King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland, has ordered members of parliament to return to their duties after they quit the House of Assembly in a dispute over the House Speaker, Themba Msibi.
MPs had decided to close parliament in protest about what they saw as Msibi’s poor performance of his job. They asked King Mswati to intervene.
The King has been a supporter of Msibi ever since he backed him to be House Speaker after the Swazi elections in 2013.
In 2013, following the most recent national election in Swaziland Msibi was ‘elected’ Speaker unopposed. He was the King’s preferred candidate. Once news of this spread all other candidates withdrew.
It was reported at the time that the House of Assembly was ready to elect a Speaker but it was adjourned for three days to allow Msibi time to get his nomination papers entered.
The adjournment was forced by Clerk of Parliament Ndvuna Dlamini.
The adjournment caused confusion in the Swazi Parliament because the kingdom’s Constitution suggests the election of Speaker had to take place at the first sitting of Parliament following a national election.
Among those withdrawing was Prince Guduza, the Speaker of the previous Parliament. He was widely thought of as the first choice of Parliamentarians and until the King’s intervention, was expected to be elected. He withdrew hours before the election took place.
Former minister and dissident journalist Mfomfo Nkhambule and Mangcongco MP Patrick ‘Pha’ Motsa, the only other candidates, had previously withdrawn.
King Mswati III had a week earlier appointed Msibi to the House of Assembly. Msibi did not stand as a candidate in the national election held on 20 September 2013.
The intervention of King Mswati was not reported in local media, but the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, reported, ‘Complete gloom enveloped the House of Assembly when Themba Msibi was pronounced Speaker unopposed yesterday.’
In an editorial comment, the Times said, ‘Parliament’s credibility, status and integrity have been shaken by the preceding chaos over the election of the Speaker and the nation desperately needs the reassurance that we have actually chosen the best people for the job – and that they will do the best for the nation.’
On Thursday (30 June 2016), the House was forced to meet to hear a message from the King delivered by the man he chose to be Prime Minister, Barnabas Dlamini.
The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported, ‘“I [Dlamini] have been sent by the King to inform you that he has heard that there are issues affecting parliament. But he says parliamentarians must continue working, especially on government business and other matters relating to government regulations. Bayethe!’’ he shouted the royal cry signifying that the massage was directly from the King.’
The newspaper added, ‘The few MPs who were present responded with the royal Bayethe cry as well. Soon after delivering the message, the PM hit the exit door.’
The House was then adjourned because not enough MPs were present to form a quorum.
The Observer reported, ‘Parliamentary business has been grounded for the past two months following a decision by the members of the House of Assembly to get rid of Msibi. The decision to remove Msibi from the position of Speaker was triggered by his refusal to allow members of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Swaziland Branch to elect a new executive committee to replace one that was chaired by Dvokodvweni MP Musa Sitezi Dlamini, whom some MPs considered a puppet for the Speaker.
‘The manner in which Msibi handled the matter did not help the situation either, instead, it revealed his other side-being authoritative.
‘Most of the MPs felt they could not stand his alleged boastful character. They also accused him of arrogance, selective treatment of members and flouting of parliamentary procedures.
‘Attempts by members of the House of Assembly to remove Msibi from his position have previously been unsuccessful.
‘A recent attempt before this one was through a parliamentary process that involved investigating his alleged immoral and unethical activities, which led to his subsequent suspension. The suspension was to be enforced pending tabling of the investigation report.
‘Msibi ran to the country’s courts to seek legal redress. While challenging the decision by his colleagues and before the court process was concluded, Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini delivered a message from the King informing House members the squabbles should be put to a dead stop.
‘Msibi was reportedly instructed to abandon the court process and those legislators investigating him also ordered to bring to a halt the whole investigation process. All parties concerned obliged.’
The Observer reported that the House was divided into two rival factions, ‘with a few mainly royal appointees on the side of Msibi and the other section largely composed of elected members directly representing the 55 constituencies.’
In Swaziland political parties are not allowed to contest elections. The Swazi people are only allowed to select 55 of the 65 members of the House of Assembly, with the King appointing the others. No members of the 30-strong Swaziland Senate are elected by the people.
KING’S MAN UNOPPOSED AS SPEAKER
‘KING’S MAN’ STANDS FOR SPEAKER JOB
CONFUSION AS SPEAKER NOT ELECTED
DISSIDENT STANDS AS HOUSE SPEAKER