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Wednesday, 15 December 2010


One of King Mswati III’s chiefs reportedly stripped a woman of her clothing in the middle of a Swazi street in full view of the public because she was wearing trousers.

Nhlonipho Nkamane Mkhatswa is chief of Lwandle in Manzini, the main commercial city Swaziland, ruled by King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

A reader of this blog writes to me that on Monday (13 December 2010) the chief, ‘indecently assaulted, humiliated and totally degraded a woman in the area by stripping her naked at a bus stop for being dressed in a pair of trousers in “his area” at a time where the Incwala ceremony is going on in the country.’

Incwala is a ceremony that King Mswati holds every year to sanctify the kingship.

The chief, who is employed as a soldier, and like all chiefs in Swaziland is the representative of King Mswati in his chiefdom, unwittingly exposes the king as a liar of international proportions. As I reported in September 2010, King Mswati misled the General Assembly of the United Nations when he praised the part his women subjects played in Swazi life. He told the UN that Swaziland ‘continued to promote equality’ in all sectors of the kingdom.

I said at the time he talked rubbish and now I am proved right.

I also wrote before about how three women in Dvokolwako in Swaziland had been summoned by ‘traditional authorities’ for wearing trousers after elders in the area had banned them. One woman said someone reported her after she was spotted wearing jeans as she was walking to the shops. Another woman was said to be wearing pants at her home when she was charged.

In Swaziland women are traditionally regarded as ‘minors’ and they are in effect owned by men, most usually their husbands or fathers. They have no rights and like small children they aren’t even allowed to decide which clothes to wear.

That’s the reality of life for women in Swaziland, even though since 2005 women have constitutional rights, but chiefs ignore them. Section 29 (3) of the Swaziland Constitution states, ‘a woman shall not be compelled to undergo or uphold any custom to which she is in conscience opposed’. That means she can wear trousers if she wants to. By law.

Chief Nhlonipho Nkamane Mkhatswa has form when it comes to bullying his way around Lwandle. Last month (November 2010), to the distress of her family and friends, he ordered that the deceased Ms. Dudu Sithole, had to be buried at night. Sithole had been a member of the banned organisations, the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) and the Peoples United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO).

Chief Nhlonipho Nkamane Mkhatswa, who is said to rule the Lwandle area with an ‘iron fist’, in June 2010 summoned Bhekinkhosi Dlamini, a senior activist in PUDEMO before the Inner Council of the Elwandle Royal Residence to answer why he officiated at the funeral of democracy activist Sipho Jele.

In 2005, the chief threatened the family of Vusi Shongwe, a PUDEMO member with eviction from the chiefdom after Shongwe was arrested on suspicion of involvement in the spate of petrol bottle attacks that took place in the kingdom in 2005-2006.

My correspondent writes that people in Lwandle learnt of Mkhatswa’s attack on the woman with ‘great shock, disgust and anger’.

My correspondent adds, ‘Mkhatshwa’s actions need to be condemned in the strongest of terms and exposed to the world for the fool and backward airhead he is.’

And so say all of us.

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