This is a tale of two queens: one who from birth was in the line of succession to a throne and the other a poor maid who was impregnated by an ailing King and, by accident of history, birthed a heir. As the two queens fight ailments of different degree and nature, it is imperative we examine their lives, and compare the vast differences in how the two states, eSwatini and Britain, has handled their ailments.

On February 20th, Buckingham Palace announced that 95 year old Queen Elizabeth was sick with Covid-19. The statement was clear about the Queen’s condition, although perhaps obfuscating just how badly the virus was affecting a woman in the twilight of her years. However, it was striking to note that Queen Elizabeth was not carted off to a hospital in Taiwan or the Middle East. She was going to be treated in the hospitals of Great Britain, the country she is sovereign over, which is a far cry from our other queen, Ntombi Thwala.

When our Queen Mother was flown to South Africa in her son Mswati’s Airbus private jet, the Swazi nation was none the wiser. If not for the valiant efforts of internet sleuths, we would not have known that;

a) a plane bought with the blood, sweat and tears had flown a huge delegation to South Africa, and

b) the purpose of the trip was to treat the ailing Queen Mother.

To this day, no official announcement has come from the palace. We do not even know for certain what is wrong with her. Whether she is suffering from a mild ailment, or is in terminal illness, the prognosis is the same: the Swazi Royal Family has failed.

The hospitals in the country are in such disrepair that the King, who fashions himself as a wise and peerless leader, must crawl hat in hand to neighboring South Africa for them to take his mother in. Why are Swazi hospitals not good enough? Why has he failed so much that it is a better gamble to put her onto a plane, than to just treat her at home? The King would rather risk the embarrassment of his mother dying in another country’s hospitals, just as his Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources did, because there is nothing resembling healthcare in Swaziland. 

On Thursday, protestors who were picketing the Queen Mother’s continued treatment in South Africa were treated to an ambulance ferrying the King’s brother and Minister of Defense Prince Hlangusempi. “Who must die in Swaziland?” is a question we must ask ourselves when there is no petrol for ambulances to take us to the medicine-less Mbabane Government Hospital, but a private jet can be filled to take the Queen Mother to seek healthcare in a democratic country.

Don’t get us wrong. We don’t wish the Queen Mother death. In fact, we hope she and other members of the royal family live long enough to see a democratic Swaziland prosper without her tick of a son bleeding us dry. We hope the King also gets to see it, before a jury of his peers determines the appropriate sentence for the crimes they have committed. 

Which brings us back to our other Queen, Elizabeth II. When her covid diagnosis was announced, there were divergent reactions on the internet. Ardent monarchists sent out well wishes; most normal people just shrugged and moved on with their days. However, there was a very loud (and funny) segment who started tweeting jokes about the end of the Elizabethian reign. Whether you agree or disagree with them, or if you think they were in bad taste, not a single one of those people were subject to intimidation by the state.

They told their jokes, and those who disagreed with them were also free to do so. There were no CIDs trying to figure out who said what, or cooking up false charges to silence them. Such is the case in a functioning democracy. Whether the Brits decide to do away with monarchy in the future is up to them, but what is clear is whether they have republican or monarchical leanings, they will not end up in jail for their opinions.

Such is a far cry for the Kingdom of Swaziland, where the Prime Minister called those protesting outside the private hospital the Queen Mother is being treated “heartless.” No Sir, what is heartless is leaving hospitals without medicine and PPE because you know there is a jet that can take you to South Africa. 

What is heartless is getting on a jet for a medical check-up in Taiwan, a democratic country with socialized healthcare, when in Swaziland even having medical aid doesn’t guarantee the rest of us access to treatment. What is heartless is expecting Swazis to feel sympathy for the Queen Mother when her son mocked us as we grieved the dead he had murdered. If Swazis are heartless, we have King Mswati to thank for that.