The Strange Form of Torture That Swaziland's King May Use on Protesters

Africa's last absolute monarch, King Mswati III of Swaziland, is threatening pro-democracy protesters with sipakatane, an elaborate method for beating feet that often renders the victim unable to walk. More about this terrible torture method—and King Mswati—below.

Sipakatane—variants include 'bastinado' and 'falaka'—is a torture method wherein the torturer ties the victims' ankles together, then beats the soles of his feet with a metal or wooden spike. It works because feet have many nerve endings and small bones, and feet provide wide flat surface that is easy to buffet until it breaks. And once a person's feet are bloodied and broken, they can't walk anymore, and it takes forever for their feet to heal. (Sidenote: Like many torture methods, foot-beating now flourishes in the BDSM community, which makes googling it kind of confusing.)

The Swazi king's favored torture method even gets a mention in Shakespeare! In As You Like It, the royal jester threatens a peasant: "I will deal in poison with thee, or in bastinado, or in steel." In other words, Swaziland's lavish king is a clown who is at least 500 years out of style. At least he wears zippy outfits, especially during the Reed Dance ceremonies at which he chooses his wives.

And this has been your daily foray into the terrible lives of tyrants and the people who toil under their rule. [Guardian image via Getty]