By Inhlase Reporter

At a time when the abuse of women is at an all-time high in the Kingdom of eSwatini, the ex-wife of former Prime Minister, Cleopas Sipho Dlamini has been caught up in the dual legal system practised in the country and sadly, is on the losing side. 

eSwatini operates a dual legal system, common law which is based on Roman Dutch law and customary law based on Swazi law and custom. Cynthia Mpho Simelane is now a victim of the traditional system which has no clear guidelines on how its decisions are enforced.

But she is not ready to give up in her quest to get what she believes is her dues following their divorce in 2022. The frustration is getting the better of her as she gradually runs out of options. 

Simelane has reached out to almost everyone in authority in eSwatini to plead for their intervention. Only the Ludzidzini Council has tried to help, but her ex-husband has ignored them. She cannot and has no means to enforce the order issued by Ludzidzini Council. 

His ex-wife is still being sent from pillar to post in her pursuit of what she believes is her entitlement of money and property from their joint estate following their divorce in 2022.

The former premier and Simelane were married in 1981 and, during their 41 years of marriage, not only did they have three children but amassed a sizeable fortune in property and money. The children are now all grown-ups.

The former premier, who was relieved of his duties as head of government by King Mswati III in September last year, after just over two years in office, has refused to give his former wife any of their joint possessions since the divorce.

In several letters written to government officials seeking help on her plight, Simelane says she left her marriage of over four decades with nothing but the clothes on her back and her life.

She says as a result, as the former wife of an executive officer of a public enterprise, Public Service Pension Fund (PSPF) and head of government, she has been left a pauper.

In a letter of January 2019 to then Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Pholile Shakantu, Simelane said: “Noteworthy also is that since my husband left the matrimonial home and stayed with a strange woman, he cut off most of the rights and benefits I was enjoying as his wife and director in the two successful construction companies we started together. 

“Not only did he cut off my benefits but also stopped the subventions that those companies were giving to my business-like rent which was paid for the benefit of the other established family as this one was still struggling.” 

In another letter, this time to the Attorney General, Sifiso Khumalo, she wrote of an incident where out of sheer frustration, she broke down and cried hysterically after an altercation at the AG’s chambers over the conduct of her former husband. She admitted though that later she felt so embarrassed about her breakdown.

Simelane says that in 2006, her husband instituted divorce proceedings at the High Court on the grounds of constructive desertion as a result of her “incessant intolerable behavior.”

The court was told that Simelane was so caught up in her religious beliefs that she had neglected her duties as wife. Intimacy, amongst others, was lacking. 

As a result, her husband went on to have two known extra-marital affairs with two women, one of which was with Lomvula Hlophe, the Acting Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

In the other extra-marital affair, a child was born.

However, the divorce application went cold for 11 years only to be revived in 2017. In 2018, the High Court gave Simelane 10 days to restore conjugal rights to her husband. 

In seeking to comply with the order, Simelane went to Madlangempisi, where her ex-husband’s mother lived, on his orders, to restore those conjugal rights but, according to her, he never showed up. 

Simelane says she stayed at Madlangempisi for nine days waiting for her then husband to no avail. The final decree of divorce was granted in June 2022. 

In 2018, the High Court had referred the matter for distribution of their property to Swazi customary structures.

Attorney General Sifiso Khumalo

Former Justice Minister Pholile Dlamini-Shakatu

Colani Hlatjwako

“It is declared that Sections 24 and 25 of the Marriage Act, 1964 are applicable to the proprietary consequences of the parties’ marriage,” said the High Court. 

Section 24 of the Act reads: “The consequences flowing from a marriage in terms of this Act shall be in accordance with the common law as varied from time to time by any law, unless both parties to the marriage are Africans in which case, subject to the terms of Section 25, the marital power of the husband and the proprietary rights of the spouses shall be governed by Swazi law and custom. 

Section 25 states: (1) If both parties to a marriage are Africans, the consequences flowing from the marriage shall be governed by the law and custom applicable to them unless prior to the solemnization of the marriage the parties agree that the consequences following from the marriage shall be governed by the common law.

(2) If the parties agree that the consequences flowing from the marriage shall be governed by the common law, the marriage officer shall endorse on the original marriage register and on the duplicate original marriage register the fact of the agreement; and the production of a marriage certificate, original marriage register or duplicate original marriage register so endorsed shall be prima facie evidence of that fact unless the contrary is proved.”

The parties, however, could not agree on the proprietary consequences of the marriage they entered into in 1981. 

Simelane, on one hand, contends that they were married by civil rites in community of property, while Dlamini argues the marriage entered into was by civil rites but not in community of property. 

The marriage certificate states that the marriage entered into by the parties was without ante-nuptial contract. 

Between 2006, when he filed for divorce, to the date it was finalised, Dlamini, his former wife says, left the matrimonial home at Malagwane Hill on the outskirts of Mbabane city to stay with another woman at Mahlanya. 

When Dlamini got the final decree of divorce in June 2022 he was already prime minister of the country, having been appointed in July 2021 following the political riots that began in June 2021.

In her desperate quest for justice, Simelane contacted, through various letters, then Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Pholile Shakantu, Chief Justice Bheki Maphalala, then Director of Public Prosecutions, Phila Dlamini, then acting Registrar of the Supreme Court, Siphiwo Masuku, the police where she laid a charge of fraud against her former husband, Chief Officer in the King’s Office, Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze, anti-corruption commission and others.

All the people she contacted and state institutions to whom she cried out for help to get a share of what she believed was due to her shut their doors in her face. 

These cries, it should be noted, happened before Dlamini’s appointment as premier. He was, however, the chief executive officer of the Public Service Pensions Fund.

Even the Ludzidzini Council, chaired by Chief Mdlaka Gamedze, which she turned to, could not help her.

In its decision of September 28, 2020, the Ludzidzini Council found that Dlamini had been unfair with his ex-wife when he refused to give her anything accrued during their marriage.

It ordered Dlamini to give Simelane 50% of the property, moveable and immoveable.

Said the Council: “La-Simelane abengumka-Dlamini yena ugolela timphungane emlonyeni, usihlupheki uswele ngisho imali yekutsenga luswayi. Ngalapha Dlamini yena ubonakala enta konkhe lokwentiwa yimali ngekukhululeka lokukhulu ngesibindzi  ngelifa lalakhe nala-Simelane.”

King Mswati III reportedly endorsed the decision of the Ludzidzini Council in March 2021.

The matter had been deliberated over by the council for seven months before its final decision. 

During the seven months, according to Ludzidzini Council, Dlamini refused to cooperate with them, showing a hostile attitude towards the proceedings. 

The Council recorded that Dlamini persistently argued that the Council had no business to intervene in the matter.

The Council recorded that Dlamini had offered to give his wife E500 000 as her share accruing from the marriage. 

This was in addition to his offer that she would remain in occupation of the matrimonial house rent-free but the house to remain registered in his name.

Dlamini, the Council said, refused to submit his list of assets, still arguing that the Council had no jurisdiction over the matter.

The Council was not happy with the offer made to Simelane and ordered that the matrimonial home and a plot adjacent to it be transferred to her name because if it remains in the name of her former husband, he may kick her out at any time.

The Council noted that Dlamini had angrily and ruthlessly handled the separation leading to a divorce. Dlamini, it has been shown in other letters, fears that if the house and other assets are registered in the name of her wife, she may donate everything to her church. 

He prefers the properties rather be registered in the name of one of their children. Simelane has denied that she would donate the property to her church.

The Ludzidzini Council, however, did not mention Dlamini’s fears except to highlight that when they joined the church, they joined as a family and he would support his wife. 

But in 2000 he changed and, one night, he returned home and destroyed everything related to the church. 

The Council noted that he apologised in the morning before buying and replacing everything he had destroyed. Life returned to normal, but not for long.

In the many letters to various offices, Simelane had also highlighted the looting of the properties with the creation of two trusts, neither of which she is a beneficiary but only his latest women acquisitions.

Simelane told the Council that it was through her sole initiative that in 1984 they bought their first plot of land from the late Sishayi Nxumalo, the former politician and one-time Deputy Prime Minister, on which a house was built but the family never moved in and instead rented it out.

This triggered the process of them going on to build an empire. However, when the marriage ended, she was left out of pocket.

As an example of the alleged looting, Simelane cites the sale of a company and its assets where she and her then husband were equal shareholders for E1.6 million.

The sale was purportedly on the strength of a resolution by shareholders/directors taken in April 2007. 

The company, Timothy Investment, was sold to Drew Investment. She has denied ever being part of that meeting and has knowledge of such a resolution. She alleges the letter 

was fraudulent.

Simelane took the matter up with the police alleging fraud in that Dlamini produced a fake resolution to sell the property. But, after investigating the matter, the office of the DPP found the matter not prosecutable as a criminal offence.

This was communicated to her in a letter of December 2018 by a certain D.T. Ngwenya. In July 2019, she wrote to the DPP’s office expressing her disappointment in the manner the matter had been handled.

She was not happy that the police had proceeded to the High Court and got hold of the divorce case. She accused the police of misleading the DPP’s office not to prosecute her former husband on fraud charges.

Africa director of One Billion Rising Colani Hlatjwako expresses disappointment at the failure of the former prime minister to lead by example. It is a serious concern, according to her, that a person of his status who was heading government is failing to lead by example. She points out that these are some of the challenges which women face in this country. 

“They don’t get justice because some individuals do not comply with decisions made which aim to protect the rights of women. Justice must not only look at whether a decision was made, but must go further to look at whether that decision made was implemented,” Hlatjwako says.

Swaziland Women’s Land Rights Alliance’s Doo Aphane, who is eSwatini’s champion of women’s rights, queries: “Would the same hold if it were the wife in possession of the matrimonial assets refusing to give the husband his share? I have my doubts. The gender equality expressed by the constitution remains a paper tiger failing to change the reality on the ground.”

Snippets from the letters she wrote

A letter dated January 9, 2019, to Pholile Shakantu states: “The most painful is that my husband seems to be supported by the whole judicial system. What his attorney says becomes law. He says my marriage is governed by Swazi law and custom, which I never consented to when we got married, nor do I know what that means.”

She also says: “He refused us an audience when I went to see him with his daughter. His cruel treatment to us even shocked his personal secretary when he shoved us out and told us to go back and make an appointment and that I should never show up in his office without an appointment.”

A letter of July 2019 to the DPP on the fraud allegations states; “There have been efforts to intimidate and scare me into dropping the matter. The threat on my life was reported to the police and they have for more than two weeks been doing regular patrols on my home. We all know that those patrols cannot prevent ‘determined’ hitmen from striking and doing what they have been paid to do, especially considering the location of my house and the poor security around it.”

In July 2020, she wrote to Attorney General: “I was very shocked, to say the least, when the Attorney General rebuked me for reporting the matter to the police, saying that Mr Dlamini is the “father of my children” and therefore I should not have reported him to the police. This statement was made without saying what should I have done in the circumstances.”

She further wrote: uMlangeni akangalingisi lunwabu lona lelitsi kantsi seliya kulelinye ligala kepha lichubeke linkoshele ngemsila kuleli lelisuka kulo. Kute umlilo lobaswa ngetinkhuni takalomunye umfati. Ukhetse kushiya la-Simelane ngoba angasamtsandzi, akahambi ke nelifa lakhe.”

In a letter to CJ dated October 2021, Ms Simelane-Dlamini pleads: “My humble request Your Lordship is to kindly ensure that I get the justice I deserve in this matter as per the command of His Majesty the King and without any further delay as this whole thing puts my life at a very serious risk.”

To the Chief Officer in the King’s Office in October 2021 she wrote: “The AG’s office said I should secure an attorney to execute the King’s command. I argued this as it never made sense why I should again be looking for an attorney after the king has spoken. As liSwati I could not understand why a king’s command would need an external lawyer in order to be executed.”  

She wrote further: “He is the “father of my children”, what about me? Am I not the “mother of his children?” Who of the many counsellors he has ever rebuked him for treating the “mother of his children” the way he does? Keeping everything to himself and wasting it with strange women. Refusing to give money for upkeep, yet all the money coming from the two businesses we started together benefits only him and the strange women.”

In September 2022, she wrote to the Anti-corruption Commission: “The (divorce) summons were issued in October 2006 and the Trust, Ludlawini Trust was registered in November 2006, i.e. the following month after summons. Purchase and transfers of properties into the Trust started immediately, with the first transaction done in November…”