Who says Sibahle Sinje?
So, Sibahle Sinje is now a political movement ready to contest the 2008 elections. But, why are the other political parties being suppressed? Indeed, is it a coincidence that at this crucial time of political change, Zonke Khumalo bounces back into a very sensitive position as chairman of the Citizenship Board? It will be a very interesting election, come 2008. Editor, Bheki Makhubu
On the 5th of last month, erstwhile cultural group, Sive Siyinqaba Sibahle Sinje held a convention at the Royal Swazi Sun's Convention Centre to celebrate its 10th year of existence.
On the same day, basking in the perceived glory of the new constitutional dispensation, the organization's leaders announced that Sibahle Sinje was now being transformed into a political movement, taking advantage of the constitution's protection of freedom of association and expression which gives everyone the right to a political party interest group.
Sibahle Sinje claimed it was positioning it self for the 2008 elections which will be the first in Swaziland under a constitutional order since 1972 when the cause of Swaziland's history was changed by the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress's (NNLC) victory in Mpumalanga, eastern Swaziland against the formidable Imbokodvo National Movement.
Some 20km away from the Convention Centre on that Saturday morning, in Mbabane, members of Swayoco, that political youth group infamous for its public demonstrations against the Tinkhundla system of government in the '90s, were taking a thorough beating from police officers at Msunduza.
On that day, they were staging yet another political rally in one of the capital city's most impoverished locations. Police PRO Vusi Masuku later defended the police action by claiming that political parties remain banned in the country despite the constitution assertion to the contrary.
Whether Masuku's statement was a reflection of the bigotry of the Tikhundla system of government which he serves, or an innocent statement borne out of ignorance is a matter of debate. What is not in dispute though, is the selective manner in which our law enforcement agencies operate.
In February this year, the NNLC tried to hold a rally at the Msunduza Inkhundla Centre, but were denied access to the place by the area's Indvuna Yenkhundla.
This, despite the constitution having come into effect at the time. Interestingly, the con stitution seeks to continue to run the country's politics through the Tinkhundla based system.
Judging from the goings on in parliament lately, it is quite apparent that there is confusion over where and how the constitution operates. It is damning that parliamentarians, the very people who extensively debated the constitution when it came before them while still at draft stage cannot tell whether it is superior or subordinate to Parliament's Standing Orders, among other things.
Mfomfo Nkambule. that outspoken member of parliament, still smarting from his sacking as a Cabinet Minister, has been trying to raise the flag in parliament over the operations of the constitution vis-a-vis the general laws of the land.
His utterances, unfortunately, seem to be falling on deaf ears because nobody wants to really face the realities of the changes brought about by the constitution. It is worth noting that the country's Attorney General, Majahenkhaba Dlamini, who sat as Secretary when the constitution was written, has never bothered to help anyone understand the workings of the document.
A constitutional expert who taught at the University of Swaziland, Majahenkhaba seems satisfied to teach only a few close associates how a constitution works and could not be bothered about parliament or the rest of society.
Therein a mess is beginning to settle.
Perhaps the answer to all this lies in the in the appointment of Zonke Khumalo as chairman of the country's citizenship board. Khumalo was the Deputy Prime Minister of the country at independence.
It was he who almost single handedly had Bhekindlela Ngwenya deported from the country in 1972 sparking a constitutional crisis that led to the now infamous 1973 Decree.
Has Khumalo been brought back as gatekeeper to play that sterling role for the leadership in case things go out of hand in this new constitutional order?
Getting out of hand, judging from the events of 1972 could mean where, say, a membe of Pudemo, Swayoco or any political part. not acceptable to the country's leaders, wo-a seat to parliament.
Who could better see to it that this Swazi could overnight turn into a foreigner than Zonke Khumalo?
Ngwenya had won his seat in parliamer on the ticket of the NNLC in Mpumalanga His victory, together with Dr Ambrose Zwane and Mageja Masilela had greatly upset the Imbokodvo National Movement. It had become imperative that the NNLC be weakened in parliament, lest they upse-the Imbokodvo's agenda in ruling the country.
So determined was Khumalo to see to it the Ngwenya never saw the inside of parliamer-that on the day before King Sobhuza opened parliament on May 26 1972, he he. him deported across the border.
When Ngwenya returned to the country Khumalo had him arrested, tried and found guilty of being in the country illegally and sentenced to 12 days imprisonment.
The NNLC challenged Ngwenya's citizenship issue, but they were faced with a formidable opponent in Khumalo. When the High Court ruled in Ngwenya's favour that he take his seat in parliament because he was a true Swazi, Khumalo brought a Bill to parliament that would remove the power to determine a person's citizenship from the courts and transfer it to a Tribunal which would have the last say.
When all this failed, the authorities of the country simply removed the constitution on which everything was based and all powers were vested in the King.
Khumalo's son, Marwick by extended family, is in the leadership of Sibahle Sinje. In fact, Marwick is the face of the organization. A successful politician who has won two terms to represent his people in parliament, Marwick is seen as a moderate version of his father's politics.
Though not popular with King Mswati III who once refused to open Parliament when Marwick was Speaker, Khumalo has not been discouraged by such misfortunes in his quest to forge a strong political carrier.
Sibahle Sinje was formed in 1996 to counter a strong political force in Pudemo, Swayoco and the SFTU which had managed to discredit Swaziland's image internationally and proven to the world that the people of this country lived in a tin-pot dictatorship.
In reflecting on the ten years of its existence, Sibahle Sinje believes it managed to stem the tide of the political onslaught that Swaziland faced from those opposed to what is seen as an archaic political system that thrives on the subservience of its people to a self-serving political hegemony.
What Sibahle Sinje has not been able to do, though, is live up to its name and slogan in selling the pride of the Swazi people in themselves.
The organization, however, has said it is now ready to contest elections and make its bid for power.
Sibahle Sinje's announcement that it was now re-launching itself as a political movement did not surprise many. They have always been seen as a pseudo-political party hiding under the guise of promoting cultural interests.
While other political parties continue to be harassed by the state, Sibahle Sinje has been given red carpet treatment by the authorities over the years because they claimed to protect Swazi culture.
King's Sobhuza's Imbokodvo National Movement seems to have withered into the wilderness. Or, is Sibahle Sinje, the new face of the country's once ruling party. Afterall, they do too claim to be a movement and could argue just as strongly as King Sobhuza why they don't call themselves a political party outright.
Sibahle Sinje did, and to a large degree managed, to find its way into parliament during the last elections through the inter-parliamentary nomination system. It was into Cabinet that they suffered their greatest setback.
Perhaps their fortunes may yet get better in the next elections if they ever get enough votes to go to parliament. It will be interesting to see how the next elections will work out because the constitution has entrenched the Establishment of Parliament Order 1992, which requires candidates to stand as individuals in their own Tinkhundla areas and not as party officials.
One thing, however, is not in dispute, the 2008 elections will be the most volatile since 1972 and much confusion of what the right thing to do is will characterize the whole process.
This is why the powers-that-be need a person like Zonke, the problem solver whose ruthless precision in dealing with opposition is well documented. He might be at his son's side yet as Sibahle Sinje seeks to find its political glory.