It's that time of year again in Swaziland -- late January through March -- when the nation is gripped by an insatiable lust for having sex and stealing goats. Visitors traveling down country roads are apt to see either couples fornicating right out in the open or police chasing down a wild-eyed livestock thief. Or both.
This annual Swazi orgy begins when women of the low veld begin brewing the traditional buganu, a concoction fermented from the fruit of the maganu tree that is believed to be a potent aphrodisiac. Those who quaff the light yellow drink are reportedly rendered horny beyond control. Held captive by their own genitals, they achieve release only through impromptu and compulsive copulation -- whether it's on the bus or in a public marketplace. Along with this hormonal surge, buganu produces another interesting effect: a powerful impulse to eat meat. Hence the rash of goat thefts that sweeps the country.
Health officials have made noises about monitoring or even outlawing the annual festival, but the threat doesn't stop conductors like Sipho Matsebula, whose job it is to hoist drums of buganu atop long-haul buses en route to urban areas such as Johannesburg.
"Nobody is going to stop the buganu from flowing," Matsebula told the Mail and Guardian. "You can't stop people from drinking, or the goat thefts and sex that go along with it."
The taste of buganu is described as piquant and sweet, with an aftertaste that tingles the tongue -- among other body parts. In rural areas, buganu is sprinkled on the ground as an offering in recollection of ancestors, after which the party begins. In more populated areas, the king and queen host welcoming ceremonies, at which buganu is guzzled during traditional dancing.
The appeal seems to be nostalgia for the country life that many have left behind -- that and the chance to hump like monkeys for a couple of months without hassle.
"Its effect is insidiously wonderful," said a buganu fan named Sonnyboy Dube. "Its power is not like a kick; it creeps up on you, then takes over."