My day in the court
I mentioned some time ago that we had our fair share of bad experiences in Swaziland. Fortunately we can laugh about most of these things today, but at the time it happened they were not funny at all. When we moved into our house in Swaziland in 1985, we found a lady and her three young sons living on the yard in a room outside the house. She asked if we would mind if she remained there. Anxious to live in the right relationship with the people we had come to serve, we obviously agreed. Her name was Thulile, which literally means the one who is quiet. Later we realised that her name was a contradictio in terminis, because when she got angry, she definitely wasn’t quiet! 😉
As time went on, she became increasingly demanding and the once peaceful relationship started turning sour. One day I saw a man working outside and when I went out to speak to him, I found out that she had contracted him on my behalf to do a lot of electrical work in her room (for which I had to pay!) The climax came when the police turned up at our house one day and told me that she had laid a charge against me that I had damaged some maize which she had planted. I accompanied the police to the place where she alleged that I had damaged the maize and after seeing for themselves that nothing like this had happened, the officer in charge took me aside and told me to get her off the premises as quickly as possible as they knew her and also knew that she was going to keep on causing problems for us. I followed their advice and gave her notice to evacuate the room within a month.
A few days afterwards I was summoned to appear in a traditional court, known as the Ndabazabantu – something like a people’s court – as she had decided that she was not going to leave the premises. I felt terrible! I had come to Swaziland to serve the people of this country and to share the love of Christ with them and scarcely had I arrived or I had to appear in court because of something bad which I had done towards a person living on our premises. I had no choice but to go to the court where I told my story. Eventually the court made a decision that I was NOT allowed to ask her to evacuate the room.
Fortunately I later found out that the traditional court had no authority over me as I was not a Swazi citizen and I told her once again that she had to leave the premises, which she then did. I never saw her or her children again.
Looking back, I wonder if I would have handled the situation differently today. I think I would have. I would probably have called in a number of local church leaders to solve the matter which would definitely have been a much better way to do it. But then again, as I have mentioned before, I had so little knowledge and absolutely no experience at that time. How wonderful that God forgives these mistakes we make and allows us to continue with our lives and our work.
Today we can laugh about this situation but there are times when I still wonder how Jesus would have handled this situation.