”. An impeccable royal insider has relayed details of what happened during and after the protests. There may have been justifiable anger on the manner Princes Sikhanyiso communicated. You may want to question her sincerity too, but what was and still is beyond question is the chaotic panic that had engulfed the royal family at that time.

“To acknowledge the magnitude of the antics, you first have to acknowledge who in the context of royal delinquency Sikhanyiso is. She is not only the king’s blue-eyed daughter but she is also the queen of arrogance and poster girl of flamboyance and royal privilege. She is arguably the brainiest of the royal siblings if we are to be fair to her yet unlike her father, who brazenly declared war to a nation in 1996 and 2008, she attempted a different pose," said a source within royalty.

In her well-choreographed solemnity, the Princess claimed to be representing the Monarchy and went on to indicate that the justified anger was noted, albeit too late. She noted and welcomed as sensible the delivery of petitions at the different Tinkhundla centers.

Within the royal family what was of concern was the line in her speech where she acknowledged that the conduct of some royal children were wrong. She stunned a lot when she said “…we note too and accept the correct criticism about the king’s children in particular and the entire royal family in general painting a bad picture with our wayward conduct and abuse of State resources, for which we seek the Nation’s forgiveness…”.

The king was livid at the news of Princess Sikhanyiso’s apologia. He demanded an immediate retraction from his daughter. “There was nothing to be sorry about”, bellowed the king who, like Gaddafi in his last days, vowed to crush dissenters.

This is where the King missed it, at least according to our sources. With all her limitations, Sikhanyiso and her handlers, including her mother iNkhosikati laMbikiza, had correctly read the mood: the people had crossed line of fear, for good. Still, the King and his lackeys couldn’t get the memo.

Prince Simelane’s ‘fight fire with fire' statement captures the king and his lackeys’ sentiments. The insider told The Bridge that the King is generally a combative person and becomes fearsome when angry.

On the advice of her mother and others, Sikhanyiso backtracked and in an attempt to exhibit potency she subsequently crossed to the other extreme when she advised and lobbied for an internet blackout. She is, after all, the Minister of Information, Communication and Technology. The internet falls under her portfolio.

Her Royal Highness Princess Sikhanyiso

Masitsela

Meanwhile, other royals were coalescing around the ailing and aging senior Prince, Masitsela, to try and talk some sense to the King who at that point seemed oblivious to the resolute resilience of the people on the ground.

I was part of the group who approached the senior prince. It was out of desperation more than anything else. What you do not know is that Prince Masitsela has effectively been ‘exiled’ by the King’s endless fines each time he tried to advise. The old man decried the fact that there’s virtually nothing that can be done to salvage the institution of monarchy from the abyss. If it has ever faced a real threat of extinction, it is now. I must have momentarily blacked out after hearing this from the old hand”, added our source.

The royal insider narrated just how paranoid and stubborn King Mswati has become. At the same time he is growing more iron fisted and inaccessible something others royals feel clouds his objectivity and ability to read the ground for what it is.  It didn't help much that the king has always viewed Masitsela with suspicion.

He feels the senior prince projects himself as a ‘de facto’ king thereby relegating him (king) to be a mere proxy of some behind the scenes royal forces. A joke that Masitsela has his own inhlambelo (a sacred enclosure meant for the reigning king to cleanse himself of bad luck and acquire new powers), does not cover him in glory either, for the king, conveniently, doesn’t disbelieve this.

But it wouldn’t be uncharacteristic of the king to sincerely believe this fib either. Once the king got the wind of Prince Masitsela’s thoughts, he got more agitated and reminded everyone how bravery saved the day in 2008 and subsequent years. To the king, bravery has been synonymous with the late Prime Minister Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini whom he credits for the introduction of The Suppression of Terrorism which helped muzzle a rampaging PUDEMO at the time.

At some point, our sources told us, the king angrily shouted that calls for dialogue and reform were nothing but surreptitious means to topple him by stealth. When asked what exactly would they have loved the king to do, our insider told us looking at the scale of the protests all they wanted from the king was to ‘strategically’ give  in on the demand of electing a Prime Minister, or at least a promise to.

Prince Masitsela

"This would have calmed down the country while also elevating the King to a high pedestal on account of being a good listener and tolerant of different views. This would have also bought him time to consolidate his support by optimizing cultural events for his visibility and publicity. At some point after Covid 19 had subsided, a series of roadshows would have to be embarked upon to enable the king to touch base with all the districts. The other upside of acceding to the proposal to elect prime minister is that such would potentially divided the progressives and isolated the political parties some of whose agendas are too radical. But the king wouldn’t listen to anyone," continued the insider.

What do the rest of the senior royal family members say, we wondered. Continued the impeccable source: “By other senior royal family members you mean, Princes David, Guduza, Lonkhokhela et al?, David is too smart and proud, he knows the king is always suspicious of his motives. As for (prince) Lonkhokhela, the king is disappointed and upset, to put it subtle. His view is that he is not doing enough to protect him and reject the calls of reform yet he is one of the major beneficiaries of the status quo. Lonkhokhelo is the longest serving CEO of a major parastatal and basically decides his own salary and bonuses at the eSwatini National Provident Fund. He is just too ambivalent and non-committal for the king’s liking. It is not the first time Prince Lonkhokhela is silent when his voice is needed to set the record straight. The king remembers how the prince once basked in stolen glory after a South African newspaper mistakenly published a picture of the prince in a story where the king was a subject, and referred to Lonkhokhela as ‘The king of Swaziland’. As a consequence of this the king is no longer sure of Lonkhokhelo’s fitness to manage the ‘big purse’ at ENPF. Of late, the king is much more comfortable with lackeys like Princes Hlangusemphi and Simelane and others who never question him on anything but always dutifully execute his commands."

Meanwhile, Prince Sicalo, the king’s oldest son, is emerging as the executor and implementer of choice. He has always been groomed for a serious position in the army. He finds himself as Principal Secretary because, being the reigning king’s son, the Army Commander’s position is almost beyond bounds for him, in the same way the unwritten rule precludes a reigning king from appointing his son as Prime Minister.

That explains the hitherto nonexistent post occupied by prince Hlangusemphi. There are suggestion that dismissed former Commanding Officer of the Air Wing department, Colonel Wilson ‘Mdzu’ Khumalo had initially been earmarked and groomed to replace former Commander, (Retired) General Sobantu Dlamini. The plan fell flat after he was ‘convicted’ of fraud. He too had committed a cardinal and unforgivable crime by stealing from the king.

Safety in numbers

On the other hand, the king is also pinning his hopes on the country’s security cluster and Judiciary, especially the Supreme Court of Appeal. His meticulous selection of the judges of this court means his hopes are not misplaced.

The country's Chief Justice Bheki Maphalala is a reliable home grown, a staunch traditionalist, Indvuna and known King shoe shine boy. Just to demonstrate how far he would go for the king Maphalala has already scheduled the government's appeal against the High Court judgement amending sections of the Terrorism Act for August 30 this year. This after not enrolling the case in the appeal court roll for way over three years.

This is meant to give the government a head start when they eventually prosecute the the democracy MP's Mthandeni Dube and Bacede Mabuza.

At the Supreme Court the king is armed with traditionalist and former Attorney General Majahenkhaba, a known staunch defender of the system. Justice Jacobus Annandale’s lack of marketability compels him to be pliant to the whims and dictates of the powers that be.

Doubts are emerging regarding the loyalty and subsequent efficacy of another former Attorney General Senzangakhona Dlamini, whose current status as a chief and child of the system once bought him favors. His supposed close proximity to Prince David, regarded as a renegade by the king, is a serious blight in the eyes of an unforgiving Monarch. 

 In the ultimate analysis, the king is safe with the judiciary, for now. Factor in the loyalty of the Attorney General, the king’s men are in the majority even if only for now. There’s safety in numbers, goes a saying.

For now we (in the royal family) are living and taking each day as it comes. We’ve never been so uncertain in our collective life. You literally have to count and police your words when you talk for the king who literally trusts no one now. Those calling for and preferring tactical reforms reckon the time is now since by every indication the people of Swaziland have crossed the line of fear and things can only get worse. This is the one notion that the king hates with all he has. In his books, this is tantamount to selling out, something he will never do. He insists that, like Muammar Gaddafi, his only choice and mission is to live, fight and die here. And by here he means the throne complete with its absolute powers", added the source

Meanwhile, the forces of change grind on as the ghost and vow of Gaddafi to ‘live fight and die here’, lurks menacingly within the royal corridors.