Princess Sikhanyiso, the American educated daughter of King Mswati III, once said she had dreamt of a revolution eSwatini. In an interview with the makers of a documentary on eSwatini, the then 19-year-old princess gave a candid account of life here and her fears for the future. The Nation published the princess’s account at the time. We publish the interview again in the aftermath of last month’s events in the country. NIMROD MABUZA reports.
In a documentary entitled “Without the King”, released in 2007, American film-producer, Mr Michael Skolnik captured Princess Sikhanyiso telling the world about the horrifying dream of a revolution in Swaziland.
It was a dream the princess said she had shared with her father who, she said, dismissed her fears in a casual, fatherly manner, as nothing but a simple dream.
It was during a time when she consulted a psychic in the streets of Los Angeles, California, who told her of the outbreak of ‘strife’ at home.
In the documentary Princess Sikhanyiso said the king’s dismissal of her dream did not give her the comfort it was meant to achieve.
“My dad is the king, right…And he has many things to do…. When he hears me telling him I dreamt that there was a revolution in Swaziland, this and that happened, and this and that happened and he thinks and says to me ‘oh don’t worry it was just a dream’… Deep down inside, I know, he may just say that to make me feel secure but he knows that wow,” the Inkhosatana told the interviewer.
Fondly referred to as the Rebel Princess by her overseas friends, was optimistic at the time that changes in the country would come during her lifetime.
“This country is gonna turn around someday… Very soon, we believe, in my time hopefully… no not in hopefully… in my time, in my time,” she said.
In the documentary, King Mswati admitted that he had lots of fears but not of a revolution.
“I have a lot of fears… (laughs) eh… you always fear something because if you never fear eh…that means you are no longer thinking properly…eh…anytime you make a move you must fear that eh… am I making the right move eh… that self-fear is fear that always guides you in the right direction. The time you fear nothing that is when things will not go right for you,” he said in the documentary.
In the documentary, her mother, Inkhosikati LaMbikiza said she wanted her daughter to be industrious and to be independent and be able do what she wanted.
“She must achieve her dreams,” said the Inkhosikati.
Ms Jeanette Catsoulis, writing in the New York Times in a review of the documentary, described the Inkhosikati as intelligent, caring and strong-willed.
“The film, fluidly shot by James Adolphus (cinematographer), remains deeply sensitive to the complexities of a culture whose attachment to monarchy contravenes its best interests.
“This dilemma is gradually becoming clear to Princess Sikhanyiso, the oldest of the king’s 22 children (then) and a student in California. Intelligent, articulate, caring and strong-willed, she could be her country’s best hope,” Ms Catsoulis wrote.
The film’s title is taken from Princess Sikhanyiso’s assertion that “without the king we have no culture.”
Skolnic and his crew were in the kingdom working on his documentary shortly before the princess turned 18 and were given unprecedented access to the king, Inkhosikati LaMbikiza, the princess, Nkoyoyo Palace and many others.
In the documentary, Mr Skolnic shows two worlds co-existing in the country.
The one has the king and his family living in absolute luxury and the other where his people endure a life of abject poverty ravaged by HIV/AIDS.
Mr Skolnik expertly takes the viewer from the glitz and glamour of the palace to the worst part of the slums at Moneni Township in Manzini.
Protest rallies and violent clashes with police are shown as evidence of the state’s drive to suppress calls for reforms even then.
Mr Skolnik also takes viewers to the impoverished rural areas where terribly malnourished and scabies infected children are fed quarter loaves of bread and two biscuits.
Princess Sikhanyiso tagged along with the film crew to see these children and could barely conceal her disappointment when she saw a child she estimated to be about three-years of age but looked as old as 10..
The document starts with the princess, who was studying at Biola University in California at the time, taking the crew through the magnificent Nkoyoyo Palace where her mother lives.
Throughout the documentary, the princess paints a picture of a very close relationship she has with the king.
The relationship between father and daughter is best demonstrated when the king flew to California to visit her. She told the interviewer that she was not happy that he visited her with one of his other wives and “did not come alone as I requested him”.
In the documentary, the princess said when abroad, she missed most her father than her mother. She said her mother believed “I am always fighting with her.”
At university she felt more free because was able to move around without the ever watchful eye of her security detail.
She also spoke about polygamy and said it is a cultural practice she strongly condemned.
However, she said she was generally proud of her cultural heritage and responsibility. She explained the umcwasho cultural rite, umhlanga (reed) dance ceremony, an event she led from the age of seven.
“Swaziland is the last absolute monarch in the world and people would want to bring us down to the level of the rest of Africa but that’s not going to happen because we identify ourselves with the culture. Without the king we have no culture,” she said in the documentary.
Princess Sikhanyiso has no misconceptions about kingship.
“I think being the king is the hardest thing ever. You never go to sleep, you always have to wake up and see people, you know. You have to take the most criticism in the whole country because people think that oh you have absolute power you have to be blamed for everything at the end of the day,” she said.
She believed strongly at the time that studying abroad would equip them with the necessary knowledge and skill to make a positive contribution to the country.
“People always say that children are the future, which means that we are the ones to change the country and improve it,” said the 19-year-old.
Princess Sikhanyiso was gushing on her love of the country and said she would never live anywhere else.
“I never want to leave Swaziland, I am such a patriot, you know. My brother and I, Lindani, would always wanna come to Swaziland. We always want to make it happen here, business wise, politically and in all kinds of ways.”