Umhlaba Ungumnotfo Wetfu: The earth is our greatest assert

Umhlaba ungumunotfo wetfu: the soil is our greatest assert.

This phrase was first said by the now late Sobhuza the Second,king of the Swazi and father to the present king Mswati the Second of Swaziland.

I cannot remember when he said the above phrase, but I do understand why he said it and why it so caught on as if it were fire to dry leaves among my people, the Swazi. Such that even a three year old can actually say them should she so wish to do so. We Nguni, especially the Swazi are a very culture conscious people. Our traditions are very much dependent on nature, the closer to green it is to nature the better. Customary events as are uMkhosi wemhlanga( world famous reed dance), uMkhosi wencwala(the first fruit ceremony) and uMkhosi wemaganu (Marula festival) are all very, very dependent on the availability of traditionally sacred plants, plants like the reed, imbhondvo(apiculatum/Red bush willow), and the lusekwane shrubs and many more.

The reed, for example is used to renovate the royal palaces, imbondvo is used to build the royal cattle kraals, it has got some medicinal uses as well and it provides good timber for making strong durable furniture and wood curving. Emacansi, titsebe and various other grass made home utensils are also used in traditional ceremonies and events. Licansi is a grass mattress made from either inchoboti or lukhwane, a type of grasses that grows in wetlands, on lake, dam or river banks where it is home to hundreds of birds, frogs and snakes that are very dependent on them for survival: both in terms of shelter or food. The snakes and birds founds here are used as food by the Swazi and also as muti to concoct medicines to heal a number of ailments and rid of some spiritual troubles. The clay soils along the banks of this wetlands are used to make beautiful earth pots used in rituals and in general day to day homestead chores carried out by girls who wear clothing and accessories made from materials-plants and all- taken from the very wetlands. The Swazi’s medicine (be he Christian or traditionalist) come from the soils, plants and animals around him or her. Our forests and jungles are the pharmacists’ gardens from where we are able to treat stomach aches, strong diarrhoea, migraines, hypo/hypertensions, ulcers, cancers and in nowadays even HIV-AIDS. From the soil come the clothing we wear, our wealth is expressed by the cattle and goat eating from the soils’ abundant plants and waters.

Our king’s most sacred possessions; the feather crown, sceptre and royal garments are born of the soil

The soil is our greatest assert. We came to industrialisation in the 1950s. ‘Till then we have been soil tillers and cattle or goat headers. We knew little of education and had little need of it. Our soils were full of food and the promise of a bright healthy future devoid of this uncertainty and threat we now perceive in and around our jungles. Hunger is everywhere, we dying of lightning strikes, floods and heat stroke have now fallen prey to. We have ignored and abandoned the soil and become prey to big corporations, their money woes, stress and pains. We knew little: in negleting the soil we neglected our everything. Our very culture and identity as a people are now a thing soon to be shadows and dreams born of a yester-year our children will soon long for but are never to see.

The wetlands are shrouded in plastic bags, bottles and cans of all colours, shapes and sizes. They are dying. Along with them so does my Swaziland.

They brought a dream they should have left on the Western shelve.

Using their very assert, the soil.

For tips on how to save Swaziland and indeed the earth please go to


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