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Sibaya System our Indigenous Governance Tool

Sibaya Protocol: Joy Dumsile Ndwandwe is the descendent of Prince Madanga the son of the late King Zwide or Zidze and direct sibling of the late Queen Regent LaZidze; who arrived in Swaziland in 1826, was placed in Bulandzeni; gave birth to Ndlaluhlaza and Lomqayi my great grandfather, father to my grandfather Mgcobeya the father to my father Mzila Rueben of Nkambeni.

Indigenous Governance

Our indigenous governance systems are an integral part of our knowledge systems, which have been marginalised by Western culture, political systems and religion. This is supported by Professor Mathole Motshekga, current Parliament Chief Whip for the African National Congress in RSA: “First, colonialism and apartheid sought to isolate traditional leaders from their communities and to use them as agents for remote control in exchange for remuneration. The colonial and apartheid authorities sought to reduce traditional leaders to self serving individuals. This has created a wrong impression that traditional leaders are individualist, selfish and unaccountable people who belong to the apartheid past….as traditional leadership does not derive its values from Western culture or religion.”
In Swaziland we were blessed as King Sobhuza II was adamant on the preservation of our indigenous knowledge systems against all odds; the ultimate prince was being branded as undemocratic and dictatorship. Sibaya is our indigenous governance tool, an integral component of indigenous leadership in Africa, survived colonialism; and most significantly still needs to rise above historical and current demonisation. Professor Motshekga further states: “The contrast of traditional leadership and democratic governance could also be misleading. In the Western context democracy means representative government based on regular election. Traditional leadership means rule of the individual by birthright.”
This contrast on the surface creates the impression that due to the traditional leadership rule being by birthright; them indigenous leaders are individualistic, selfish and unaccountable to people. However, Professor Motshekga further states: “But in practice the individual traditional leader has an inner circle and a royal council which ensures that he/she acts through a collective. Unlike a municipal council or cabinet the Khosi (King) or King-in-Council puts issues before the community as a whole at the Kgotla or Imbizo (Sibaya) for deliberation. The Lekgotla (Sibaya) system is a very effective participatory form of democracy which operates on consensus and therefore ensures social cohesion and harmony.”

The August 2012 Sibaya

I congratulate His Majesty King Mswati III for calling Sibaya, his ace card, for this year’s Sibaya call deserves historical acknowledgement as legendary. The Sibaya came during a period when the country was at the brink of disorder which almost culminated in disharmony and an un-cohesive nation. I further thank His Majesty for his bravery in making this Sibaya call during turbulent period in the country; such as the financial crises, national strikes and the suppressed call for political parties. This exceptional act can only be comparable with what Professor Odora-Hoppers refers to as gazing into the eyes of the cobra (imfeti); as listening to the numerous contributions, not knowing when the cobra will emit it poison its very rare in Africa and globally. There is no country that allows the nation, from all walks of life: the rich, poor, educated, uneducated, progressives, conservative, Christians, non-Christians, and persons with disabilities to directly participate towards nation building.
King Mswati III in his opening speech challenged the nation to speak truth to power; therefore he actually used his ruler-ship rod to provoke the cobra out of its comfort zone. The nation came in its numbers with different views such as the firing of the prime minister and the cabinet or an instruction to teachers to end the strike. These impressions that have been created about how Sibaya provides space for His Majesty to dictate were proven false; as the King upstaged all our expectations and our prejudice by making it our responsibility to speak truth to power. This in my view restored the dignity of the King and the nation as were are one ‘there is no leader without a nation’; reflective of our authentic identity or Buntfu Lobuqotfo that is a true reflection of our indigenous governance system.
When its time to consider the national interest above personal or political interest, leaders must be prepared to receive the poison of the cobra; in the interest of social cohesion and harmony that transcends to peace and stability. The King did not only rock his own leadership boat in calling for Sibaya but also that of his prime minister and cabinet; and my understanding is that this is nothing personal, but in national interest. In actual fact I admire Acting Governor Mtethwa of Ludzidzini Royal Residence on his attempt to ensure that matters presented are of national significance and not personal.      
His Majesty rocked his executive and legislative leadership’s boat, as this is one national platform where they all received the poison of the cobra as their governance and leadership was critiqued without reservations. Sibaya our indigenous governance tool applies the same ‘governance’ concept as western governance institutions; this does not mean Sibaya our indigenous institutions is now a sphere of government. However it is the soul of the nation that ensures all spheres of government are in line with the aspirations and expectations of the nation. Taking into consideration time and logistics, it is not everyone who attends and not all attendees participate; but the clapping of hands and other emotional gestures legitimise the process, whilst affirming the sage ‘Africans vote with their feet.’

Lessons Learnt at Sibaya

As an activist of Africa’s renewal and indigenous prophet, this was a ‘platinum’ opportunity for learning and analysis; as Sibaya was a huge laboratory presented by God, Master of the Universe. For this created an opportunity to listen to the nation speaking to its leaders without fear or favour; as in accordance to MA’AT. According to the Encyclopedia of World Mythology ‘MA’AT the Egyptian Goddess of Truth, Justice and Order whose symbol was the feather; according to ancient Egyptian belief in the judgment of the dead the heart of the deceased was weighted against the feather in order for the deceased to be granted entrance to the Kingdom of God (Osiris).
Therefore Sibaya presented an opportunity for the nation to speak truth, justice and order to power in a truthful, just and orderly manner as their contribution to nation building.
A nation exists because people exist, therefore, every member of the nation deserves to opportunity to contribute towards nation building; in order to ensure that upon death their hearts are content with their earthly legacy due to effective participation. Sibaya affords the nation opportunity to contribute towards social cohesion and harmony, but they have the responsibility to dialogue with dignity during this nation building process and this is MA’AT. Whatever the contributions made during the Sibaya, the contributors will face during the judgment of the dead; as nation building cannot be based on untruthfulness, injustice, disorder, unbalanced, disharmonious and un-unifying utterances. These contributions must reflect MA’AT principles of balance, interconnectedness and interdependency; our authentic identity or Buntfu Lobuqotfo, which translated into peace and stability based on indigenous knowledge system.       
As an African renewal activist and an indigenous prophet my mission and calling is unearthing ancient belief such as MA’AT to contextualise them into present day as historical consciousness; which will influence the future of individuals, communities and nations towards peace and development based on the principles of Truth, Order, Justice, Love, Balance, Harmony, Interconnectedness and Interdependency. Attending Sibaya taught me how our indigenous knowledge systems are living models; well endowed on principles that would address the current African problems that have resulted in disharmony, chaos, disorder and un-cohesive societies.
Therefore, Sibaya challenged me to reflect on how a nation, at the brink of losing its peace and stability, can take the necessary steps of healing. Leaders are healers; hence they have the responsibility to create the appropriate forums for healing the nation. Whilst taking into cognisance how there will always be opportunists waiting to throw the Kingdom in the sky for the most powerful or organised to catch it. Sibaya educated me on how Swazi’s are conscious of the fact that opportunists exists within the current leadership, within the nation and externally. In essence this healing process began during Sibaya and it has to be a continuous process as the nation awaits action, decision making and most significantly commitment to service delivery.
As an African renewal activist and an indigenous prophet, my mission and calling is Africa with Swaziland being my base of learning and analytical unearthing; as language is a critical component for ensuring that the interpretations of indigenous knowledge system is soulful. When you listen to your fellow country men and women articulate their concerns from the soul; you have to understand their language as it is the indigenous communication tool for speaking truth to power. At Sibaya people spoke from their souls without reservation and pressure of processing their feelings in SiSwati; then project them as thoughts in English. I wish researchers and commentators would enrich themselves and learn SiSwati to understand the art, dialogue with dignity used during nation building.
As an African Renewal activist and indigenous prophet it is my responsibility to follow the advice of my mentor Professor Odora-Hopper who stated thus: “the absence of bicultural expects at the epistemological level has made it next to impossible to break the cycle of hierarchization of knowledge endemic in the structure of university, the prejudice of science and the pitfalls of modernization in general….In short, it has made it almost impossible to contemplate indigenous knowledge systems without strapping them to the ‘procrustean bed’ of Western knowledge systems. The most important criteria of fraternity of knowledge are cognitive justice and the right of different forms of knowledge to survive- and survive creatively and sustainably.”                                                                                             
This is the Part I of the Sibaya System series of articles as I was honoured to record all proceedings; and I thank His Majesty King Mswati III, Governor Mtetwa, senior members of the Royal Family; particularly Prince Masitsela for encouraging me to preserve our indigenous knowledge systems, hence enabling me to be the ‘conscience of the nation’ as an indigenous prophet.                              

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