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MBABANE – Do chiefs have the power to deny citizens with political affiliations a place on Swazi Nation Land (SNL)?

The chiefs, who are footstools of His Majesty King Mswati III, as per Section 233 subsection 1 of the Constitution, expressed varying views on the subject matter which was brought about by a statement released by Sive Siyinqaba acting Chairman, former Senate Deputy President, Ngomuyayona Gamedze.

In the statement by Sive Siyinqaba, Gamedze said: “It is inconceivable that certain elements that are expected to be enlightened in government would at this day and age, still confuse the traditional authority with the system of political governance widely known as Tinkhundla. Tinkhundla is a relatively new system of political governance adopted as recent as 1978, on a trial basis, christened by its architect as an ‘experiment’. Whereas, the traditional authority of chiefdoms and inner councils speaks to our way of life as the Swati.”


Gamedze said from time immemorial, those traditional structures had always existed; whereby, a citizen would appear before the inner council for kukhonta. In the statement, Gamedze said all questions would be asked when one was seeking land on Swazi Nation Land, save for his political affiliation. He said even in the 1960’s, which according to him was a decade of the emergence of political parties, the question of which political system or group they subscribed to was never posed.

He said: “Sadly, the new political order that is being ushered in by some novice contemporary politicians seeks to suggest that all traditional structures and their administration are now subservient to the Tinkhundla politics. We now learn that if a citizen does not embrace the Tinkhundla system of governance, then his residential status in the chiefdom has to be questioned.”

To this, Chief Dambuza Lukhele of Engobelweni, in the Shiselweni Region, said the nation of emaSwati was formed into a homeland based on fundamental principles which were traditions, customary laws, culture, national aspirations and national objectives.

Lukhele said the King, who is Ingwenyama, had chiefs who were the custodians of the aforementioned principles which were the backbone of the citizenry. He said this meant that the above agenda was driven by chiefs while the advancement of peripherals’ had disturbed the whole set-up.

The peripherals, according to Lukhele, were the Bill of Rights and political affiliations among many. Given the advancement of these, as ratifications to international laws signed by the country, the country decided on how to deal with them based on whether they fitted into the laid down traditional backbone. In explaining this, he said: “Guardians of the traditional backbone were the King and chiefs.”

Lukhele said when the contemporaries came to play and it was noted that they were not in harmony with the backbone of the country; it was inevitable to expect the King and chiefs not to engage on that.
“They highlight that whatever issue is clashing with the backbone should not happen.”

The chief Engobolweni said on the issue of contemporaries, in this world, there were many things that came to the fore at varying times. He said there were different philosophies, different ideologies and different individuals.  He said when these things came to the fore, they at times clashed with what he had mentioned and when this happened, chiefs had to intervene. Lukhele also emphasised that the Constitution of the country never cancelled any of the things he highlighted; but, instead, the contemporaries had to be compared with the backbone.

“If the contemporaries clashed with the backbone, the custodian had to be concerned.”


On the other hand, Chief Lembelele of Luyengweni in the Manzini Region, said to his knowledge, they did not take stock of the political affiliation of an individual.
“We know that all people belong to the King; so it is beyond our call whether a person has to be bothered for his or her political affiliation,” he said.
Also, Chief Gasa waNgwane said he was clueless on the subject. The chief said what he was aware of was that when the citizenry was pinpointing its dissatisfaction with the political system, it was addressing government.

“Those who insult the monarch should be disciplined and not chucked out as we all belong to the King.”
Meanwhile, Sabelo Masuku of the Human Rights Commission, said chiefs had no right to interfere with their subjects’ political affiliation. He said according to the Swazi Administration Act, politics were dealt with by Parliament.

He said the traditional method of seeking land (kukhonta) had its own standards and did not give a right to the chiefs to discard and or chuck any subject based on their political affiliation.
Masuku said this was more so because those with a different political view were also taxpaying citizens and were accommodated in the Bill of Rights.

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