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Wednesday, 12 January 2011

ARE SWAZI PM’S DAYS NUMBERED?

Does Barnabas Dlamini, Swaziland’s illegally-appointed Prime Minister fear for his job?


I ask as news leaks out that Dlamini is meeting his Members of Parliament ‘one by one’.


As a Brit, I remember the last time something like this happened was in 1990 when Margaret Thatcher was UK Prime Minister. She called her Cabinet members in one by one to ask them whether she had their support. When most said NO, she was out on her ear before you could say ‘I swear my loyalty to the PM’.


Dlamini refuses to be drawn on the purpose of the meetings. He says that he is always having meetings. ‘Every hour’, the Weekend Observer, a newspaper in effect owned and edited by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, was told.


The paper speculated that he is seeking support for his increasingly shaky position over the land scandal that involves Dlamini, along with his deputy, four members of the Swazi Royal Family and at least nine cabinet ministers (past and present).


The paper says cabinet ministers ‘allocated themselves government plots at discounts’.


A parliamentary select committee is supposed to be investigating the deal, although when it was set up in early December 2010 it was reportedly told to give its verdict within three weeks and we are still waiting.


The Observer says, ‘MPs interviewed [by the newspaper] on condition of anonymity have disclosed that central to their meeting with the premier was the land issue.’


It goes on, ‘They also disclosed that at first they were showered with accolades about their performances in their different constituencies before touching on the land issue. The premier further denied discussing the issue with members of the select committee, which was set out to investigate the cabinet land scandal.’


Some of the MPs said they were afraid Dlamini was interfering with the work of the select committee and trying to get MPs on his side in the event of a parliamentary vote after the select committee reports.


The PM denies this.


Dlamini has been under increasing pressure in the past months. Last month (December 2010), Thulani Thwala, the editor of the Swazi Observer, called on Dlamini, his deputy and the finance minister, to resign over their mishandling of the economy.


October 2010 was a particularly bad month for Dlamini. He humiliated himself and Swaziland when he denied that the man who gave him a ‘humanitarian’ award was an internationally-renowned con man.


Also, Dlamini received international attention with a plan to censor all news reporting from Swaziland by foreign journalists.


Again that month, he arranged for himself and his colleagues to be given massive payoffs at the Swazi people’s expense when the present parliament ends in 2013. This was despite the knowledge that Swaziland was on the brink of financial collapse and at least 7,000 civil servants would have to lose their jobs to help stabilise the economy that he and his colleagues ruined.


Also, Dlamini and colleagues doctored an official report to the United Nations to make it look as if they were winning the fight against poverty in Swaziland, when the exact opposite was the case.


In September 2010, Dlamini announced to the world that he wanted to see tortured foreigners who dared to criticise the human rights record of his government.


Dlamini has never had much of a reputation in the world outside Swaziland. After his previous spell as Prime Minister from 1996 to 2003, a report on human rights violations in Swaziland published by the Human Rights organisation Amnesty International that ran to more than fifty thousand words detailed the abuses against Swazis committed under Dlamini’s term in office.


Famously, when he was in office he constantly disregarded the law. This led eventually to the resignation of all six judges in the Swaziland Court of Appeal.


We know that King Mswati is getting increasingly worried about whether he can trust the people around him. With his PM embroiled in a corruption scandal that stinks to high heaven and his lack of competence to do his job exposed and his judgement to be a public representative of Swaziland on the global stage at an all time low, we shouldn’t be surprised if the king tells Dlamini to fall on his sword.

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