Mbabane: Today, July 22, dearly departed King Sobhuza II will be 121 years old.
Born on this mentioned date in 1899, four years after my cousin’s favourite beverage Castle Lager started brewing, King Sobhuza II was the son of King Bhunu whose kingship name was Ngwane V and Lomawa Ndwandwe.
He remains the longest reigning monarch after ruling then Swaziland for 82 years. After King Bhunu died while he was just four months old, he was chosen as the new leader of emaSwati on the same year 1899, December 10 but Queen Labotsibeni held regent until young Nkhotfotjeni reached a ripe age of 22. On December 22 in 1921, he officially took over as a King, assuming the kingship name of King Sobhuza II.
King Sobhuza II oversaw Eswatini’s independence from Britain on September 6, 1968 in his life-long reign and is considered the father of what is today modern Eswatini.
His reign, like any other was no bed of roses as history tells us that on April 12, 1973 King Sobhuza II abrogated the Constitution and disbanded parliament, becoming an absolute monarch of the Kingdom of Eswatini and ruling through a national council.
Through the infamous 1973 Decree, King Sobhuza repealed the Constitution that came into effect on Independence Day, assuming supreme power in the country, vesting on him the three main organs of government, Legislative, Executive and Judicial.
If that Decree was good or bad- it is a topic for another day. The reality is that opinions on it differ, of course depending on background, association and education among other factors.
In an undated video on YouTube with world leading news source BBC, King Sobhuza II showed his stance on western influence on the African continent. The video has over 18 000 views already.
The reporter asks His Majesty in the 33 seconds clip that, “There has been so much turmoil in Africa over the past 25 years or so. How come? How do you account for it?”
King Sobhuza laughs the question off at first before replying in his gravel yet assured voice that, “I think that due to the contact with the white man- he has brought his own customs and his own environment. As a result we are beginning to lose ours. What is good for Africa I want to keep but what is bad for Africa we won’t keep”.
It was a big statement, answering many questions. Maybe some left hanging above.
The reality is that under his leadership, Eswatini developed its natural resources, creating the largest man-made commercial forest in the continent and expanding iron and asbestos mining to become a leading exporter in the 70s.
According to the Eswatini National Trust Commission, King Sobhuza II married 70 wives, who gave him 210 children between 1920 and 1970. About 180 children survived infancy, and 97 sons and daughters were reportedly living in year 2000, 20 years ago.
It is safe to say King Sobhuza II shaped the future of Eswatini and as we honour his legacy, we can all contribute in taking this nation forward.
Great leaders by their very nature are inspirational in the speeches and most often than not, they speak in parables- leaving everyone guessing on what was exactly the point. King Sobhuza II was just that and more.