The Bridge has uncovered a classified state operation by the eSwatini regime to stop the wife to Siphofaneni Inkhundla’s Nomalungelo Simelane from winning a race to be a Member of Parliament (MP).

Popularly known as ‘LaZwide’, Nomalungelo is seeking to replace her exiled husband, Mduduzi ‘Magawugawu’ Simelane, who was Siphofaneni MP before he was pursued by the eSwatini state for being a popular voice in the Swazi democracy campaign. When the latter fled the country to neighbouring South Africa shortly after the 2021 eSwatini uprising, it was easy to predict the outcome of his absence in parliament and, when he was denied the opportunity to participate virtually, leading to his statutory absence in parliament, the regime closed space and subsequently dismissed him from the House, culminating to a vacuum in the position of Siphofaneni Member of Parliament.

Considered a prime enemy of the Swazi state, Simelane (Magawugawu) went on to become a leading voice for popular resistance and the face of the pro-democracy agenda in the poverty-stricken country which has been ruled by an absolute monarchy for decades. He went on to form the Swaziland Liberation Movement (SWALIMO) and, just a few weeks ago, started an international crusade to profile the Swazi democracy campaign, starting with an official trip to the United Kingdom where, among others, he met with that country’s Members of Parliament.

In the midst of all these, the process to replace Simelane’s position in parliament is underway and his wife, Nomalungelo, joined the campaign to replace her husband as a legislator. Now, as one would imagine, this news was not received well by the King and royal family who preside over the Swazi state, precisely because ‘Magawugawu’ is considered to be a great threat by the Swazi regime. In any event, if his wife wins, that would confirm the narrative that the overwhelming majority of the Swazi people want change, something the Swazi state has worked so hard to distort.

On the other hand, LaZwide’s loss would be interpreted to mean the agenda for change has not been embraced by the majority of the people, especially in the regime’s traditional stronghold, the rural areas. Indisputably, this became more than just a campaign for both the pro-democracy movement on the one hand and the state on the other hand. But, how does the regime covertly stops a citizen’s campaign in a manner that does not attract unnecessary attention and does harm to its already irreparable reputation?

According to a high-level source within royalty who spoke to The Bridge on condition of anonymity, the King gave an instruction that ‘LaZwide’ must be stopped by all means necessary and that her campaign must fail. “The Deputy Prime Minister, Themba Masuku, was mandated with ensuring this operation was carried out successfully. It was a tough call for him, considering that he is old and not quite energetic insofar as running around with such politics is concerned,” said our source.

In a manner reminiscent of South Africa’s ANC Polokwane Conference back in 2007 where many of the Thabo Mbeki opponents were afraid to stand for election against him until Jacob Zuma raised his hand, many of the Siphofaneni people were somewhat apprehensive about facing LaZwide in the election. “When former MP Gundwane Gamedze refused to stand, the regime was dealt a heavy blow because they had banked on him to face ‘LaZwide’ who was considered a popular candidate from the very beginning. Gundwane told them that he was afraid of being made a sacrificial lamb by the regime,” continued our royal source.

Sabelo Ngcamphalala, a man from Siphofaneni Inkhundla’s biggest chiefdom of KaNgcamphlala was found and his campaign received huge support from the state, to the extent that candidates in the other chiefdoms complained that the state was unfair because they we also “part of the Tinkhundla system” but did not get similar support to compete with ‘LaZwide’ who is making serious inroads in the campaign.

When she (LaZwide) won the primary election, things got worse and local Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze, another trusted royal servant who is the current Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in the King’s Office, joined the operation and tried to throw everything in favour of Sabelo who is now the regime’s only hope in the contest against ‘LaZwide’. All these and more are the latest desperate attempts at getting the wife of the king’s chief enemy out of parliament.

It soon became clear that Themba Masuku was not the right choice for this sacred state mission. Clearly, Ludzidzini had given politically exhausted Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku a hard row to hoe from the onset as LaZwide's campaign continues to appeal to the hearts and souls of the electorate, dwarfing the anti-democracy brigade into humility. In the event LaZwide wins, and taking into cognizance the state resources spent thus far, who will have the courage to look the king in the eyes and tell him, 'Your Majesty, we are here to inform you that LaZwide has replaced her husband'? Surely, with a powerless and novice Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) that is minus Winnie Magagula, Ncumbi Maziya, Chief Gija and Richard Phungwayo, one can only predict the outcome. And, all said and done, Themba Masuku was given a mandate and he has some report-back exercise to undertake!

Meanwhile, LaZwide’s campaign has taken shape and the momentum has been growing from day one, so much so that thousands of people join her campaign rallies physically and virtually. Just this past Friday, it was reported that over 2000 Siphofaneni residents attended LaZwide’s campaign and this has been causing more stress for DPM Themba Masuku, a man who has to make sure the royal command is implemented successfully. Can we see a repeat of the 2013 elections in which senior members of the EBC were accused of a secret operation to get rid of Ndzingeni MP Lutfo Dlamini through election rigging? Time will tell and, in the words of our royal source, “I wish to be inside the same room when they come to tell the king that ‘LaZwide’ has won the election race.”