The News Here Is Decidedly Stale

The sensational media report regarding the alleged involvement of the twelfth of the fourteen wives of Swaziland's King Mswati III in a passionate rendezvous with that country's Justice Minister must obviously come as no news at all to those of us avid students and keen observers of the continental African political landscape. And two quite mundane reasons clearly underscore the foregoing fact, namely, the fact that coital intrigues, if one may so term such patent act of marital infidelity, are integral to human existence. In this instance, however, must also be significantly observed that in polygynous (or polygamous) situations such as the current one at issue, such institutional malfeasance is all the more mitigated by the quite obvious and practically logical presumption of likely conjugal wistfulness, as vividly appears to be the case of the widely alleged affair between Queen Mswati Nothando Dube and Swazi Justice minister Ndumiso Mamba. And here, I quickly add in passing, for whatever it may be worth, that during the 1994-95 academic year, I was African History professor to a younger brother of King Mswati at the Indiana State University, Terre Haute, Indiana.

Needless to say, the trysting minister's surname ought to have readily recalled for the aggrieved husband the proverbial presumption of names as behaviorally representative of their bearers. In other words, while, indeed, Mr. Ndumiso Mamba is widely known to have been, perhaps, the closest non-royal confidante and associate of King Mswati, having also been reportedly partly raised in the Dlamini household, as well as having been perennially entrusted with the estate and familial wealth of the royal family, nonetheless, the quite unmistakable semiotic implications of having a “Black Mamba” so close to the sleeves of one's vest and for such a remarkable temporal span, ought to have, at least at some point, logically provoked the Swazi overlord into maintaining utmost vigilance over his bosom friend and chief minister, where the volatile affairs of his heart were concerned.

On the latter score, though, one cannot be too rueful, or sorry, for this 42-year-old monarch with an evidently impeccable taste and quite profligate appetite for high-end Western toys. For the king appears to be uncannily possessed of too many hearts – in the figurative sense of the number of wives formally acknowledged as royal consorts, of course – to have them broken at a go and then be hurt to the quick by the same, as it were.

Anyway, at the time of this writing (8/5/10), for example, the presumably ego-contused monarch was reported to be on a 10-day official visit to Taiwan and had expressly instructed the kingdom's security operatives to detain the lecherous trespasser and his conjugal property until his return to the royal capital of Mbabane. One can just fathom the likely sort of condign punishment awaiting the two daredevil prodigals. No replacement for Mr. Mamba, by the way, had been announced at the time of this writing.

There also appears to be a quite interesting nexus here – and it is simply that South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, whose third wife was recently accused of having carried the child of a lowly-placed presidential orderly to term, as it were, is reported to be a good friend of the Swazi monarch, having also allegedly paid the bride-price for a Dlamini cousin, although quite uncharacteristically, Mr. Zuma, perhaps rather too busy with the fraught affairs of the women of his own country, never consummated his “lobola” protocol with the traditional ceremonial ritual. This, however, is in no way intended to imply that the notorious “Viagra Baby” never coitally acquitted himself.

Indeed, while many feminist activists have vehemently decried the apparent caddishness of the Swazi king vis-à-vis his officially acknowledged fourteen wives, it significantly bears observing, even if just in passing, that the late King Sobhuza II, Mswati's father, was officially known to have been married to some seventy wives, with some unofficial counts even direly verging on as humongous a figure as one-hundred and ten wives!

In sum, the narrative goes, so inordinately profligate does King Mswati appear that an August 5, 2010 New York Times article on the monarch had the following to say: “He is famed for extravagant spending that contrasts sharply with his country's widespread poverty.” Needless to say, if, indeed, such snide observation was meant to considerably dent his image, then, alas, the writer had miserably misfired his point-blank shots. At best, the Times' reporter only succeeded in implicitly and ironically depicting mainstream-American society as being smugly hypocritical. For it is not as if half of this country's 300 million citizens live a level and/or standard of livelihood that half approaches the fabled domestic comfort of the likes of Microsoft's Mr. William Gates, Jr., Donald Trump or even recent arrivants like the Clintons and the Obamas.

In brief, his sole and apparently unpardonable guilt, or culpability, appears to inhere in the fact that King Mswati is an African monarch living relatively lavishly in a backwater country which does not produce common glue-sticks, let alone pediatric toys to warrant this absolute “bush chieftain” the facile and abominable presumption of the ownership of a $ 700,000-priced Mayback 62 Mercedes sedan.

Of course, only a congenital idiot would dispute the fact of the abject impropriety of King Mswati maintaining a personal annual budget of $ 30 million while the country's hitherto average life-expectancy rate of 60 years is both apocalyptically and grotesquely halved to approximately 30 years in barely a decade! What is even worse, nearly one-third of all Swazi children are also reported to have lost at least one parent. Ineluctably depressing, to be certain, until one learns to one's great horror that in Black America, as well as even a quite sizeable percentage of America's dominant white community, one parent, often a father, never even bothered to show up in order to be duly registered as the proud parent of a newly-born child at the Births and Deaths Registry.

In all the preceding, the one thing that is patently and incontrovertibly clear is that globally and invariably, our proverbial human political animal is almost wholly devoid of dignity where the collective destiny of the polity is concerned.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI) and the author of 21 books, including “African Politics Today” (Atumpan Publications/, 2008). E-mail: [email protected]


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