PUDEMO founding member Mphandlana Shongwe reminds me of my grandfather Prince Mgungu, who had a huge piece of land at LaMgabhi Etiyeni that could cover almost the whole of Mbabane, but preserved it until some us, his grandchildren grew-up to inherit it.
Prince Mgungu who was working closely with Chief Mabhedla Hlophe was a former Deputy National Court President, a strong supporter of King Sobhuza but he never disowned some of us who are pro-democratic.
He was very tolerant and defensive and would take-up ‘arms’ to defend anything that threatened to harm his grandchildren including me.
At some point he told police officers who arrived at his home looking for me that he would never entertain them until they brought back his child.
Prince Mgungu, could have sold the huge land through kukhontisa like others and died a millionaire, but he died like a normal human being.
Many Swazis who are now resident of the area benefited from the traditional principles of my grandfather who gave them land for free and he would emphasize that land was not for sale.
Before he died he said to me “preserve this land for your children, don’t allow anyone to take what belongs to you”.
It was never about his personal benefit but his desire was to see his children and grandchildren constructing homes next to his home and would go around our homes to eat and check if we were fine, it was a blessing to him.
Now, here is Mphandlana Shongwe, a teacher by profession who was persecuted by the Tinkhundla system and forced into poverty merely for being active in the struggle for the liberation of the people.
It’s true that some of us are being persecuted by the current regime but the level of persecution have not reached what Mphandlana Shongwe went through, in fact we found the political ground almost fertile because of efforts by Shongwe and other political activists.
Mphandlana’s desire to see a free and democratic Swaziland is never a lip service but he demonstrates that through action and he has been consistent about his political beliefs.
Like all graduates, Mphandlana could have opted to focus on furthering his studies, have a family or leave the country to work abroad and enjoy life.
But Mphandlana Shongwe opted to suffer so that me and other Swazis could enjoy a better life.
Indeed, even the elderly are receiving grants today because Shongwe and other political activists including trade unions leaders like the late Jan Sithole organized a series of protests demanding social justice.
It is for these reasons, Shongwe would never allow the struggle to go down the river because he sacrificed his whole life for the liberation of the people.
Shongwe was tortured, detained, assaulted and even survived assassinations by the regime in his journey to freedom.
When Mphandlana sees anything that undermines or delays the struggle, his face immediately changes because that touches him directly.
Mphandlana Shongwe is now sixty-one years old and it’s clear that he will never fully enjoy the benefits of the freedom he is fighting for but to him it’s about the people.
It should be noted that there was a time when protesting was not fashionable in this country, political activists were killed, tortured and detained and there was no independent media to report what was really happening in this jungle State.
I don’t blame those who always mock Mphandlana Shongwe and other activists like the late Sipho Jele, Mario Masuku and Jan Sithole demanding to know what they have been doing for the past thirty-eight(38) years.
It’s the captured media that censored information, while political activists were being killed, as a result, some citizens think the struggle and killing of civilians starts now.
It should be noted that some years ago while other citizens were busy enjoying and improving their lives, Mphandlana was on the streets fighting for their children.
Mphandlana may look poor in the eyes of an ordinary person but he is rich in the spirit because he has never betrayed the people despite the persecution he went through.
As a journalist, it is one of my dreams to take a picture of Mphandlana Shongwe sitting with the first democratically elected President or Prime Minister of Swaziland.
Shongwe is a member of PUDEMO but regardless of his political affiliation, he is an icon of the struggle who deserves to be honoured.
PUDEMO Member Mphandlana Shongwe.