Times of Eswatini
Sibaya dialogue 2022 - modernised
THE Sibaya saga as a venue for the upcoming dialogue has continued to be a topic for discussion throughout the country. The international community and indeed the younger generation might not know or understand this African political system. I have attended many national calls to Sibaya where major political discussions took place but it really never felt like a dialogue and certainly not at all inclusive when you come at its tail end not knowing or understanding the background. It’s even more confusing if you try to understand it from the western political concept
Understanding traditional Sibaya meetings
The traditional Sibaya dialogue works differently. Basically the elders (labadzala) of the country put out feelers through chiefdoms (imiphakatsi) and other traditional structures throughout the country on the general political mood of each and every individual over an extended period of time; they don’t like group formations. Once they have the general feel, they then deliberate internally and make preliminary decisions on various matters. They then call the whole nation to Sibaya. The reality is that labadzala generally have arrived at a preliminary decision as to the direction the nation will take, but need Sibaya just to bring in the nation collectively on board. It is basically an opportunity for the nation to express itself at national level before the official announcement. The nation must feel like they are part of the decision which usually mirrors their sentiments because of the imiphakatsi consultations and they usually buy into it. Labadzala don’t just manipulate, but are able to anticipate the people well. This has worked well for many centuries but I am not sure if it can work the same way in modern times.
The Constitution provides for Sibaya as the highest policy making organ because traditionally it was just that. Sibaya was the annual general meeting of the nation where His Majesty the King is the chairman and and all adult emaSwati are equal members of a large family forging the future of their country together. I can imagine in the old days my grandfather, Chief Mqcobeya Ndwandwe, would come to such a meeting to do his duty as a citizen. King Sobhuza II would sit on the cow dung floor with the rest of the citizens. EmaSwati would express their feelings openly and freely because it was the only time they were equal with bantfwabenkhosi and even the King when in endlunkhulu yemaSwati. They spoke the truth without fear of reparations because they were protected by a moral traditional code inside Sibaya as the people’s Parliament.
Life was very simple, Sibaya came out with general policy decisions knowing that the King’s advisors, bantfwabenkhosi, emabandla and staff would trash out the details. There was no Parliament, no unions, no civil society, certainly no political parties and the people were fully represented by imiphakatsi through their 385 chiefs covering the whole country and representing every surname or clan. Every citizen was allowed to speak his or her mind basically to add input to decisions the elders had to make at the end of Sibaya. These decisions were almost always influenced by the people as the King is the King because of the people. People spoke candidly and frankly directly to the King, with no fear.
Eswatini has had many serous political changes which were introduced this way even in morden times. Most notable is the introduction of direct parliamentary representation and the 2005 Constitution. However the present time does no longer allow for this kind of traditional Sibaya dialogue. The international community, of which Eswatini is a member of, cannot understand and accept the old ways as true dialogue and unfortunately true loyalists are now paid employees who fear the Monarch and the system to advise the truth.
Representative modern Sibaya
Sibaya should thus evolve and encourage representatives from all corners of the country, say 1 000 members, to form delegates for the Sibaya Conference which must be modernised and held at a proper International Conference Centre. These organizations must represent the will of the ordinary emaSwati and where possible written statements submitted to the Sibaya Dialogue secretariat for deliberations at the conference.
The delegates must include all chiefs (all surnames in Eswatini), emabandla, Members of Parliament, government ministries, trade unions, Lutsango, churches, youth, student representatives, professionals bodies (lawyers, doctors, engineers etc) farmer organizations, sports councils, business organizations, people with disabilities, pensioners, civil society and even political parties. These groups know what is best for the future of Eswatini. Political parties should be represented by two coalitions (progressives’ parties’ and conservatives’ parties), not individual parties as they will mushroom overnight. The issues on the Tinkhundla political system and multiparty political system (with or without constitutional monarchy) should be presented by the coalitions for deliberations by all emaSwati. The representatives of all the institutions and organisations must be elected or appointed prior to the Sibaya meeting date. They must have the mandate from their membership ready.
Modern Sibaya dialogue
The modern Sibaya 2022 dialogue would spend the first day as an introduction to the format of the evolved Sibaya dialogue and must start at Ludzidzini Royal Residence as per tradition. There must be a clear understanding that in our culture, important discussions at national level must always begin at Sibaya. This has been done for generations in our culture. The issue is not to abandon our culture but to modernise it so as to meet present realities.
After the introduction remarks by an indvuma, he will hand over to His Majesty the King as the chairman of Sibaya, he would introduce the SADC Troika Team and then delegate the chairmanship to them. The Constitution, section 232 (2), allows the King to delegate chairmanship at Sibaya. The terms of reference of the dialogue and the list of official representatives of the various institutions and organizations would be announced for the nation to know. The official dialogue venue will also be announced and the dates of the Sibaya dialogue continuation.
Given that it is not possible to have all emaSwati present at the Sibaya Royal Kraal, a three-day open televised presentation from ordinary emaSwati and organizational representations should be allowed. The nation must be allowed to hear some of their representatives as per their mandate. This will then be followed by a seven-day closed dialogue session at the International Conference Centre which again will be opened by His Majesty the King as the official continuation of the Sibaya 2022 Dialogue session. The King should again delegate the chairmanship to the SADC Troika and the dialogue would begin.
Close of Sibaya dialogue
At the end of the dialogue the SADC Troika will give a full report to the nation through Sibaya protocols. The implementations of the dialogue will be done with the assistance of SADC as a regional body, together with international organizations such as the European Union, United Nation (UNDP), United States of America agencies and other friendly countries.
My concern largely rests with the children who are normally embroiled in households that expose them to scenes of gender-based violence. For them, the experience is beyond traumatising, especially because they are witnessing the battering of and the inhumane demeaning of that parent’s existence as a person (regardless of which one it is) which creates a skewed perception of the whole purpose of a relationship in their young minds. They internalise such behaviour as ‘standard’ and since younger children operate under a ‘monkey-see-monkey-do’principle, the sad truth is, it is only a matter of time before they also start practicing similar traits in their own lives as they grow older. Besides that, in children who grow up in those kinds of environments, there tends to brew in them a hatred for especially the perpetrating partner. In fact, most adults who grew up in such socially tense households are most likely to still harbour resentment attached to how their alcoholic father physically harmed their mother or vice versa. This goes to show how deep the pits of bitterness brought about by witnessing such trauma run; which sometimes seeps into their perceptions of that particular gender in general.
Tagging a third party (like a therapist or counsellor) to assist in dissipating arguments and relationship conflicts would not be the worst idea because it is fair to say sometimes things do get heated and maybe involving someone you can both trust, may work well for the status of the relationship. Comments to: email@example.com