The way the Royal Family dominates what passes for ‘public life’ in Swaziland is insidious: it invades all parts of the kingdom.
In October 2008, I wrote the following report, which I think is worth digging out the files so that we can be reminded how the king keeps control of ‘his’ kingdom.
SWAZI KING KEEPS IT IN THE FAMILY
There’s nothing quite like a family business for making sure everyone pulls together.
In Swaziland the business of political repression is run by the Dlamini family with the monarch at the head of the family.
Last week we saw a Dlamini appointed head of government (Prime Minister) by King Mswati III. In Swaziland only a Dlamini can be Prime Mimister. There’s no law that says this and it certainly isn’t in the constitution, but that’s the way it is. That’s the way the ruling family holds on to power.
Last week the king also announced his choices for Senate (he chooses 20 out of the 30 places, MPs choose the other ten. None are elected by the people). Four of his choices are princes or princesses and another five are chiefs.
In Swaziland chiefs do the king’s bidding at a local level. People know not to mess with the chief because their livelihood depends on his goodwill. In some parts of Swaziland the chiefs are given the power to decide who gets food that has been donated by international agencies. The chiefs quite literally have power of life and death in such cases and with 65 percent of the population of Swaziland receiving food aid last year that’s some power.
The speaker of the House of Assembly is also a prince.
There have been new appointments to the Swazi National Council Standing Committee (commonly known as Liqoqo). This is the ‘advisory’ body to the king and is in effect the committee that decides the traditional law of Swaziland. And in Swaziland traditional law beats the constitution if ever there is a clash. It is also generally accepted (at least by Liqoqo) that it can veto any decision made by the Swazi parliament.
There are three so-called ‘royal committees’.
The Weekend Observer (18 October 2008) published the names of all three committees and they break down like this.
Liqoqo has 22 members, seven are princes / princesses, six are family Dlamini and three are chiefs.
The 15 members of the Ludzidzini Committee, which advises the Queen Mother, are four princes / princesses, two are Dlamini and four are chiefs.
The third royal committee, the Border Determination Committee, has 12 members, three princes / princesses, three from Dlamini and one chief.
The Times of Swaziland today (22 October 2008) reckons that in total at least 20 princes and princesses and 16 chiefs have been appointed to highly influential decision-making positions that they will occupy for the next five years.
We are still waiting for the king to appoint the cabinet.
With public life in Swaziland effectively carved up by the king to ensure that everyone is singing his praises (if you took away these posts from the family members what would they do all day?) is it any wonder that the kingdom is in the dire state it’s in today?