And the Queen Mother Ntombi’s ‘associations with men’ has undermined the power she has to influence King Mswati’s decision-making.
The revelation comes in a diplomatic cable written in February 2010 by Earl Irvine, the US Ambassador to Swaziland and just released by Wikileaks.
Irvine wrote to Washington about what he called ‘Witchcraft and More: A Portrait of Influences on King Mswati III’.
In the cable marked ‘confidential’, Irvine says ‘traditional leaders, superstition, and members of the royal family’ are the major influences on the king. His ministers, however, ‘remain his servants’.
Irvine writes, ‘The king's wives' opinions matter to the king, especially his third wife, LaMbikisa, who has an advanced degree and is the only wife to whom the king proposed.’
Irvine goes on, ‘King Mswati III believes in muti (traditional medicine used to cast spells or curses), and attempts to use muti to attack the king are taken seriously’.
He writes, ‘In 1989 Prince Mfana Sibili was accused of high treason when he allegedly used muti to try to take away the king's powers. When a foreign judge, brought in to hear the case, dismissed it after hearing the charges, a traditional court was installed to convict the prince.’
He says that ‘muti people’ hold great sway within the royal family, and that the king must eat and drink whatever they give him during traditional ceremonies, particularly when in seclusion. ‘If they are unhappy with the direction the king is taking the country, then the king has cause to worry.’
Irvine goes on, ‘Although Queen Mother Ntombi is considered by many observers to be a powerful figure within the royal family, [name of informant] indicated that her authority has been undermined by her "associations with men," including current Foreign Minister Lutfo Dlamini.
‘According to [informant], Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini is the king's "loyal hangman," a relationship that dates to the prime minister's alleged attempted suicide in 1990 or 1991.’
Irvine writes, Mswati III uses the investment company African Alliance to move his money around internationally, and ‘Stephen Gidinza is quite influential and involved in all of the king's international transactions’.
The informant indicated that ‘the king has become more decisive during his years in office, especially where his interests are at issue, and he views ministers and officials who tell him he cannot do something as cowards’.
Swazi Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini is the king's loyal ‘hangman,’ Irvine writes, ‘an assertion that suggests that the king places absolute trust in Barnabas.
‘Instead of looking to influence the king, the Prime Minister acts as the king's steadfast servant, a relationship that dates back to a suicide attempt by Barnabas in 1990 or 1991.
‘According to [informants] in an unsuccessful attempt kept secret from the public, Barnabas tried to commit suicide after his involvement in a corruption scandal during his tenure as Minister of Finance became known.
‘As part of making amends to the king, Barnabas reportedly prostrated himself before the king, giving himself over as the king's servant.’
To read the full Wikileaks cable, click here. http://wikileaks.org/cable/2010/02/10MBABANE58.html