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10— A Nation Divided? The Swazi in Swaziland and the Transvaal, 1865–1986
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Sobhuza II and Ethnic Mobilization

me signally failed to revive the ANC along these lines, but he did assist Sobhuza number of cultural initiatives which he undertook in Swaziland at the time.


Sobhuza's failure to have the land partition reversed through the deputation to London in 1923 and through the case against Allister Miller which the Privy Council finally rejected in 1926 prompted him to take a fresh interest in ethnic mobilization. By then Sobhuza was particularly concerned at the effects of labour migrancy on Swazi society, the decline in royal and chiefly authority, the growing division between educated and uneducated and between Christian and 'pagan', and by what he saw as the breakdown of discipline and morality among the youth. The Ballingers, who visited Swaziland in 1931, commented on the relative looseness of royal authority away from the royal capitals, while Sir Brian Marwick recalls the independence of the chiefs on the Lebombo in the mid-1920s and Sobhuza's efforts to 'tame' one of them through a dynastic marriage. From the late 1920s, therefore, Sobhuza and his council embarked upon a deliberate policy of reviving royal authority and central control.[64]

There was a superficial coincidence of interest between Sobhuza and white advocates of 'indirect rule', though their objectives were fundamentally different. Sobhuza and his council did not scruple to use the colonial authorities to bring to heel recalcitrant chiefs, but they were to fight a long and bitter battle to preserve their own independence and legitimacy. A new Resident Commissioner, T. Ainsworth Dickson, was transferred from Kenya to Swaziland in 1928, and he was expected to prepare the territory for some form of 'indirect rule'.[65] Among his first moves was to call upon Sobhuza to compile a 'Swazi National Constitution'. With the help of Seme and A.G. Marwick, who had served in Swaziland since 1903, Sobhuza produced a lengthy and elaborate memorandum entitled 'The Original Swazi Political Organization'. This outlined the positions of the King, the Queen Mother, the chiefs, and the councils, the general council, or Libhandla and the executive council, or Liqoqo . It was calculated to present Swazi procedure in the most favourable light, stressing as it did the customary checks on the arbitrary use of royal power.[66]

At the same time, Dickson prompted the establishment of the Swaziland Progressive Association which was intended to bring together members of the intelligentsia to discuss matters of common concern. He evidently hoped to break down the renowned conservatism of the Swazi National Council, either by introducing into it 'new men' from the rising intelligentsia or by establishing a more representative Native Advisory Council.[67] Sobhuza did not oppose this move, but he did fear that it could become a rival centre of influence to the Swazi National Council, and that it might fall into the hands of the non-Swazi Africans who predominated in the teaching and clerical professions. His fears were allayed by the election as first president of his uncle, Benjamin Nxumalo, the natural leader of the intelligentsia, a leading layman in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, a long-serving member of the Liqoqo and a former secretary to both Sobhuza and his grandmother. Furthermore, the constitution expressly subordinated the association to the Swazi National Council, and laid down that complaints should be channelled through it.[68] There was, as already noted, a close similarity between its first demands and those of Chief Mhola's councillors at Barberton. They called for the establishment of locations close to the towns of Mbabane and Bremersdorp (now Manzini) where stands could be bought; for the easing of restrictions on 'Native' access to retail trade; and of the controls on beer-drinking in urban areas. Although Swaziland was soon to be hit by the full force of the Depression, a number of educated members of the 'traditional' elite were attempting to establish themselves in retail trade at this time. Sobhu himself is alleged by one source to have dabbled in trade under the cover of st men. Only a handful of Swazi were able to obtain trading licences at this time,


however, and it was not until after the war that the Swazi National Council, itself, entered the commercial arena through the establishment of a pressure group, 'The Swazi Commercial Amadoda' (Amadoda = men).[69]

The simultaneous establishment of the Swazi National School at Matsapa was another initiative with which Sobhuza was more closely identified. This was intended to become 'a genuine national undertaking and cater for the cultural, social, and industrial development of the Swazi people'.[70] There was to be an academic stream leading to the matriculation class at Fort Hare University College, but it also had a strong emphasis on agricultural training. It was intended that the school should 'take advantage of the better elements in the traditional native code and culture', though an early visitor, Sir Alan Pim, saw considerable difficulty in the way of its doing this.[71]

In 1933 Sobhuza wrote a memorandum on 'Native Education' in which he criticized the education then being provided by the missions. His grounds were that:

(a) It causes the Swazi scholar to despise Swazi institutions and his indigenous culture;

(b) It causes him to become ill-fitted to his environment;

(c) It releases him from the wholesome restraints which the Swazi indigenous method of education inculcated, and does not set up any effective substitutes for them.

To counter the disintegration of rural life which had aroused concern in both Sobhuza and Seme, he proposed an extension of national schools and a revival of the regimental or age-grade system, the Ibutho .[72] His proposals unleashed a storm of protest from the missions and the settlers, from some of the 'native intelligentsia', and from Mr and Mrs Rheinallt Jones, who were then attempting to introduce the segregated Pathfinder and Wayfarer movements into Swaziland. Sobhuza had the active support of A.G. Marwick who believed that 'a modernized age-grade system more in vital touch with the conservative elements in native life' might protect the youth 'from the objectionable form of hooliganism known as Amalyaita' . Sobhuza was able to recruit the support of a number of anthropologists including Mrs Winifred Hoernlé, Isaac Schapera, and the young Hilda Beemer, later Mrs Kuper, as well as Bronislaw Malinowski, who accompanied her on her first venture into Swaziland in 1934.[73]

Although the old regimental system, involving not only military training but also tribute labour, was clearly moribund, Sobhuza and his council had begun in the early 1930s to exact fines from young men who married without permission. While some settlers feared that Sobhuza intended to use the regiments as a form of cheap labour, the missionaries were publicly concerned that Christian youth would be contaminated by 'pagan' sexual practices. A.G. Marwick felt that the battle was principally one for control over the educational process.[74]

The Ibutho was eventually established on a trial basis at the Swazi National School. The curriculum of training included 'Swazi history, custom, lore and law' as well as 'ceremonial'. Although the experiment continued for a number of years, it was ultimately a failure. There was a good deal of resistance among the pupils themselves, many of whom objected to the singing of the Swazi anthem, 'Inqaba kanqofula' and to attendance at the ncwala which had been revived after Sobhuza's installation in 1921.[75] Many of those who had passed through the regiment in the 1930s, however, later formed part of an educated conservative elite. The first indvuna of the Ibutho was Mfundza Sukati, who was to become the Deputy Prime Minister of Swaziland at independence, and the second indvuna


was J.S.M. Matsebula, who became Secretary to the King in 1967 and was the leading Swazi historian, publishing Izakhiwe ka Ngwane (in Zulu) in 1952, and A History of Swaziland in 1972. He was to play a leading part in the development of siSwati as a written language as the author of a series of primary school texts published in the early 1970s.[76]

Sobhuza also had some success in reviving the regimental system outside the schools. Reinforcement of the system came with its use for the recruitment of the Swazi contingent during World War II. The recruiting centres, or tinkhundla, were to be developed in the 1950s as the new, but allegedly 'traditional', basis of local government and in the 1970s for parliamentary elections. There was not much place for girls in the Ibutho, but in 1935 Sobhuza revived the umncwasho, a two year pledge of celibacy by adolescent girls with a reciprocal pledge in relation to them by all men.

Another area of initiative at this time lay in the compilation of nationally-oriented history. J.J. Nquku, a graduate of Edendale, said variously to have been of Mpondo or Zulu origin, was appointed in 1929 as the first supervisor of 'Native' schools. Sobhuza encouraged him to write a work of history which was published in Zulu as Amaqhawe ka Ngwane (Heroes of Swaziland) in 1939. Although he was himself an Anglican, Nquku played a leading part in the contemporary movement, in which Sobhuza was also interested, for the establishment of a Swazi National Church pulled together from a variety of Zionist sects. He was also one of the founders in 1934 of Izwi lamaSwazi, Swaziland's first vernacular language—at this date Zulu—newspaper. He continued to play a prominent part in public life, reviving in 1949 the Swaziland Progressive Association, which, in 1960, he was to transform into Swaziland's first political party. Only then were his non-Swazi origins turned against him, and he was effectively excluded from political life.[77]

It may be surprising that there was no effort made at this time to promote the Swazi language. With the arrival of Zulu-speaking 'Amakholwa' (Christian) evangelists and missionaries in Swaziland from the 1880s, Zulu had become the language of church and school. This was in spite of the marked difference in pronunciation, syntax, and vocabulary between it and Swati. The influence of Zulu was such that Queen Labotsibeni had to insist that Sobhuza was brought up to speak Swati as well as Zulu, which was his mother's tongue.[78]

Linguistic nationalism seems to have progressed no further in the 1930s than the adoption of Swati forms of surnames and, in some cases, the public use of Swati first names rather than Christian names. The apparent lack of interest in the promotion of Swati may be traced to the fact that Zulu influence within Swaziland's intelligentsia was strong. At a time when there were very few jobs for the educated in Swaziland itself, there were sound practical reasons for learning to read and write in the most widely used of southern African languages, Zulu.

There was, in fact, some official consideration in the early 1930s of the feasibility of producing literature in Swati, but it was concluded that because of the relatively small size of the Swazi population, it was improbable that a full range of school texts would ever be produced.[79] It was not until the publication of D. Ziervogel's A Grammar of Swazi in 1952 that official interest in the development of Swati was revived.[80] In the following year a committee was established under the chairmanship of A.G. Marwick 'to investigate the question of a Swazi Orthography and the introduction of Swazi as a written language'. This committee produced a draft orthography in 1956 but decided that there should be no change in the schools until written Swati had been further developed.[81]

It was not until the fresh upsurge of cultural nationalism in the 1960s that the


question of Swati as a medium of instruction in primary schools became a political issue. A national commission which sat from 1967–68 considered the question and proposed the introduction of Swati into the first three years of school from 1969. Ziervogel produced a revised version of his book in 1967 in collaboration with Enos Mabuza, an inspector of schools who was in 1977 to become the chief executive councillor of the KaNgwane Territorial Authority. He had established a Swati Language Committee in 1974 on which representatives from Swaziland sat as the first practical expression of cooperation between the two entities, and he supervised the introduction of Swati into KaNgwane's schools in 1978.[82]

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