IT HAPPENED in August 1936. The location was the Swaziland Royal Kraal, or compound. From a sound car, Robert and George Nisbet had just played music recordings followed by recorded talks of Brother J. F. Rutherford. King Sobhuza II was delighted. “Much to our embarrassment,” explained George, “he wanted to buy the transcription machine, records, and Kingdom-message loudspeaker!”
Robert said apologetically that these things were not for sale. Why? Because the equipment belonged to someone else. The King wanted to know who that was.
Robert’s reply was, “It all belongs to another King.” Then Sobhuza asked who this King was. “He is Jesus Christ, the King of God’s Kingdom,” said Robert.
“Oh, he’s a great King,” Sobhuza acknowledged with deep respect. “I don’t want to take anything that belongs to him.”
Robert wrote: ‘I was very much struck with the nature of the Paramount Chief, King Sobhuza. He spoke perfect English without any swank or pride and was absolutely straightforward and approachable. I sat with him in his office for about 45 minutes, while George played music outside.
‘Later that day,’ continued Robert, ‘we called at The Swazi National School where we had the most interesting experience of all. We witnessed to the principal, and he listened readily. When we mentioned the machine and offered to let the whole school hear the recordings, he was delighted and summoned almost a hundred students to sit on the grass to listen. We were told that the high school taught agriculture, gardening, carpentry, building, English, and arithmetic to the boys; the girls were taught nursing, household work, and other useful occupations.’ The Paramount Chief’s grandmother had founded the school. *
As early as 1933, King Sobhuza listened with pleasure to pioneers who visited the Royal Kraal. On one occasion, he had even assembled his personal bodyguard of 100 warriors to hear the recorded Kingdom message. He subscribed to our magazines and accepted literature. It was not long before the King had an almost complete theocratic library! Moreover, he kept it intact despite a ban placed on our literature by the British colonial government during the second world war.
King Sobhuza II continued to welcome the Witnesses into the Royal Kraal at Lobamba, even calling clergymen to come to listen to their Bible talks. While a local Witness named Helvie Mashazi was discussing Matthew chapter 23, a group of clergymen angrily jumped up and tried to force him to sit down. But the King intervened, asking Brother Mashazi to continue. Furthermore, the King told the audience to write down all the Bible verses mentioned in the talk!
After listening to a talk given by a pioneer brother on another occasion, four clergymen who were present turned their collars around and declared: “We are no longer clergymen but are now Jehovah’s Witnesses.” They then asked the pioneer if he had any books like the ones that the Paramount Chief had.
From the 1930’s until his death in 1982, the Paramount Chief showed respect for Jehovah’s Witnesses and did not allow them to be persecuted for not observing Swazi rituals. Therefore, the Witnesses had good reason for being grateful to him, and they sincerely mourned his death.
By the beginning of 2013, there were more than 3,000 Kingdom proclaimers in Swaziland. With just over one million inhabitants, this country had a ratio of 1 publisher to every 384 of the population. More than 260 pioneers were busy in 90 congregations, and 7,496 attended the Memorial in 2012. Clearly, there is great potential for further growth. A solid foundation certainly was laid during those early visits to Swaziland in the 1930’s.
^ par. 8 The Golden Age, June 30, 1937, page 629.