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|The Prophets and the
by Aleta Armstrong
For the September issue I wrote the story of the seven headed snake and put it down as a myth ... yet many people disagreed saying that this creature does exist. It is difficult in Swaziland to know where myths end and reality starts! Yet that is it's charm. People around the world believe in ghosts, Loch Ness monster, fairies, UFO's, abominable snowmen and so forth. "Logical" people dismiss it all as nonsense and the mainstream media would not treat it as news. Yet during November, the two Swazi newspapers, The Observer and The Times carried new stories and interviews on the seven headed snake and the infamous prophet Mthalane. I found it fascinating reading and liked the fact that it was in the media. Obviously many urban people regard it all as superstition and nonsense, but it is a debatable issue on which parts are nonsense.
When I visit Europe I find that topics like this are regarded as very amusing and "primitive". Yet I feel Europe has lost it's soul in a way by becoming so logical. Even a belief in God is seen as mumbo jumbo by many people. Yet here in Swaziland, God, Ancestors and magic all roll into one and it makes for a rich and interesting life!
I have reprinted the story of the seven headed snake in this issue as it ties in with this article. In November the newspapers carried stories on a controversial prophet called Simanga Mthalane who was blamed for causing the recent heavy storms that had caused damage in Swaziland.
On the 1st of November it was reported that the prophet Mthalane was the cause of the terrible storms suffered in Swaziland and in neighbouring Newcastle in South Africa. He had been diving in lakes and rivers retrieving the sacrificial money that had been donated to the snake. The prophet claims that he was going to donate the money to the destitute who had more need for it. He was summoned to appear before a traditional tribunal at Ludzidzini to answer charges of "interfering with the peace of supernatural monsters in the underworld by retrieving sacrificial monies to appease them".
Prior to this the prophet had been in interviewed in the South African media appealing for funds to buy oxygen storage bottles which would help him breathe underwater as he went about his mission. He claimed to be on a divine campaign to retrieve all the money by the year 2000. He said he had already got E700 from a pond in Ezulwini. At the end of October a mob attacked a man they believed to be the prophet at Manzini bus rank. The mob said their roofs had been blown away by a storm because of him. The traffic officers had to rescue the poor man as the mob refused to believe that he was not the prophet.
Debate raged about how to "arrest" the prophet after the Indvuna of Ludzizdzini said this will be done. The papers reported that an officer from the Director of Public Prosecutions said the prophet had committed no crime.
"I am interested to see where this whole fiasco will end. It would help if Ludzidzini first consulted law experts before instructing the police to arrest the man ........ in this case, the snake (if it were a person) would be the complainant. But it is not a human being, as such it cannot stand before a court to present its case."
On November 2nd it is reported that prophet Mthalane agrees to abandon his mission
after a 2 hour meeting with the Indvuna of Ludzidzini. The prophet tells the press
"Since government was adamant that the money should not be retrieved because of
hurricanes and storms that follow the exercises, she should always have an annual
allocation from the national budget for these creatures because it seems that in Swaziland
money would rather be given to
The prophet would not take the blame for the storms that had destroyed properties and expressed his dismay at the whole matter.
The story did not end there. The papers then carried a comment from our Central Bank on the issue. They had been asked to clarify the bank's position in the wake of a call by the prophet for prosecution of people who pierced money and wore it as necklaces. The Central Bank's legal advisor said the law only protected paper money and was silent on coins and that this should be addressed by a committee of standards which unfortunately is non-existent in Swaziland. The governments legal expert said that defacing money was punishable by a E500 fine or 6 months imprisonment but that it was not enforced by the police.
A week later the prophet was still in the news! He had stated earlier that he was going to visit the Mantjolo Dam which belongs to the Mnisi clan and a feature was written on the Mnisi clan. People said if he had done that then the whole country would have been destroyed. The Mnisi clan visits the dam once a year in March for 4 days and nights in a sacred ritual of observance to their "Godfather". People say the Godfather is the seven headed snake but the Mnisi clan take exception to this and say he is their ancestor. They do confirm that the Godfather moves around in the clouds, flies and causes storms.
On November 6th there was a final interview with the prophet where more astounding revelations where made. Mthalane claims to have seen a mermaid and calls it LaMlambo. It is a "sort of devilish guardian angel that is sent out to the work and things you want, like promotions at work or luring customers to your business". He added that boLaMabmo comes in a jelly form like Vaseline and is often stuffed into very small bottles and placed somewhere convenient at the workplace like cupboards and drawers where it won't be seen and then, "like abracadabra it does what it was sent to do."
These creatures power expires after a while and you have to throw them away. Most of these bottles get thrown into dams and rivers and then they turn into mermaids and snakes. The prophet claims to have met these creatures whilst he swims in the dams. He offers a handy tip if you wish to get rid of them, "just sprinkle some Jeyes Fluid and that does the trick!"
In a final statement the prophet says he will now concentrate his efforts on healing people as he feels doctors have failed. I'm sure this is not the end of the story of the seven headed snake nor of prophets, it will be interesting to see what happens when the next bad storm hits Swaziland and roofs fly off in all directions?
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