Monday, 18 April 2016

Mandla's lobola

Mandla and Gugu

As is traditional in Swaziland, Mandla Mdluli has paid cows to the family of his fiancée, Gugu Magagula. This took place over the course of the weekend of 15-17 April.

From Friday evening Mandla’s relatives and friends began to arrive at the Magagula homestead,outside Matsapha. The visiting men slept in a specially erected tent, and the women stayed indoors. 

Inspecting the cattle

On Saturday morning the negotiations about the number of cows required were finalised (the number was already agreed). We arrived in time for the end of the negotiations, and were shown into a room where many people were seated on the floor. Mandla was there, wrapped in a heavy blanket. The blankets had been given as gifts to the senior members of the Mdluli family, and Mandla was required to wear the blanket for the whole weekend. It was very hot (30º?) in the crowded room and as all the conversation was in siSwati we were rather lost. Eventually there was some long praying and we were told that all was arranged. We all got into cars and went to view the cattle, which were on a nearby, but more rural, homestead, belonging to Gugu’s grandmother. The cows were inspected and deemed to be suitable, so it was back into the cars and back to the homestead. 

Cow waiting at the homestead

Almost immediately, two cows were slaughtered on the homestead; one provided by the Mdluli family and one by the Magagula family. The cows were tied to a tree and killed, skinned, cleaned and cut into pieces. Everyone watched and commented, with instructions coming from all sides. Small children were quite happily watching or playing nearby. It felt a long way from home to be sitting in the bright sunshine beside basins of entrails and clouds of flies, in the smoke of the cooking fires, making small talk with Mandla’s aunt - the senior member of the family. (Many unprintable pictures were taken.) Once the beasts had been removed it was acceptable for us to leave.

Church service at the Magagula homestead

On Sunday morning, after the 8am service in All Saints, Mbabane, we returned to the Magagula homestead. We were surprised to find a marquee erected, and a church service as the first item of business. The temperature in the marquee was high - and Mandla still wrapped in his blanket. Interspersed with wonderful singing, Auntie Mdluli did some robust praying, and Fr Wandile preached a lively sermon of great passion, in siSwati naturally, about promises. Mandla and Gugu came forward and were prayed over by Fr Mthet. 

Mandla in his blanket

The two families went to different parts of the homestead to eat. Yesterday’s cows topped the menu, with salad, beetroot and pumpkin, followed by apples. Lots of hard work went into preparing the food, which was cooked outdoors over open fires.

Hot work cooking for everyone

The celebrations finished with traditional dancing and speeches - which, since they were in siSwati, we were happy to miss.

The main organiser for Mandla’s side was our good friend Hamilton Curtis, and it was good to meet many friends there, including Hamilton’s wife and daughter, Fr Malo, Diocesan Secretary, and Bishop Ellinah’s son, daughter-in-law and grandson, who had come from South Africa to support Mandla. 

All in all it was a great weekend. While it was strange to us in terms of culture, it was also much more “churchy” than events involving young adults in Ireland. It was a real privilege to have been included, and we were the objects of some benign curiosity. Swazi people are warm and welcoming, and we were well looked after, with people making sure we had chairs, could see, had food etc. 

Mandla looked hot and tired, but must have pleased at the success of the occasion - and very glad to finally take off the blanket.

Getting ready for the dancing

Friday, 26 February 2016

National Disaster declared in Swaziland

The Marker for the bore-hole at Mpandesane 

Two conversations with Swaziland today: Mandla Mdluli, Diocesan Development Officer and Tiekie de Beer, Managing Director of Luyengo Farm.

Mandla Mdluli

Mandla says the Swazi Government have declared a National Disaster in the face of the on-going drought. “We have received a bit of rain in the past few days, still not enough to put to an end the current situation. In today’s  newspaper it is reported that “Water woes will last for the next six months in Mbabane”. Government is currently supplying water to 16 Counties mainly in the Lubombo and Shiselweni regions. I will tell you my experience that on January 20th I went to the wholesaler to quote for a 50kg bag of mealie meal. It was E292 and I went back on February 10th to buy it and the new price was E427. It is craziness.  The country will have over 60% loss in maize production which means we will have to import more than 150,000 thousand tons of maize, hundreds of farmers could loose their jobs, more than 50% of farmers will have their livelihoods wiped out.”

Tiekie de Beer

Tiekie agrees. “Most subsistence farmers couldn’t plant maize because of the dry ground. When a little rain came they planted their own seed, which will take too long to ripen. They couldn’t afford to buy quicker growing seed. So as bad as things are now, it will be much worse in April and May, when there will be no harvest. Some homesteads have planted cabbages, but it is still too dry for them to thrive. Half the country’s cattle are already dead; the maize harvest will only be 10% of what is required. People will starve, especially in the rural areas. Another complications that the sugar companies are not irrigating their crops and so government revenue will be seriously down when they are facing this crisis.”

Currently we are supporting the Diocese of Swaziland water project, which is ensuring that primary schools are supplied with water; we are also in the process of installing a bore-hole at Mpandesane, near Lavumisa, the poorest and driest part of Swaziland. (You may remember that the lake near the care point has dried up.)  We will support the diocese in whatever efforts they make to address the developing situation.

Luyengo Farm, thanks to Tiekie’s foresight in building the reservoir, has sufficient water to maintain production.

Monday, 1 February 2016

The Epiphany Agreement

The Epiphany Agreement was signed in Jerusalem last month by the Archbishop of Dublin and the Archbishop of Jerusalem. The agreement officially establishes the link between the United Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough and the Diocese of Jerusalem. It pledges that the people of both dioceses will journey together as brothers and sisters in Christ on a common pilgrimage of faith and discipleship. 
The agreement was signed by Archbishop Michael Jackson and Archbishop Suheil Dawani in St George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem on Sunday January 10. Archbishop Jackson was visiting Jerusalem with a delegation from Dublin and Glendalough which included the Revd Ken Rue, chairperson of the diocesan Council for Mission and Linda Chambers and Jan de Bruijn of the United Society. 
Following the signing, Linda Chambers interviewed both Archbishops about the link. Archbishop Dawani said the symbolic agreement heralded the two dioceses working together. He said that they in the Diocese of Jerusalem very much valued the relationship. Archbishop Jackson spoke of the connection between the Come&C project which is underway in Dublin and Glendalough and the Jerusalem link. The said they represented an internal and an external initiative linking discipleship and partnership.