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ESWATINI CULTURE, TRADITION IN POLITICS

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The Kingdom of Eswatini is basically known internationally for its strong culture and traditions.

The Umhlanga reed dance and Incwala ceremony have managed to attract thousands of tourists over the years. Their Majesties have revived other traditional ceremonies, which include Buganu and Butimba (Hunting party) ceremonies. These ceremonies have grown in attendance over the years and interesting innovations and services have been provided to modernise and make life better for those in attendance. This has set Eswatini apart as one of the few countries that have been able to maintain their traditions and culture. 

The traditional influence has over the years been part of the politics and governance of the country. This traditional and political influence extends back to the time of King Mswati II, the warrior King who rule over a vast empire, extending to South Africa’s present-day Mpumalanga Province. The total population recorded for Mpumalanga in 2016 was 4.4 million emaSwati who still speak siSwati and identify and practice the Eswatini culture and traditions. However, the cost to the monarchy to remain in the centre of politics has been great in the face of progressive forces coming in the form of colonialism, in the 1800s, revolutionary movements of the 50s and 60s to the present-day political parties movements. Vast tracks of land and people were lost to South Africa as alluded to earlier, but the monarchy remains with political power.

Youth more progressive

Allow me to suggest that most of the youth lean towards the more progressive political message; taking note that not all progressives hate the monarchy and the youth are the same. There has just not been enough invested in making the youth understand and embrace the Tinkhundla political system in the face of growing progressive sentiments. We are surrounded by republics on all fronts and political parties are the order of the day but we have not actively politicised our youth. The party system has youth meetings and congresses but we have at tinkhundla only Umhlanga and Incwala.

Conservatives pushed to corner

It would almost seem like the monarchy has been retreating over the years. The land was lost slowly to a progressive Republic of South Africa. This would mean that it will be that much more difficult to concede anymore of the traditional beliefs. The progressives must realise that Eswatini politics has been so intertwined that it will be very difficult to unravel. The introduction of the Constitution itself was a loss of conservative power. The direct appointment of Members of Parliament was yet another loss of political power. One would have to say maybe it’s time serious soul-searching took place within the loyalists’ camp.

Individualistic approach  

The individualistic approach of the Tinkhundla system, which gives the individuals an opportunity to speak for themselves and not as a collective, is slowly running out of time. The employer used it for many years in keeping the workers of the world weak but with time it slowly became impossible to make it work. The people will inevitably demand bargaining power through some form of groupings in the form of political parties. The loyalists in Eswatini have been a step ahead through the years, creating a negative perception around political parties and have succeeded.

Tinkhundla alternative

It is clear that traditional loyalists look negatively towards the idea of any form of political representation, however, I wonder if they would feel the same if civil society groupings came together such as the youth, women organisations, churches, unions, professional groups such as lawyers, doctors etc. These groupings would then present collectively at the dialogue when it eventually comes.

Emergence of left-wing forces in Latin America

The left-wing progressives’ movement has grain a lot of ground throughout the world. They have taken over all South American traditionally strong conservative governments including Colombia where the opposition progressive parties were considered rebels and terrorists even by the general population. Leftist Gustavo Petro, a former member of the M-19 guerrilla movement, who has vowed profound social and economic change, won Colombia’s presidency, the first progressive to do so in the country’s history. The recent electoral triumphs of Luis Arce in Bolivia, Pedro Castillo in Peru, Gabriel Boric in Chile and Xiomara Castro in Honduras raise the question of whether Latin America is returning to the democratic or progressive left.

Question

Are Eswatini’s traditionalists ready for the progressive agenda, which is upon us we like it or we don’t? They need to move beyond just assuming they have the youth’s support because of unemployment and actively discuss matters and sell the Tinkhundla system more aggressively through branches and create a visible leadership structure for the youth to aspire to.
Comment septembereswatini@gmail.com

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