Chief Dambuza Lukhele of Ngobelweni in the Shiselweni region made the decision because he said his subjects had disrespected him by not following his instructions.
Chief Dambuza Lukhele, who is a former Minister of Agriculture in the Swazi Government, had ordered residents to construct a hut and a cattle byre in a homestead occupied by his junior wife.
But, some of the chief’s subjects would not participate in the project saying they should not be expected to work at Chief Dambuza’s new home.
In a meeting convened by the chief he attacked the residents for disrespecting him and straying from what he called the fundamental values of the Swazi way of life, which were based on respect for the elders and communal projects.
In Swaziland, chiefs are appointed by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, to be his eyes and ears in rural areas. They can wield enormous power over their subjects, allocating homes, scholarships for education, and in areas where there are food shortages they decide who gets aid contributed by foreign agencies.
The Times of Swaziland newspaper reported that ploughing had been suspended in Ngobelweni, even though there had been rains and local people were ready to work the fields. Residents confirmed they had been stopped from working by the chief until construction at his wife’s home was completed.
Dambuza Lukhele is not the only chief in Swaziland leaning on his subjects. The newly-appointed Chief Sicunusa Dlamini of Mgazini has banned women in the area from wearing trousers. A woman who breaks the law is fined a chicken or E25 (the equivalent of three days’ pay for more than 70 percent of the Swazi population). The community police have been tasked with ensuring that everyone in the area complies with the order, according to the Swazi News.