King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland / Eswatini, ignored the kingdom’s constitution across the board as he appointed his Prime Minister, government and members of the House of assembly and Senate.
His actions highlight the complete control he has in the kingdom.
Swaziland held a national election in September 2018 under the political system that the King calls ‘Monarchical Democracy’ and is widely known as tinkhundla. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and people only elect 59 members of the House of Assembly, a further 10 are appointed by the King. None of the 30 members of the Swazi Senate are elected by the people; the House of Assembly elects 10 and the King appoints 20.
Following the election which is held every five years the King appoints a Prime Minister and Cabinet.
The King rules under a Royal Proclamation of 1973 that abolished political parties and allowed the then King, Sobhuza II to rule as an absolute monarch. A came into effect in 2006, but the King largely ignores its provisions.
The Constitution requires the King to ensure that at least half of the cabinet of ministers are people who were directly elected by the people into the House of Assembly. Only eight of the 20 members of the Cabinet he appointed were elected.
The Constitution also requires King Mswat to choose his Prime Minister from within the House of Assembly. His choice of Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini was not in the House. He was not elected by the people nor was he one of the ten members of the House appointed by the King.
Lisa Peterson, the US Ambassador to Swaziland, drew attention to another breach of the Constitution in an article published by both of Swaziland’s daily newspapers.
She wrote, ‘I am disappointed, disheartened and disturbed that parliamentary appointments made by the Palace disregard explicit provisions of the country’s Constitution.
‘The terms are quite simple: among the members of the House of Assembly appointed by the King, at least half shall be women: among the 20 for the Senate, at least eight shall be women. Out of 10 appointees to the House, only three were women. In the Senate, only seven women were appointed. These shortfalls show that gender equity is not a priority for the country’s most senior officials, which means that it will not be a priority for many others in Eswatini’s male-dominated leadership.’
The appointments by the King are in clear breach of the Constitution and highlight how the document is generally meaningless. King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch and this is allowed for in S65(4) of the Constitution which states, ‘Where the King is required by the Constitution to exercise any function after consultation with any person or authority, the King may or may not exercise that function following the consultation.’
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