Swaziland’s King Mswati III, who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has declared there will be a new kind of democracy in his kingdom, but even the briefest glance at his plan shows it is exactly the same as the present system.
The king said the present ‘Tinkhundla’ system would be replaced by what he calls ‘Monarchical Democracy.’ He revealed this to his subjects on Saturday (31August 2013) as he opened the 2013 International Trade Fair in Manzini.
He said he was told in a vision that he should do this.
The Times Sunday, an independent newspaper in Swaziland, reported, ‘The king said the revelation came to him during the time when strange weather occurred on Friday night. He said the vision came to him when lightning struck on a winter night that generally had neither clouds nor rain. He said the lightning occurred while he tried to comprehend what was happening – and that was when he saw the new name of the Swazi democracy.’
The newspaper added, ‘The king said in the vision, he was shown a new name for the Tinkhundla system of governance. The revelation also came with a definition of what could be described as a new form of democracy. The king said the system should now be known as Monarchical Democracy.’
However, what the newspaper did not explain was that the ‘new’ democracy would be no different from the present version in Swaziland. Political parties will still be banned from taking part in elections and the king’s subjects will only be allowed to vote for a small number of individuals to the House of Assembly, they still will not be allowed to elect any members of the senate.
The king will continue to choose the prime minister and the government. The parliament will still have no powers and will be subservient to the wishes of the king.
The king has been under increasing criticism from democratic nations to allow his subjects the opportunity to have political parties and elect their own government.
The king said, ‘When we travel internationally, they ask us about the Tinkhundla system of governance and we have always had difficulty defining and explaining it.’
The Times reported the king said, ‘According to Section 79 of the Constitution of Swaziland, the system of government is democratic and participatory based on Tinkhundla. The system emphasises on the devolution of state power from central government to Tinkhundla while individual merit is a basis for election and appointment into public office.’
The newspaper reported the king said Monarchical Democracy was a new system which was unique to Africa and Swaziland. He described it as a reinvention of the Tinkhundla system.
‘He said this democracy was special because it defined a system formed by merging the will of the people with the monarch. He said in this system, people cast votes on a ballot box to decide leaders from community level. These leaders then work with the monarch in governing the country.
‘The king said the new system ensured that the king worked with the people who were freely elected by the people in the leadership of the country.
‘He said there were many ideologies of democracy in the world but with the Monarchical Democracy, Swaziland presented to the world a system that was home-grown and could be adopted and used by any country.’
He added, ‘[The] Monarchical democracy system was the best in the world.’