Thursday, June 2, 2016


King Mswati III of Swaziland, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, mislead a SADC forum when he said the kingdom he ruled was a ‘democracy’ because elections were held.

He told members of the SADC Parliamentary Forum that Monarchical Democracy, an invention of the King dating back to 2013, was “a new democratic ideology that works”.

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom where media are heavily censored, reported on Thursday (2 June 2016) that a message from the King read by the Deputy Prime Minister Paul Shabangu said, ‘The ballot box is the will of the people who vote for an individual, who will provide advice and counsel to the King and country in a manner that ensures transparency and accountability.’

He did not mention that in Swaziland political parties are banned and that the Swazi people were 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.
The Prime Minister, his deputy and all cabinet ministers are chosen by the King.
The remarks were given during the official opening of the 39th Plenary Assembly Session of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Parliamentary Forum in Ezulwini.
The Times reported, “As put to the global community, the Kingdom of Eswatini’s [Swaziland’s] position is that it believes in democracy as an idea but not as an ideal because things that are ideal to you may not be ideal to other people,” the King said.’
King Mswati is presently the Deputy Chair of the SADC and will assume the chair in August 2016. n
King Mswati invented the concept of ‘Monarchical Democracy’ in 2013, when he said the idea came to him during a thunderstorm. The media and his other supporters claimed it was different from the tinkhundla system of government that already existed in the kingdom.
The King told media in Swaziland at the time this meant he would take advice from his subjects before making decisions that affected the kingdom.

His description of ‘Monarchical Democracy’ was vague, but in Swaziland, people, even journalists who purport to act on their behalf, are too scared of the King to ask him for clarification.
In fact, the ‘tinkhundla’ system of government puts all power in the hands of the monarchy. King Mswati chooses the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers, members of the judiciary, and he appoints all senior political posts in his kingdom.
When the King made his announcement about ‘Monarchical Democracy’, many people hoped this would mean a change from the present system to something approaching democracy.
But, the supine Press in Swaziland did not explain to their readers that this was not going to happen.

Instead, it took the Reuters news agency to get at the truth. It interviewed the King and asked him outright what ‘Monarchical Democracy’ was all about and what was going to change.

The King replied, ‘No change really. It's just a name so people can understand.’
It was, Reuters reported, ‘merely a name change for foreign consumption’.
The news agency reported the King saying, ‘The world really doesn’t understand the tinkhundla system, but everybody can understand monarchical democracy. It’s an English name. This monarchical democracy is a marriage between the traditional monarchy and the ballot box, all working together under the monarchy.’
So, the King confirmed in his own words that ‘tinkhundla’ and ‘Monarchical Democracy’ were one and the same thing.
Reuters’ report was published worldwide, as well as on social media circulating within Swaziland. Swazi newspaper editors read the report with everyone else.
But, even though the Reuters report was published in September 2013, the Swazi newspapers continue with the fiction that ‘Monarchical Democracy’ might be something new.
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