On the 21st of January 2023 the world received shocking news about the death of prominent human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko. Thulani`s death confirms what many critics of Tinkhundla royal regime have been saying that the system belongs to the dustbin of history.

It is now clear that Thulani´s death has the potential to radically shift the rules of engagement in the liberation struggle in our country. Over the weekend the bowels of the earth opened in the rural village of KaLuhleko in Bhunya to swallow the mortal body of Thulani and remind us once more that present-day Swaziland is a fiefdom. Unfortunately, this is a fiefdom at the hands of a tinpot despot enabled by a morally bankrupt system of governance called Tinkhundla.

Why are we here?

It is important to remind the world why we are here as a country today. We are here because of a morally bankrupt system called Tinkundla. By definition, Tinkhundla is a one-party system introduced by then King Sobhuza II in 1978 after abrogating the 1968 constitution. He subsequently bestowed all legislative, judicial and executive powers to himself through the now infamous April 12, 1973 decree.

When King Sobhuza II did this Swaziland had a nascent multiparty democratic system. Importantly, the country had no standing army. However, it was not until the year 1973 that the late King Sobhuza established the Umbutfo Swaziland Defense Force (USDF) and charged it with the responsibility of enforcing the now longest running state of emergency that ended in 2005 when the constitution came into effect. 

It is now an open secret that Sobhuza was advised by lawyers of the Afrikaner Broederbond, a secret Afrikaner male-only organization in South Africa. The Afrikaner Broederbond was known to have a strong influence on the National Party—the apartheid ruling party—and many of its members held high-ranking positions in the government, civil service, and the private sector. They were instrumental in implementing the policies of Apartheid that institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination.

We can safely say that the brainchild and chief architects of Tinkhundla system are the same people who designed and enforced apartheid South Africa. Apartheid is a system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race and was classified as a crime against humanity by the UN in 1973. We can surmise that there are uncanny similarities between apartheid South Africa and Tinkhundla system.

Meanwhile, present-day Swaziland is classified as a semi-feudal and semi-capitalist society. To the uninitiated, feudalism is a social and economic system where lords and serfs/peasants characterize the class distinction. In the case of Swaziland, we have chiefs that are an extension of the royal aristocracy and subject Swazis as second class citizens. It is for that reason that you will find grown men and women going to do manual labour for the royal family or local chief in the form of weeding fields and manning the cattle byre.

Some men go to the extent of being initiated (Kubutseka) and volunteering to be the first line of defence against any adversaries of institutions of the monarch. History is littered with evidence of how all feudal systems operated and punished any rebellious behaviour. Anyone who challenged the ruling class was seen to have broken the feudal contract. Punishments included execution, imprisonment, torture or banishment.

Anyone who dared challenged the powers of the feudal lords was labelled an outcast and a “rotten potato”. The hierarchy & rigidity of this system is the reason why Mswati in his own head believes and is still convinced the brutal assassination of Cde Thulani Rudolf Maseko is justified. In the books of the Tinkundla royal regime, anything and anyone that calls him/herself a human rights defender must be persecuted.

In our case, the semi feudal nature of our society is intertwined with a very ruthless and brutal economic system called capitalism. This is exactly what we see in Swaziland in the form of Montigny, Inyatsi, Illovo Group, US Distillers, CONCO, Tibiyo, Nedbank etc where the King, through his cronies, have found themselves in business arrangements with the sole interest of making profits. Unfortunately, the unending desire to maximize profits leads to labour disputes, land evictions, disregard for human rights, degradation of the environment, exploitation, repression, marginalization and inequality.

The structural violence inherent in capitalism is the reason Cde Thulani ended up forming the Atibuye emaSisweni Farm Dwellers Association. Thulani, therefore, championed the interests of the disenfranchised who found themselves as squatters in the different farms some of who were evicted. The semi-feudal system is the reason why we found Cde TR representing the people of Macetjeni & kaMkhweli during the chieftaincy disputes.

He continued to represent a lot of downtrodden masses of our people against evictions, injustices and marginalization across the lengths and breadths of our country. The hiring of mercenaries to kill pro-democracy must therefore be seen to have an agenda to attain three main objectives: Tinkundla royal regime´s desire to continue with its absolute power, Minister Neal and private industries’ desires to continue accessing cheap labour whilst maximizing profits and lastly intimidating anyone who calls for a democratic dispensation. It is therefore crucial to understand these historical and systemic factors in order to fight for liberation in Swaziland effectively.