Sunday is a day most would consider a time for rest but for us it was marred by a rather harsh reminder of the approaching Incwala Ceremony. 

Residents of Ngwane Park Township were stunned by the uninvited appearance of members of the Bemanti (water party) within the boundaries of their private property.

While most Swazis have long grown accustomed to Bemanti doing their rounds at this particular time of year few, if any, can withstand the sort of brazen hooliganism displayed by these guys.

In one instance a certain warrior climbed over a fence from one private property into the next extorting monies from the tenants of that property, all in the name of King and culture.

The irony of the behaviour of these hooligans is in stark contrast with Vision 2022, the brainchild of the very monarch in whose name these guys brazenly terrorize the public.

On Sunday they were observed swinging their knobkerries at dogs that were merely alerting their owners as to the presence of these trespassers. The events that transpired in Ngwane Park on Sunday morning serve as a harsh reminder of the type of anarchy that prevails in rural areas each time this dastardly regiment is unleashed on a people already burdened by economic hardships.

For the uninitiated, Incwala is a national "prayer" that takes place during December and January, depending on the phases of the moon. It signals the end of the old and the beginning of a new year when the first fruits of the new harvest may be eaten.

This ceremony takes several days starting with the small Incwala and culminating in the larger Incwala. Several activities such as lusekwane, kuhlamahlama and umdvutjulwa mark the key events of this age old tradition. This tradition is controlled by the water party people (Bemanti).

The water party´s main camp is the Lwandle Royal Kraal under Chief Nkamane, and they are commissioned by the King to go to the Indian Ocean in Mozambique.

As they set off on their journey to the Indian Ocean, they pass along homesteads and other areas of business and the public is expected to give them money lor food as part of refreshments for the long journey.

Upon their return, the water party is expected to report at their traditional camp (Lwandle) before proceeding to Ludzidfzini Royal. Every year there are new complaints about their behaviour and there are often complaints about them harassing women wearing mini skirts or pants, damaging property and generally harassing people. 

Exasperated Swazis have no platform to report such harassment as neither the police nor the Human Rights Commission have the authority to investigate or curb their behavior.  

An appalled expatriate observed that they have never experienced such barbaric extortion in the name of a cultural event which draws thousands of tourists to the country annually.

The common fallacy that Incwala is a sacred event could not be used to silence an outraged resident of Ngwane Park.

How can your billionaire king send you to demand money from me, when I can't even afford a loaf of bread this morning?" demanded an irate elderly gentleman of foreign origin.

The question which one tends to overlook is that of pets, household animals, guard dogs in particular, which run the risk of being maimed or even killed by bemanti.

The irate expatriate gentleman was quick to point out his concerns “Would SAWS assist me to take these men to task in a situation where they have injured one of my dogs?”

He also noted that the state of sobriety of the men who had clearly trespassed onto private property was highly questionable. “You surely can't tell me that these people are not profiting from their participation in this activity, or that all of the money which they demand from members of the public is spent on what it is supposed to be spent on."

The monarch must modernise this "kuhlamahlama" practice. As one of the richest men on the continent, the King can easily afford to finance the Bemanti on their expedition to and from Mozambique.

This lack of willingness to do so has inadvertently helped open the eyes of foreign nationals who have over the years tended to gloss over the human rights abuses that accompany the incwala season.