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www.corpun.com   :  Archive   :  2005   :  SZ Domestic Sep 2005

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SWAZILAND

Domestic CP - September 2005



Corpun file 16559

masthead
The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio, USA, 2 September 2005

Maverick Swazi princess gets licking for party

By Thulani Mthethwa
Associated Press

Mbabane, Swaziland  -- The king's eldest daughter deserved the beating she received from a household official when he caught her holding a drinking party during the monarch's annual bride-choosing festivities, a member of the royal family was quoted Thursday as saying.

"It was within the traditional overseer's right to discipline anyone -- including princesses -- who wanted to spoil the important ceremony," Jim Gama, governor of the queen mother's residence, was quoted as saying Thursday in the Times of Swaziland newspaper. "Swazi culture allows any parent to discipline any child for an unruly behavior in public."

Princess Sikhanyiso has long raised eyebrows in Africa's last absolute monarchy for flouting tradition with her Western-style dress.

On Aug. 26, the official overseer of traditional affairs, Ntfonjeni Dlamini, stumbled across a party, hosted by the 17-year-old, that featured loud music and alcoholic drinks. Dlamini told state radio that he was so shocked that he beat the princess on her thighs with a stick as she fled.

The incident cast a pall over the annual reed dance festivities, a annual rite at which thousands of girls gather reeds to build a windbreak for Queen Mother Ntombi Thwala and dance before King Mswati III. According to tradition, Mswati is meant to select a bride at the festivities that culminated Monday.

"Princess Sikhanyiso received what she had bargained for by turning such an important event into a social gathering," Prince Jahamnyama, one of Mswati's elder brothers, was quoted as saying.

Princess Sikhanyiso said the party was a private event to celebrate the end of a chastity decree.

In 2001, Mswati temporarily revived the ancient rite of "umchwasho," which bans sexual relations for girls younger than 18 in a bid to fight AIDS, which is at crisis levels in Swaziland.

But the rite -- symbolized by the wearing of woolen tassels -- was ridiculed as old-fashioned and unfairly focused on girls. Days before the reed dance, the king announced he was ending the ban a year early.

Mswati already has 12 wives, one bride-to-be and 27 children.

© 2005 The Plain Dealer



Corpun file 16550

Times of Swaziland, Mbabane, 11 September 2005

Feature stories

Looking to the future

NOT A CHILD... Princess Sikhanyiso.

[columnist's name missing from page]

I realise that I’m skating on thin ice when I start criticising anything distinctly Swazi, principally because some people see what I’m writing in a neo-colonialist light, which is certainly a perspective I do not want to write from.

However, in my defence I will say that nearly all of my opinions here stem from discussions with Swazis and therefore hopefully can be considered slightly more justifiable.

On the issue of the controversy surrounding the ‘beating’ of Princess Sikhanyiso, it occurred to me that this event is an example of how ‘Swazi culture’ can sometimes be prohibitive to development in the country.

Surviving

Princess Sikhanyiso is not a child. She is 18 and internationally recognised as an adult (I accept that she was 17 at the time, but let’s face it, she was a mere 4 days away from her birthday and this year was her ‘coming of age’ ceremony anyway). She has been leading the maidens at the reed dance for 4 years and has been surviving away from home in an English boarding school for 3-4 years.

Now, as a former pupil of an English Boarding School I feel able to suggest that someone who has undergone this process is likely to be even more mature than the average 18 year old. At a boarding school you have to learn to live without a lot of the domestic comforts that many teenagers are used to. You have to learn to live with people you don’t get on with, and you have to deal with all your problems without being able to run home to mum at the end of the day. In short, you learn to cope with living away from home well before an average teenager might.

Now, the media and the government in Swaziland are always talking about ‘the next generation’ with great hope and many apparent plans for the future. In short, there is a great tendency in this country to rely on the ‘next generation’ to lift Swaziland up and out of poverty.

Princess Sikhanyiso and her peers head that ‘next generation’ and as such they deserve respect. They have to be treated as the adults that they are. How can the country say on the one hand that it is putting its trust in the young entrepreneurs in the country, by loaning out money from a huge fund, and yet on the other say that an 18 year old girl who is more than capable of taking responsibility for her own actions is able to be beaten like a Grade 3 student who’s late for class?

My point is that even if the princess’s behaviour was culturally inappropriate for the situation her punishment was equally inappropriate.

Beating

I think at some point Swazis need to look at some aspects of their ‘culture’ and work out, reasonably, what is justifiable and what is not. Is beating a young adult a few days before her 18th birthday a part of national culture that Swazis can be proud of? Is disregarding the intelligence and capability of an individual in favour of a less objective and rational opinion simply on the grounds that you must ‘respect the elders’ something that benefits this society?

If what Princess Sikanyiso did was wrong and deserved punishment then surely a better way to go about it would have been to discuss a proper and more constructive exercise for her to complete. Culture usually consists of traditions that we are proud to pass down through each generation. So does substituting civilised reasoning and replacing it with violent outbursts really constitute ‘culture’?

I also wonder whether the same punishment would have been doled out to a prince if he found himself in a similar situation. Again, it is possible to see the contradiction within society at present when we look at the upcoming Businesswoman of the Year Awards and contrast that with the treatment of the girls at the reed dance.

If Swaziland is counting on the next generation then it has to start treating them as individuals who are capable of achieving what they hope them to achieve. Culture should not be a hindrance to development; if it is malleable enough to change as modern day society changes then that alone should ensure its preservation.

There are many admirable points within Swazi culture, even if many of them are dependent on their appropriate application. I also think that, from an English perspective, a lot of the social problems we are experiencing in the evolving Western society are borne out of a lack of a coherent culture. But that is not to say that culture cannot evolve with society instead of being steadfast and unchanging.

One important point that also needs to be made is this. If the present generation is so dependent on the future generations for economic success, then it is also dependent on the future generations for the successful maintenance of the culture. Soon there will be a generation that is able to ask serious questions about the validity of some aspects of the Swazi culture. This is inevitable considering the effects of globalisation. When there are so many different cultures, and different ways of life to analyse in the world, the curiosity of each new generation will lead to questions about their own.

The ‘next generation’ is unlikely to blindly follow whatever is deemed as ‘culture’ forever, especially when the country is trying to invest in their education and international awareness and relying on their intelligence and determination to ensure a brighter future for Swaziland.

So, actually the culture is dependent on the present generation. It is up to this generation to be able to justify the reasoning behind its actions, by being able to give more than ‘it’s just our culture’ as an excuse, otherwise there will be no one to support such a subjective lifestyle.



Corpun file 16549

Times of Swaziland, Mbabane, 12 September 2005

Sikhanyiso beating now with king

By Phinda Sihlongonyane

MATSAPHA – If you thought the Princess Sikhanyiso ‘beating saga’ was over, think again.

The princess has revealed to this newspaper that the matter has now been reported to His Majesty the King.

She told this newspaper at the airport yesterday that certain measures are to be taken against Ntfonjeni Dlamini over the incident.

The princess was beaten by the overseer while at camp during the reed dance ceremony where she is reported to have been playing loud music.

She said they have not met with Dlamini over the matter since the incident.

“We have not spoken about it with him but have spoken about it with the umhlanga crew and the king and some measures are being taken,” she said.

She however, did not like to state the kind of measures that are to be taken.

She further stated that she does not care about the people who said what happened at the camp was wrong.

“The people who make these comments were not there in the first place and the people who may say whether I was right or wrong are the witnesses who were there,” he said. Sikhanyiso further stated that as far as she is concerned what she did wrong was wanting her radio from Ntfonjeni.

She said what Ntfonjeni did was just walking into where they were and the next thing he was grabbing the radio after unplugging it. She said as she wanted her radio back Dlamini asked her what kind of disrespect she was showing to him. The princess stated that she was surprised by Dlamini’s action because as far as she knows properties from the royal household are not supposed to be given to anyone. On another note Princess Sikhanyiso stated that she was impressed with the attendance at this year’s reed dance ceremony.

“What I can say is that thank you to all the maidens who came even though we are prone to people who physically assault others,” she said. She said overall the event was a success and the same is expected next year.

Sex

The princess further stated that now that the umcwasho rite is gone, it does not mean that girls should engage in sex.

“I think everybody knows deep down from their hearts what is right and what is wrong.

There are more important things in life to focus on,” she said.

© Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is strictly prohibited.



Corpun file 16660

Times of Swaziland, Mbabane, 17 September 2005

Letters

Is it because Princess SikHanyiso was assaulted?

BEATEN: Princess Sikhanyiso was beaten by Ntfonjeni after he found her and her friends partying in mini-skirts.

Sir,

I am a Swazi and I am following closely the public's response in Swaziland after a bunch of naughty maidens (including Princess Sikhanyiso) were beaten by Ntfonjeni the Overseer of the Imbali Regiment after he found her and her friends partying in mini-skirts and drinking alcoholic beverages at the height of the Umhlanga national cultural event.

Swazis are generally happy with the type of punishment meted out on the girls who misbehaved whilst performing an important royal duty.

Punishment

As a Swazi, culturally I believe that corporal punishment is an appropriate response to most types of misbehaviour by children. It was disturbing though to read a two page article in one of the local newspapers which was written by Swaziland's UNICEF's Representative, Dr. Allen Brody, condemning child beating. Another so-called guest writer, Kath Manson, also wrote an article, which was also castigating the beating up of the misbehaving princess.

My first question to these two folks who profess to be proponents of Children's Rights in Swaziland is: “Is child beating now an issue in Swaziland just because a princess has been whipped?” At least once in three months in Swaziland we read about teenage children who have been sentenced by the local National Courts to beatings; six lashes, four lashes, you name it. This form of sentencing or punishment has not received any response from the UNICEF's Country Representative. The reason is simple – a prince or princess has not been sentenced yet. Poor and disadvantaged Swazis can be punished anyhow without any media frenzy or comment from the so-called UN officials.

[...]

Themba Dlamini
Lobamba
Swaziland



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