[By Michael B Munyimba]
I LOVE Eswatini, sorry, Swaziland for the sake of those not aware some clever lad there decided to change its name because he believes some people confused this tiny southern African kingdom with Switzerland in Europe.
In fact, I take it as my second home because everything I hold true to my heart such as my children and most girlfriends of mine live there. After spending so many years there, I saw that my welcome was outlived. So, I took my leave and headed for Mzansi in Pretoria just to greet old Madiba and Zuma, though that greeting saw me spending an extra eight years in diaspora.
So, last night as I lay on my bed, I begun thinking of some of the many other countries I have had the privilege to visit, after which I started making comparisons in these places with life here at home in Zed. How similar we may look in many ways as Africans, and yet so different and unique in culture and tradition, in thinking and general living styles.
I have been to Mugabeland of course, to our bicycle friends in Malawi, to the mountains of Lesotho, to Botswana, to our Portuguese crossbreeds Mozambique; all the way to Nigeria and Ghana, even as far as our ‘near Eskimo’ brothers, the Swede in Sweden.
And yes, as I lay there on my bed last night, I started recollecting some of the events, moments I witnessed, even observations I made that stood distinctly different to what we perceive as ‘normal’ here in our Kaunda’s Zambia. And since the tents or canons of my profession dictate that journalists have a duty to inform, entertain and educate society, I thought perhaps today I should do a bit of just that as teacher.
Let me begin with my experience with my first love, Eswatini. Well, as I probably already indicated earlier, this is a small kingdom of less than two million inhabitants with nothing much to brag about in terms of infrastructure development or technological advancement; even though it’s almost entirely surrounded by the great South Africa, with Mozambique as its only other neighbour it shares borders with. It’s headed by Sobhuza’s son, King Mswati III, though I know you have always wondered why he’s called ‘The Third’ when it has only been his father and him who have been Kings there. But I leave that to you to google and research.
During his father’s reign, everyone would sit down when his motorcade was passing, regardless of your status. Whether you were a director, minister or old man, you sit panshi with your suit; not squatting but sitting down! Kekekeke. Wasn’t that awesome? What great respect…or fear that was! Thanks goodness, they no longer practice that in this era.
Getting back to the issue at hand, it is in Swaziland where you will find some of the finest, most beautiful damsels in looks your eyes have ever set on, on this continent. And if you are one of those who have only seen ladies in Shangombo and Lumumba Road, it is recommended that you don’t go there or else you die from BP caused by seeing yellow bones and voluptuous half-naked bodies carelessly displayed everywhere.
Serious, some people are just pretty; it’s sometimes difficult to believe God would go that far to perfect some of His beings. Unlike our ladies in here, it’s not in the nature of Swazi women to hide their nakedness or skin. The mere trend of skimpy skirts and see-through dresses – just like in many parts of South Africa, like Eastern Cape, defies what here we would call decency. And for those of us who were ‘unfortunate’ to take lecturing or teaching jobs and mandated to every day stand before huge classes of mostly 98 per cent young ladies, it can be a painstaking effort seeing very disturbing and molesting things as these people deliberately throw open their sumptuous legs beneath their 10 centimetres long skimpy skirts.
The ratio of men to women there is around 1-5, with every man for five ladies. It is believed this disparity occurred when most men migrated to Egoli, the city of gold in Mzansi (another name for South Africa), seeking jobs in the mines. They never came back and married locals there, leaving the women back in Swaziland without enough menfolk. So, ladies there rarely say ‘NO’ or reject a love proposal, no matter her class in society or beauty and regardless of your low status as a man. So, it’s a common thing to find security guards and other low-income bracket men dating or marrying female directors, MPs or ministers because men there, especially those with sound financial standing are never shaken by the beauty or status of their women and have plenty of them whom they date, use and never get to the finish line of saying “I do.”
A close friend of mine there, Welile, once confided in me that he preferred dating ladies who were dating other men besides him. And when I asked him why anyone would go for such a shameless woman, he simply laughed and said, “my friend, if I am the only one she has, it means I have to be the only one to cater for all her needs such as taking her to the salon, buying her clothes and cosmetics and perpetual lunch. But if we are three sharing her, it lightens up the load, because one of us would be in charge of taking care of her hair, the other her clothes, the other her lotions and all. I would probably be the lunch manager only.”
Wow! I was truly amazed. But later on when I got used to their way of life, logically speaking, it started making sense; looking at how bad the world’s economy had become. Kekeke. Remember what they say, ‘when you go to Rome, do what the Romans do’. Both Swazi and South African men think the same and append their signature to that ideology, and even prefer marrying ladies that have given birth before at least once or twice just for proof that these ladies are not barren. Wow!
I said Zambia should hear this, because us Zambian men go amok and end relationships and even cancel marriage plans when they discover the women they are dating are ‘cheating’ or have children. But not Eswatini and Saube guys. Terms like ‘virgin’ or ‘no child’ are not to be mentioned by a ‘normal’ lady there. In fact, telling a guy proposing love to you that you are a virgin is the fastest way to get beaten. Guys there have no time for such rubbish. You must never be a virgin and you must first have at least one child if you are to qualify for marriage. Are we together ba Zambia? That’s my Eswatini, and I adore it.
Ok, let me stop here for now. Someday I will tell you about my observations in other countries I had the privilege to visit. Among those countries I mentioned in my prologue, there is one where housewives would open their curtains and windows when we strolled their streets when we were students there; even coming out to entice us to go inside and have a ‘quick one’. They were saying that they were told Black men were studs in bed, and that their men were not doing the ‘job’ well as they were always high on whisky due to the cold weather there. I leave it to you to guess which country that is.
I will also tell you how their houses have no rooms, just one big space and everyone sleeps there – the mother and father, small and grownup children and relatives. I will again leave you in suspense to guess which country this is.
And in one west African country I mentioned, the economy is so bad. I was almost stoned to death one day when while at a drinking spot near the hotel I booked in, I spotted a badly malnourished cat with eight or so equally starving kittens. So, I decided to buy one big brim fish from a young girl passing by and fed the little beasts after cutting it into small pieces. Before I knew it, the whole bar had surrounded me, accusing me of wasting food on useless animals when they had no food in their homes. Everybody was shouting at me that I should have given them the one fish so that the 90 of them could share a piece each.
And before I could peacefully hand over the black plastic bag with the remaining pieces, one scruffy looking teenage girl violently snatched it from me and took to her heels, with the whole bunch stampeding after her. That’s how I unceremoniously left the bar. This whole hunger episode was traumatising, olo economy yavuta mwati ni so? Which country do you think this was? I again leave it to you to guess.
I will also tell you about this other country I found myself in. There, they have no standard or gazzetted prices for commodities. If you took a tube of toothpaste or bread, and asked how much it was, the shopkeeper will also ask you ati, “how much do you have?” Puzzled, I asked, “how much do you sell it, for you are the one selling? He retorted, “Oga, I ‘axed’ you, how much do you have? Say how much you have ooo, abeg!”
Everything here is negotiable, and when you are on a bus, it won’t stop at the station you are dropping. You jump out while the bus is moving at 60 kilometres per hour, then you fall down and start rolling on the ground with your suit. And there are no traffic rules there. In the same lane, cars will be moving in one direction, while others will be coming in the opposite direction – in the same lane! You just have to know how to zig-zag like a soldier in Vietnam ducking bullets spewing from a machine gun.
The streets too are heavily congested with pedestrians such that you literally rub shoulders. And if you are wearing a colourful shirt whose fibre is not so strong, it will be ‘dark brown’ and torn in the shoulders by the time you get to your destination. But don’t worry, I will tell you which country this is.
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