All right, time for some royal gossip.
Remember THAT princess, Inkhosikati laDube – otherwise known as wife no. 12? She who was surprised in a lover’s tryst with the Minister of Justice last year? Perhaps you saw those unforgettable photos circulating on the net of said minister peering out of the innards of a bed.
Well, after nearly a year in Coventry (sequestered inside one of the many royal palaces), she has been seen out in public again and has even been quoted giving fashion advice in a local paper.
When asked by the Times of Swaziland on Sunday to share her beauty secrets the former Miss Teen says, “Tons of sleep and staying prayed up.” She also advises readers, “it’s all about exercise, keeping healthy and staying positive.” Few clues there as to how she’s been spending those lonely months waiting for the dust to settle.
LaDube was spotted at a fashion show 2 weeks ago and both national papers published the photo of her in a pale blue sari (albeit in a low-key manner without mentioning why her appearance was significant).The state controlled Observer received a sharp rap over the knuckles from the King’s Office for daring to do so none the less. The Swazi media were not supposed to report on the scandal to begin with.
But, no matter, she appears to have managed a seamless coming-out – though we have yet to see her accompany her husband to any state functions.
As for her partner in crime, the erstwhile advisor to the king and top businessman, Ndumiso Mamba, he is still keeping a very, very low profile. He was not sentenced to death or locked away for life as many predicted, but is occasionally spotted at church with his wife.
At first I believed it must be some kind of mix up at the phone company. People who tried calling me when my phone was off told me they got through to someone else who said not to worry he would call me. They then heard the sound of dogs and children’s voice and he never came back on the line. Luckily it was just an old number I hardly used anyways and you sometimes hear of a phone company assigning the same number to 2 people.
Then, yesterday my editor told me it happened on my new number as well. Same guy, same story. Now, what are the chances. So, thank you MTN I certainly believe your assurances you are not helping police wiretap in Swaziland!
There are moments when the energy around change is palpable in Swaziland. Wednesday, at the Mbabane Industrial Court was one of those times. From 2pm on members of the SNAT teachers’ union as well as a myriad other unions and political activists began arriving to pack the court where a panel of judges was listening to arguments from unions and the state as to whether a proposed strike and protest action could go ahead. The teacher-led strike was supposed to have begun Wed am and last until Fri but the government filed a last-minute interdict to stop it. I counted at least 200 people in court. Sadly it all seemed to hinge on one piece of missing paper – the results of SNAT’s secret ballot that had to be filed with the Labour Office before a certain date for the strike to be legal. The unions’ lawyer said it had been, but the paper could not be found in evidence. On the other hand, the presiding judge pointed out, the state’s argument was full of holes so, in the end, a compromise had to be bashed out. The unions agreed not to strike for now and to go back to a mediation forum with government for another 7 days. Their members, who are itching to go out onto the streets so angry are they about proposed pay cuts etc, filed out meekly, agreeing justice had been done. The industrial court seemed a serious, fair place as opposed to the other courtrooms I have been in lately.
The police top brass put in an appearance – not inside court; but outside on the steps in case anyone thought of taking the toyi-toyi too far I guess. Maybe they were just bored from patrolling the streets to make sure no one thought of marching or striking.
I came across this demo quite by chance (see link above for video). These days protests materialise every week or just about. This small group of protesters from the Central Transport Authority (basically its their job to keep the govt fleet going) were outside the Ministry of Justice where they handed over a petition. Later they made their way across town back to the govt transport depot where they, presumably, went back to cooling their heels (govt can’t afford spare parts for them to be able to fix its vehicles). Oh, on the way across town the marchers passed the Principal Secretary of the Justice in his Merc when he was supposed to have been in a cabinet meeting – or at least, that was the reason given for him not being able to receive the petition. Yes, Swaziland is so small it is hard to get away with everything.
Here is a silly post to commemorate the King’s birthday. I call it “Man With Chair”. We passed this guy on the road. He was decorating.
Balloons and garlands of coloured flags have been strung up around Mbabane for the King’s birthday on Tuesday but the skies are grey, the streets are wet and the mood is gloomy.
Now that the roadblocks that became a feature of everyday life over the past week are almost gone, people are taking stock of what happened during the almost-protests . People are coming forward with stories of being dumped kilometres away in the middle of nowhere by police who picked them up for trying to protest. Some walked 10kms to get back from nowhere.
No one seems much in the mood to celebrate the King’s 43rd birthday and indeed I hear nothing official is planned. Mswati thanked the police over the weekend for saving the nation from the “devils”.
I had no idea it was illegal to interview teachers in Swaziland but apparently it is. I was speaking to 4 teachers – 2 of whom had spent much of Tuesday in police custody – when we were surrounded by policemen. They frogmarched us out of Nandos before I could even alert my journo buddies I was being taken or finish my coffee. I guess that is what freaked me out the most as they quickly took my cellphone, accreditation letter and notebook so that I could not call my office or even alert the colleague I was with.
I was quickly released once we got to the station and my interrogation panel read my accrediation letter but of course, by then they had gone through my notebook. The teachers were not so lucky. I know enough Siswati to have understood the interrogation team did not appreciate their attitude (they refused to speak when spoken to).
I have no information as to their whereabouts. One is Dominic Nxumalo, one of the SNAT leadership – a clearly spoken man with an angular, striking face, another was Futhile Dlamini also of the SNAT exec. I don’t know the other two womens’ names.
Anyways, Dominic had just been reflecting on the reasons this week’s protest got so thoroughly squashed when we were so rudely interrupted. “Maybe this time government had the upper hand because we did not have the strategies to counter them,” he said, “Sometimes we win, other times we lose”. The last I saw of him he was sitting in the police station and looked like he would be there a while.
When I left Manzini several weary hours later, the teacher’s union offices were completely surrounded by police. The smell of teargas still hung in the ear and you could hear those inside singing. The teachers said they would not leave until their leaders were freed. Their secretary general, Muzi Mhlanga had been under house arrest since the morning.
I have since heard that, after several tense hours during which no one was sure whether the teachers would be beaten on their way out (as they apparently were yesterday), the police agreed they could be transported home in cars belonging to the union rather than in police vans, while others will spend the night at a centre belonging to the catholic church.