This week the bowels of the earth will open up to swallow a little known man called Timothy Sibandze. But Sibandze´s story must be told.

Back in 2005 when the King called the nation to make last minute submission at the Ludzindzini cattle byre before the constitution was promulgated into the official law of the country, most of the country’s progressives boycotted the event and called for Swazis to do likewise. The promulgation of the constitution had been a subject of intense behind-the-scenes lobbying within royalty with some within the more conservative bloc of the aristocracy against the document in part and others wholesomely. I

t is important to understand that the King had been forced into constitutionalism screaming and kicking. Some of his brothers and sisters felt a supreme law would prune the powers of the monarch and render him a mere puppet. The King meanwhile was reluctant to sign the constitution for different reasons; first he had just cemented fraternal relations with several countries in the middle east.

To demonstrate this he had arrived at the airport clad in a white dishdasha (the main item of clothing for Gulf men that is generally worn with a pair of loose-fitting trousers called sirwal, either long or short) complete with a matching Shemagh mhadab (A piece of cloth, made of cotton or flax and decorated with red and white; worn primarily by Jordanians). The king’s newly found friends in the petrodollar-rich middle east had, at the time, seen him make frequent trips to the Arab world ostensibly on an investment luring drive.

The King’s Arab friends began to have concerns that the constitution made Christianity the official religion of the country and made their views known to him. If the King wanted the Arab Millions he needed to recognise Muslim as a faith, or at least not favour a competing religion, especially in a fiefdom where his word was law. Meanwhile, Parliament had already passed the constitution where the National Assembly had agreed that Christianity was to be the official religion of the country. All that awaited was for the King to append his signature and make the constitution the official supreme law of Swaziland. The king inexplicably dithered and obfuscated and in the process divided the royal family and the country. T

he King was right but for wrong reasons. The late human rights activist and UNISWA theology lecturer Dr Joshua Mzizi wrote extensive missives in his Swazi Observer column arguing why the King was right in refusing to make the supreme law of the country privilege one religion. In a country where Christianity is practised by more than 99 percent of the population, it felt like trying to convince Bushiri stans that the man was a fraud.

The conservative faction within royalty disagreed with the king on this point and so too were many Swazis who were at first startled to see the King rock at the airport in full Muslim garb and then fraternising with people Swazis considered following a religion they did not support. That the King subsequently sent one of his daughters to marry a middle eastern man from one of the oil rich countries ust goes on to show how committed he was to the Arab petro dollar project.

The loner who stood with the King became then appointed Member of Parliament Sandlane Zwane. Zwane sided with the king in a late night meeting called to debate this issue at Lozitha palace. This meeting was attended by many of the King’s advisors, among which was the Swazi National Council and other Ludzidzini emabandla. The meeting was heated and polarised. Speaker after speaker the King was told kukhetsa umculo.

Meanwhile, the country waited for the King to promulgate the constitution into law as the date for Sibaya had already been announced. In the background, however, the battles over this issue threatened to tear the royal family apart. There was seemingly no agreement reached yet the King had the pressure to officiate the constitution while also satisfying his newly found friends.

As days drew closer for the supreme law to be official all eyes were on the King to sign a law largely unpopular law on both sides of the historically feuding groups; the royal family on the one hand and progressives on the other. To buy time the King refused to sign the constitution and instead somersaulted and claimed he had called Sibaya to ask Swazis to make one last submission on the constitution and promised he would be watching everything from his screen at the palace.

Enter Timothy "Somathim" Nsibandze

When the King called the nation to make last minute submissions on the constitution at Sibaya he was already under pressure from the Commonwealth whose then Secretary General, Don McKinnon, was invested in ensuring that the country entered a constitutional era no matter how flawed the process or the document was. Also, the country had already spent a lot of money and resources on the document. International pressure was too much on the King as well. It therefore came as no surprise that the progressive movement boycotted Sibaya and refused to endorse a constitution they argued would not change anything.

The trade union movement led by the late Jan Sithole had led a spirited campaign against the document so too was the church under the leadership of the late Catholic Bishop Ncamiso Ndlovu. Ndlovu had led a multi-denominational first of its-kind march to the then Prime Minister to protest the supreme law. When the Sibaya meeting was called to welcome the signing of the constitution it was no surprise that the progressives boycotted the event. One man did not. His name was Timothy Nsibandze.

Nsibandze was an Agriculture extension officer. He had gone to school at the University of Swaziland and furthered his education at Pretoria Technikon in South Africa. He was little known and only shot to prominence several years later when he made headlines after being arrested for distributing songs police claimed were putting the Incwala into disrepute. As it turned out Sibandze was a member of the banned people’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) and was at the time accused of ‘breaching cultural rules’.

Nsibandze, who sold DVDs for a living, was also alleged to have copies of a DVD which included Sipho Jele, the man who died in state custody in 2010 after being arrested for wearing a PUDEMO T-shirt. We digress. Back in 2005 Nsibandze did not boycott Sibaya. He quietly and patiently lined himself to be one of the speakers making submissions on the Constitution. Unnoticeable, he took the microphone and spoke to an event that was being broadcast live on national television and radio.

And boy he went to town ripping the document apart and the Tinkhundla system asunder. Nsibandze tore on the royal family and went in deep. He called them corrupt, fat pigs and draining the resources of the country. He called the Tinkhunda system a royal cash cow meant to feed the insatiable greed of the royal family. The one memorable line he used is that the royal family is spending public funds such that ´sebaze bakhuluphele ngisho ematinyo´. Then moderator of the session, the late Ludzidzini Governor Jim Gama had to cut him short before embarrassing him more.

But the listening public whistled and cheered him on. The microphone was taken from him and told to sit down. The job had been done. Nsibandze left the meeting shortly thereafter satisfied he had told them to their face. So piercing had Nsibandze’s submission been that on the same day he was attacked at night by a spear wielding man who stabbed him on his stomach several times while walking home. T

he man never said what he wanted but was clad in traditional wear. Nsibandze managed to fight off the attacker and managed to take the spear from his attacker and killed the man in self defence. He spent several days recuperating from his injuries at the RFM hospital and police never followed up the case. In subsequent years the story of Nsibandze´s near death was never told in full. After police accused him of distributing material disrespecting Incwala Nsibandze disappeared from the public arena and later it was revealed he had suffered a stroke.

This week it was announced he had died. The constitution he protested right inside the belly of the beast has proven to be not worth the paper it was written on. Nsibandze must rest in peace knowing he has been vindicated. As for the clause on religion, well this is not Sub Sahara Africa’s last absolute monarch for no reason.