It reminded me of the Pope’s “Urbi et Orbi” Easter Message to the faithful at the Vatican. King Mswati III took a leaf out of his Book and preached the sermon to 10,000 Christians on Easter Sunday at the National Stadium in Somhlolo. Security locked the gates to the stadium, allowing no one in after he had started speaking. No one could get out, too, but his message was not boring.
The newspaper billboards claimed he had told Christians to “stay out of politics”. As 95% of Swazis are Christian, this might be seen as a message in support of his absolute monarchy, but it was probably aimed at pastors (“troublesome priests”?) who were trying to build a political power base.
The King spoke about how he had been staking a stroll after dinner when he saw a circular arrangement of clouds around the moon. The clouds formed a heart shape. He said that this represented Jesus keeping Swaziland safe. He cracked a few jokes and had the congregation laughing at his rendition of the gospel song, “It wasn’t easy” by Cece Winans. He missed a few notes, but that didn’t matter.
Many of the people attending the celebration were dressed in distinctive robes based on Old Testament descriptions of raiment. Church of Jericho followers sometimes dress in white, other times red, blue and green, with a pointy hat. They speak in tongues. One of the nurses in the clinic lives next door to some Jericho followers and she told me that indeed they did talk in a strange murmuring out in their back garden. The byline is a strange version of English, too.
The League of African Churches had some star preachers from overseas. The Apostle Sydney Mulenga from Zambia preached about fathering children. His wife, Priscilla, told the men at Easter Convention, “Those children you boast about, only Jesus and the woman know who their father is.” This did not get the desired response from the Swazis who were thrown into stitches of laughter, according to the press.
He had some comforting words to those men who might not be the father to the children in their household. “When people live together, they begin to look alike.”
Aspostle Mulenga also made a plea for people who had bought “holy water” from Nigeria to throw it away. Some pastors in Swaziland had large stocks of “holy water” and were angry at the Apostle for destroying their business. He went on to criticise another pastor who specialised in casting out demons in women, whom he instructed to rent a hotel room, take off all their clothes and…
Pastor Mahlalela preached against the un-Swazi practice of men shaving their heads. This should only be done when there is a family bereavement. “It is a pity that those in power are failing to consider the importance of men’s hair,” he said. The newspaper goes on to say that ironically, several members of his audience were bald, including some ministers.
The Minister of Sports, Culture and Youth Affairs, David “Cruiser” Ngcamphalala, said that although Jesus washes away your sins, but not your fingerprints. He also urged young people to preserve their virginity until marriage, as it was rare for non-virgins to find peace when they married. “I have two apples, one is bitten and one is fresh. Which would you choose?” asked a supporter in the audience. Most would prefer the fresh apple. Most? What were the others thinking?
The area around the stadium was packed with people. It reminded me of Durham Big Meeting (Miners’ Gala). Some thieves were operating, but if they were caught, it was mass justice. One thief managed to escape from the mob, but the police caught him. They handcuffed him and put him in a police van, to take him to be charged. En route, the thief kicked open the back door and flung himself out in a desperate attempt to escape. Unfortunately, he died on the road.
The next big spectacle is the King’s birthday next weekend. I have been urged to go, but I can’t think of what to buy him for a present.
I have collected the newspaper articles in this gallery: