Article written

  • on 16.12.2011
  • at 04:39 PM
  • by Randa Ghazy

The Swazi Bull 0

We were wondering whether the lurid tales of bestiality allegedly involving the King of Swaziland that are circulating on the internets — on Facebook and Scribd, among others, and apparently printed and handed out in the kingdom — would be picked up by the mainstream.

Then the Southern Africa Report, the Johannesburg-based weekly political and economic analyses brief, ran a piece on recent economic and political developments in Swaziland; and for some strange reason, the writers chose to open with a direct reference to the aforementioned stories:

For traditionalists, King Mswati III’s troubled year, the rapid collapse of Swaziland’s economy and the surge in pro-democracy protests has little to do with South Africa’s revision of [the regional] Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) disbursements late last year. It has its roots, instead, in an unfortunate variation in the mystic, and private, Incwala ceremony last December.

The ceremony is cloaked in secrecy and marks the king’s return to public life after a period of withdrawal and spiritual contemplation.

Among its highlights is a symbolic demonstration by the king of his power and dominance in a process involving his penetration of a black bull, beaten into semi-conscious immobility to ensure its compliant acceptance of the royal touch. The royal semen is then collected by a courtier and stored, for subsequent inclusion in food to be served at Sibaya – traditional councils – and other national forums.

But last year’s selected bull, according to a recent account from a whistle-blowing Incwala initiate, objected strongly, and threw off Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The symbolism was not lost on those who witnessed it. Mswati survived popular attempts to remove him, and the near-collapse of the Swazi economy in 2011 – but does not intend to risk another year like it.

Southern Africa Report then abruptly returned to business — reporting about customs unions, economic indicators and the firing of judges. They left out other widely circulated sexual lore involving Mswati: public sex with his wives and being licked all over by a snake. The source of this story is one Sithembiso Simelane, identified as “a former regiment, who has since joined the revolution.” Simelane’s account was posted by ‘Pius UnSwazi Rinto’ (based in Durban) who calls himself a member of “The people of the Future Republic of Eswatani” which hopes “to bring true democracy in Swaziland.”

Since then, this incendiary detail about Mswati’s sexual proclivities has been republished on a range of sites (including aggregator sites like and in some cases cut and pasted without any attribution). We thought it odd that a news publication would publish such allegations based on one source and a few repostings on social media sites.

Anyway, for Swazi watchers, there’s a lot more playing here. It’s a mix of politics, religion and exile. Read the full account (and the comments). It’s quite something. Swazi police has since jumped onto the ‘testimony’ with “an appeal to the nation for assistance in identifying and arresting certain individuals who are printing and distributing pamphlets in business and other public areas” (that’s Scribd and Facebook). None of these official appeals stopped 80,000 ‘boys’ from attending the ritual this year. All of them were presented by His Majesty with new sneakers, which probably had something to do with the popularity of the event.

We are neither prurient teenagers nor prudes at AIAC, so we looked at these leaked stories as media critics and cultural scholars. Having read the classic anthropological papers about the Incwala ritual, two things in this account by Sithembiso Simelane struck us. New elements in his testimony are: (1) the part about the snake (“the belief is that it cleans him of all the troubles he faced this year so that he emerges a new and strong person the next year”) and (2) the actual penetration — by the King — of the comatose bull (usually an ox). If true, these are recently introduced parts in the ritual. Otherwise, previous anthropologists never included these particular details in their descriptions, or they were oblivious to them. With the Swazi media now barred from covering this year’s ritual, we’ll have to rely on individual accounts — be it those from apostate regiment members or future anthropologists.

by Sean JacobsAfrica is a country

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