News from Sowetan, South African newspaper

Yesterday I was at the University of Botswana for a site visit.  I am working with a landscape architecture firm to design a new Central Campus Plaza at UB.  On site, we stepped into a container office to inquire on the whereabouts of Busi.  As her colleague searched for her cell number to call her, I picked up a copy of the Sowetan, a newspaper printed in South Africa, and read a couple of articles.

One of the many wives of Mswati III, King of Swaziland, has been caught having an affair with a minister in the Swazi government.  Nothando Dube is an Inkhosikati (queen), the 12th of 13 wives of the king.  Interestingly, she was dressing up in a soldier’s uniform when the king was not around.  The “soldier” was then picked up outside of the royal palace and dropped off at a hotel to meet her man.  The minister has spoken with the king and he has resigned.  He could be banished from the country while she could be confined to her parents’ home.  Both could owe the king a herd of cattle each.

My initial feeling is of sympathy for the woman.  She is one of thirteen women for one man and it’s no wonder she is having an affair.  Who is capable of providing for 13 women at once?  Whether it is seen as right or wrong for a king to have 13 wives is not for me to judge, I can only offer my opinion.  Maybe the women really like it, maybe they feel trapped and suffer a lot.  Either way, I am sure it is, like many things in life, full of advantages and disadvantages.  That being said, I find the punishment for such an offense interesting.  Rather than incarcerating the offenders, the tactic seemingly is to make them pay – in this case, a herd of cattle which is quite valuable- and then send them away.  This makes a lot more sense than paying for them to stay in jail.

I’ve just found another news report on the same story, but quite a few details are different than the one in the Sowetan.  My intent in bringing this story to attention is not to point fingers at what may be perceived as “funny” practices.  Rather, I find it interesting the different ways people live together and how we punish adultery.  Many people in the world have situations where one man has many women.  More rarely, but it exists in a community not far from the Himalayas, is the situation where one woman has many men.  How do we approach love, marriage and relationships?  How has it been over the past thousand years, and have we really changed that much as humans in this time?  Additionally, many people have different ways of conducting their lives, so who are we to say what is right and what is wrong.  Isn’t it all about what you want out of life, and creating the circumstances to have that?  Of course it depends what kind of society we live in as well, as to the degree of freedom we have to choose our partners and be able to live by one’s own wishes shared with someone else, beloved or not.

For more info, search www.zimdiaspora.com for an article about it.

The other article was about the story going on with Naomi Campbell and the diamonds she was given supposedly by Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia.  The term ‘blood diamond’ refers to diamonds mined illegally and used to fuel conflict.  For example, during the civil war in Sierra Leone (a neighbor to Liberia), blood diamonds were used to fuel conflict and vice versa.  Naomi met Charles during a function some years back.  Later that night, a small bag of rough diamonds were delivered to her at her hotel room.  It wasn’t clear who they were from.  She has claimed to have donated them to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Foundation, yet no evidence has been found of this actually happening.  Naomi and her diamonds has been brought to light because of the current charges against Charles Taylor for war crimes because of his involvement with the Sierra Leone civil war.  There are also investigations into his involvement with blood diamonds.

I am not claiming to be an expert on this case.  This is only opinion.  There is plenty more information about this case on the internet.  The issues surrounding diamonds are quite interesting.  Botswana has beneficial results linked with the discovery and development of diamonds.  There has never been conflict surrounding the issue of diamonds, and Botswana has never experienced a civil war.  Currently, the country is developing its ability to not only mine diamonds, but to also polish them.  This is an important factor, because it means that more job opportunities and revenue are created within the country from the process of cutting and polishing.  Rather than the raw material simply being extracted from the land and sent to foreign countries to create wealth, more of the wealth remains within the country.

When I was attending Lewis and Clark College, we invited the Minister of Energy, Water and Minerals from Botswana to our International Affairs Symposium.  Also in attendance at the symposium was a woman who worked for an organization in Washington DC that advocated around conflict from natural resources.  When the Hollywood film Blood Diamond was being produced, her organization did a lot of research and advocacy for the film around the issue of blood diamonds.  Sitting at a table, with this woman and the minister from Botswana, we entered a discussion of the production of diamonds and consumerism in the world.  She, of course, wanted to make the public more aware of the origins of their diamonds so as not to fuel conflict in Africa.  The minister, however, voiced his concern because he wants the world to keep buying diamonds.  He was concerned that people would hear this message and decrease their spending on all diamonds, and this would be detrimental to Botswana’s economy as the country’s main source of income is from diamonds.  He also mentioned that the next step for Botswana would be to start cutting and polishing its own diamonds within the country.  This meeting was in 2007, and Botswana did not yet have the facilities to do so.  Nearly four years later, Botswana is now involved in these activities.

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