WELCOME TO THE HAGUE YOUR MAJESTY


That there will be an unprecedented number of recruits in the next armed forces’ respective intakes is fait accompli. This means a lot of our unemployed youth will be in gainful employment, presenting a very oxymoronic upside if you consider they will be indoctrinated and taught to kill and maim defenceless fellow citizens and relatives. Sadly, that is the line we crossed this week; a war ‘virgin' army taking up arms to massacre their own. That, ladies and gentlemen, was the day history was rewritten and our politics redefined. And if the regime survives the current opprobrium and lives to oversee another army intake, this week will go down as the week the country saw the re-birth of a new dastardly Commander in Chief ready and willing to command 'concomitant action' at his own 'subjects' at the slightest provocation.

The fact that we could not even remotely contemplate such a seismic shift in our body politic is a victory, even if only psychological. That said, there lingers a dissertational question: how did the ‘overnight’ transformation of Swazis from being docile whiners and passive casuals at ‘Bayethe Inc’ morph into fearless citizens sure of their worth and bona fides come about? And what with the new resolve and its sustainability? It is easy to think and conclude that the malfeasance and manifestations of royal misrule started with the current Monarch and his children. This may be partly attributed to the fact that King Sobhuza, and by extension his children, had mastered some finesse over time.


It could also be a function of different degrees of ‘mental sharpness and alertness’ between the two kings. It didn’t help that the incumbent king’s coming of age, at a time when some of his senior siblings were departing to the greater beyond thereby giving him space to exert his own influence and identity, had a trusted lieutenant in the late Prime Minister Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini. The two shared a wicked vision, with all its diabolic and sadistic game plan and implementation. Unlike the current (acting) Prime Minister, Barnabas had two brain cells to rub together. That made him indispensable and brutally dangerous. To the king, Dlamini was the perfect Roll to the Royce and a fitting Ying to the Yang.

The man was Deputy King, so to speak. So the reign of terror had formidable drivers and continued unabated for over a decade. But it was not unnoticed or unfelt. Of course, the king was enabled by the labyrinthine and very complex idea that he was the custodian of our culture, custom, and everything that is tradition. With culture being seen as part of our identity, our continued support and love for it it was intrinsically understood as an expression of approval of royalty and their political malfeasance.

To them, the king was loved and deity-like. All this could not have been possible without the Constitution’s explicit pronouncement of the king’s immunity from litigation and all forms of reprimand. With that, the Supreme law of the land effectively said ‘As the king pleases’. The strength and might of the institution meant it was a well-oiled machine capable of recruiting cheerleaders effortlessly and suppressing foes ruthlessly.

Meanwhile, on the ground (or is it under) and almost unnoticeable to the deluded royal eye, poverty induced anger and other forms of dissents were brewing and fermenting. The fissures grew wider and faster as the king’s children, with whom he was now firmly in charge of the country with, flaunted their opulence on social media literally spitting on the faces of Swazis who had their hands stretched out for crumbs and leftovers. The tinderbox was getting hotter. Tensions were rising. But the monarch couldn't know or sense the mood of the people because journalists like Alec Lushaba (representing the majority opinion in the country's corridors of power) were like the 'old honest Minister' in Christian Andersen's 'The Empire's new clothes' folktale. It is Andersen, writing so many years ago, who best captures the behaviour of people like Lushaba at critical and defining moments of history.


"I'd like to know how those weavers are getting on with the cloth," the Emperor thinks after being told by swindlers they would design him clothes that would make Ministers unfit for their position not see the fabric. "I'll send my honest old minister to the weavers," continues the Emperor as the delay in finishing the new clothes worry him. "He'll be the best one to tell me how the material looks, for he's a sensible man and no one does his duty better." Andersen writes that the 'honest old Minister' went to the room where the two swindlers sat working away at their empty looms.

"Heaven help me," he thought as his eyes flew wide open, "I can't see anything at all". But he did not say so. Both the swindlers begged him to be so kind as to come near to approve the excellent pattern, the beautiful colours. They pointed to the empty looms, and the poor old minister stared as hard as he dared. He couldn't see anything, because there was nothing to see. "Heaven have mercy," he thought. "Can it be that I'm a fool? I'd have never guessed it, and not a soul must know. Am I unfit to be the minister? It would never do to let on that I can't see the cloth." "Don't hesitate to tell us what you think of it," said one of the weavers. "Oh, it's beautiful -it's enchanting." The old minister peered through his spectacles. "Such a pattern, what colours!" I'll be sure to tell the Emperor how delighted I am with it."

How the naked emperor story ends is well known but how Lushaba, like the old ‘honest Minister’ misread the early stages of the uprising, coming short of shouting down the legitimate demands of the people, talks to how deeply delusional the people within earshot of the monarchy are. ‘It is not the PM they are after but the King”, Lushaba had written in his weekly opinion column at the early stages of this uprising rebuking the call for an elected Prime Minister. This time, however, the scarecrow didn’t work. Instead, the people cried in unison ‘yes, it is the king we are after, for he is the man in charge, the omnipotent one’. Like many of the king's enablers, history will now remember people like Lushaba as one of those who paved the way for the monarch's massacre of unarmed civilians.

As The Bridge, we mourn the unnecessary deaths of countless Swazis at the hands of the armed forces and accordingly dip our flag in respect. Equally, we tip our hats to a generation that said enough is enough. Scarred but not scared, the country's youth has drawn courage and inspiration from the gallant battles of the past. And from the wreckage and ashes we currently witness shall arise a new Nation.

Meanwhile, the aura of Prince Majaha’s daddy is waning into thin air. And from the horizon beckons a long, narrow and arguably lonely road at whose end is the sign engraved ‘Welcome To The Hague your Majesty’.