Mfomfo’s father Mncene Nkhambule has said, ‘certain people with links to the country’s authorities’ had approached him on the street of the Swazi capital Mbabane and told him to put pressure on Mfomfo to stop writing.
According to a report in the Times of Swaziland yesterday (17 February 2009), Mfomfo said, ‘They asked him what he was thinking and doing as an elderly person when his own son was doing something like this in the country.
‘He then asked me if I could see the potential problems I was creating for the family.’
In Swaziland is it common for threats to be made against the families of people who speak out against injustice and for democracy in the kingdom. Families, particularly those who live in rural areas, are under threat because any Swazi owes his or her livelihood to the chief of their area. Chiefs can decide who lives where, who has a job and who gets an educational scholarship. They are also able to banish people they do not like from their chiefdom. In many cases where people rely on food donated from overseas’ agencies, chiefs decide who gets fed and who doesn’t (quite literally deciding on life or death).
Mfomfo, a former Swaziland Government cabinet member and present chair of the Inhlava Forum political formation, writes a controversial column each Monday for the Times. He was hauled in by police and told if he didn’t stop criticising the King he could face 20 years in jail. It has been said that if he did not do as the police said he would face torture. Mfomfo has also been told he will be expelled from his local traditional regiment.
When asked by the Times what the reaction of other members of his family was towards his articles, Mfomfo said the younger generation was largely sympathetic but they, too, were worried about the consequences of the opinions, especially on the whole family.
He said he understood his father’s concerns, but he could not simply keep quiet just because things were getting tough.