Social media upheavals erupted in eSwatini during the course of the past week, emanating from the demise of two men in what has been defined by numerous people as a ‘movie-like’ incidence.

Sikhumbuzo Shongwe, son to Divine Healing Ministries’ Bishop Nash Shongwe, killed a man he had been accusing of having an affair with his wife, Jabulile Nkonyane. The deceased man is Zweli Tsabedze from Maphalaleni in the outskirts on eSwatini’s capital, Mbabane. Sikhumbuzo was subsequently killed by the Royal Eswatini Police Service when he allegedly resisted arrest in Manzini. As you read this, both men are in the mortuary and it is highly likely that they will be buried in the coming week. 

As expected, there has been social media uproar, with split opinions on the fate of both and the incident itself. Given Shongwe’s history of violence and gangsterism, many people have failed to contain their excitement at the news of his passing and by extension sympathetic to the Tsabedze family. 

There is a section that is blaming Tsabedze for infidelity and having (allegedly) slept with someone’s wife, leading to marital problems and a heated divorce case in the courts in which Tsabedze was implicated. Others are of the view that Sikhumbuzo was ‘justified’ to act in this manner; going to the extent of blaming the wife for what has happened. Then there are those who have decided to confine their voice to paying condolences to both families without getting into who was wrong.

Sikhumbuzo Shongwe

What remains to be seen though is the extent at which society is willing or unwilling to use this situation to elevate the discussion and focus on the structures, systems and institutions that, ordinarily, should collude to prevent such social problems from happening. In doing so, one would have to single out Sikhumbuzo to understand his life and how state institutions have failed society in general, using him only as a reference point.

Born on 08 October 1980, Sikhumbuzo grew up in the ‘streets of Manzini’ where he was socialized and cultured around violence as part of the notorious gangsters of the time. Things got worse when he dropped out of school even before he could finish his Junior Secondary education at Hillside High School. Like many children born out of wedlock, he did not have the opportunity to be raised in the presence of both biological parents under one household.

To his father’s credit, although he has been accused of over-spoiling his son, he tried to fill the social void and to give him overflowing support. He got all forms of support. He was not gainfully employed but got everything he needed and more, so much so that people used to speak in hush tones about how the Bishop was spoiling his son.

The perception has always been that the old man was constantly endorsing the wayward behaviour of his son who used to get support whenever he got arrested for assaulting people. Anyway, we all support our children even when they develop into something that does not tie-up with our expectations, isn’t it? 

Also, spoiling or not spoiling a child remains subjective, but the bottom line is that he dropped out of school and pursued a life of gangsterism. It would be interesting to ascertain as to whether or not the family institution contributed to the sad ending.

Bishop Nash Shongwe

The name Sikhumbuzo became widely known in Manzini and throughout eSwatini since he got involved in ‘street fights’, got arrested and this would be reported about in the local media. Skhubadu, as he was affectionately known by some of his peers, was a man of dangerous temper; one moment he is somewhat reasonable but the next moment he is extremely violent and wants to fight – a personality trait most prevalent in people who take drugs. He used to define the mood in bars and other social spots around Manzini because, whenever he stepped inside, it would be easy to predict the outcome of the drinking session.

His name was synonymous with violence and somehow it became a game to him. His first wife, Nelly Sihlongonyane, has scars to show; Shongwe used to beat her up indiscriminately and they eventually separated after the January 2009 incidence when Sikhumbuzo stabbed her.

It is for this reason that news of his changed life was met with wide excitement from people who genuinely thought he had become a born again Christian when he got baptized by Pastor David Chaliyumba. He reorganized his life, got married in 2017 and went on to lead a church at Phumulamcashi Divine Healing Ministries around Siphofaneni in the Lowveld region of eSwatini. This church is one of the many branches of his father’s church. Allegations of sexual relationships with young girls in the church later forced Bishop Nash Shongwe to stop him from being a pastor in the church.

At this time he had started to insult people in public (on social media) and there were allegations that he had started drinking alcohol again. When his wife reported a gender based violence case in 2020 it confirmed a long standing assumption among some people, that the man had not abandoned his old habits of violence. In this instance, he accused his wife, Jabulile, of dating well known businessman Daladi Dlamini.

It turned out this was not true; Dlamini had only communicated with Shongwe’s wife because she was planning a birthday surprise to be held at Emfuleni Lifestyle, a hotel owned by Dlamini. Sikhumbuzo later apologized to Dlamini and he asked Author Mancoba Mabuza to help mediate and bring them on the table so that he could extend his apology to Daladi. However, the case continued in the court because he had assaulted his wife.

In 2021 the wife took to social media and talked about the abuse she had been through and it came as no surprise when Sikhumbuzo shot her 5 times in the same year. He was out on bail when he allegedly killed Zweli Tsabedze at Luve this past week. The police went after him and he was killed while wrestling with the cops in an attempt to avoid arrest. When you look into the whole story, many things could have been avoided if we had strong institutions in the country.

First, the violence was encouraged by the fact that it was considered ‘cool’ and acceptable for him to assault people, including his wife, and come to the police station in the company of his father to hand him over to the police. He had always done that. The next day he would be out on bail and he had never been to prison to serve a sentence for the crimes he committed during his lifetime. Naturally, this gets into someone’s head and would be ‘forgiven’ to think he is untouchable and powerful.

When he assaulted his wife at Emfuleni Lifestyle, he was arrested and came out on bail. He shot his wife five times and again he came out on bail while the wife was still battling for her life in hospital! It goes without saying that the judicial system in the country has to reform and do a self-introspection insofar as administering of justice is concerned.

It is painful to see those who kill people moving around on the streets freely and enjoying their lives. While bail is a constitutional right, justice should be seen to be done, at least some sense of urgency on the part of the state to finalize the matter quickly and get culprits into prison. It has become easy for someone to take a gun and shoot at a person, with the knowledge that he or she will get bail the following day and the case never gets to see its day in court, at times until witnesses or the people involved die. This breeds a culture of violence in the community because people lose faith in the justice system and put things into their own hands. In the Sikhumbuzo incidence, the judicial system failed the man as it fails thousands of people across the country on a daily basis.

Chief Justice Bheki Maphalala

Secondly, the police force as an institution failed in its law enforcement role. The question to be asked is: why would the police allow a man who shot at his wife for 5 times to call and tell them that he will hand himself over to the police the following day? He shoots his wife, sleeps comfortably at home and goes to the police station the following day! 

Why doesn’t the police force go all out in search of a suspect who is armed and dangerous and using a gun to shoot at people – why allow such a person to sleep at home and not go after him immediately the case is reported? This is the reason he resisted arrest when he got killed by the police and in the process the police ended up killing him. This could have been avoided had the police intervened appropriately in previous cases where the man behaved in a manner that undermined the police.

Another issue worth exploring is why former Police Commissioner Isaac Magagula allowed a person of dangerous temper with a violent record to be given a firearm license. When Sikhumbuzo followed the normal process of applying for a firearm license the report came back and his application was dismissed. He then asked for the former Police Commissioner to intervene and he got the license for a firearm. 

From that moment, Shongwe threatened many people around town and at some point the media reported a case where he drew a gun on the streets of Manzini and threatened to kill someone over a small argument. He did the same on social media through circulating videos and such a behavioral pattern could have been enough for the law enforcement agency to revoke the license. They did not. They did not even have a discussion with him about that.

Clearly, his father’s influence and proximity to royalty made some people to think of him as being untouchable, hence the special treatment. In the process, the man was failed by these people. Therefore, the shooting of Jabulile (Shongwe’s wife) and the murder of Zweli Tsabedze are results of an accumulation of events that have been systemically and deliberately encouraged by the police and judiciary. Both institutions failed the man and they fail our people all the time.

Thirdly, the country’s mentorship, child & youth development as well as rehabilitation programmes are either nonexistent or extremely weak. A child failed by a family institution is most likely going to become a criminal or violent person. It is even worse for the boy child because there are limited structures that address the growth and development of the boy child. Organizations like Kwakha Indvodza are trying their best but they cannot do it on their own; they need government support.

The general increase in the number of gender based violence cases, especially within marriage, is an indication that we have a huge problem that needs to be addressed comprehensively. The state needs to put in place serious programmes to address this, even in terms of prevention. How do we prevent violence in marriages or families? 

How do we integrate counselling and mentorship in the health care programmes so that we have healthy relationships in our society?In the Sikhumbuzo case, for example, a mental health or emotional healing referral system could have helped because we were dealing with a man of questionable temper or behaviour that was encouraged by people who made fun of it until the sad ending. This could have been avoided and such must be avoided in future.

Lastly, the church has been quiet. Come to think of it, Shongwe was called “Pastor Sikhumbuzo” until his last breath and some narrow-minded people blamed the media for calling him “pastor” yet no one ever addressed this issue in public and announced that the man was no longer a pastor. It is not the role of the media to take away titles of people. Whether it’s League of Churches or Conference of Churches, the church should have stepped in to protect its institution and and to disassociate itself from this.

By the way, not just in the Sikhumbuzo case; there is rise in the number of people referred to as pastors who commit serious offenses and still come back to lead in the church without any reprimand. This tarnishes the good name of the church as an institution; the public loses confidence in the church and its role because of one person who could have been brought to order, suspended or stopped from being a pastor.

For instance, if a lawyer steals from clients the Law Society will address that; the same applies with other professions with bodies like in Accounting and Public Relations, to mention but a few. We need the church but where is the voice of the church when its name is under threat? Also, blame Nash all you want, but who should have called Nash to order when he pushed his son into being a pastor and presiding over a church at Phumulamcashi in a short space of time?

Why didn’t someone say: Bishop Nash, you are offside and undermining the dignity of the church by imposing your son because it makes the church look like a family thing? Perhaps, Sikhumbuzo could have been well mentored and developed within the church structure as an ordinary member and then rise into leadership role over time like all members. His manufactured and premature leadership in the church, alongside the support he was getting from members of the ruling establishment in the country because of his father’s influence, might have gotten into his head and thought he could do anything. The church failed the man and it fails the nation on a number of instances.

Therefore, when such things happen, they must give us an opportunity to do some root cause analysis, study the development of events and interrogate our structures, institutions and systems for purposes of improving them. Unfortunately, two lives were lost, a woman’s name is involved and she is equally pained by this; another woman’s name is not that prominent in this matter but she is also a widow now; children are left as orphans, families and friends mourning; our social landscape affected and social media users divided in opinion and insulting one another. 

We, at The Bridge, pass condolences to the affected families. Our thinking is that, painful as it is, this must be a reflection moment in which we pause, look at our institutions and take the discussion to a much higher level where we begin to talk to the future we want – where violence of any sort is discouraged in our communities.