Swaziland has not yet changed its name to eSwatini, despite a public announcement from the absolute ruler King Mswati III.
There needs to be a legal instrument directing the name change.
This was said by Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze after the King’s speech.
Already, opposition is growing inside the tiny impoverished kingdom to the King’s message.
The Observer on Saturday, a newspaper in Swaziland in effect owned by the King, reported (21 April 2018), Gamedze saying, ‘We stand guided by the Attorney General on the matter. With that instrument of a name change, we will then forward same correspondence to the United Nations, African Union and SADC [Southern African Development Community], which are the main international bodies. They will then inform their subsequent structures of the name change. So we expect the process of the name change to start soon with the legal instrument (gazette), so that we can inform the rest of the world thereafter.’
It is not clear how much discussion will take before the ‘legal instrument’ is issued. King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King appoints the Prime Minister and government ministers.
It is possible the King would simply make a proclamation, without further discussion. There is a precedent for this. In 1973 Mswati’s father King Sobhuza II proclaimed that from that date power in the kingdom rested with the King. He dissolved the democratically-elected parliament and banned political parties. That proclamation has not been cancelled and remains in force.
The King’s announcement of the name change was made during his speech on Thursday at a celebration to mark his 50th birthday and the half-century anniversary of Independence from Great Britain. It came as a surprise and was made without public consultation.
Criticism of the move will be quiet within Swaziland. Those advocating for democracy face arrest and imprisonment under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.
The AFP news agency reported that, ‘Critics of the King, who took the throne in 1986 aged 18, said the move was an example of his authoritarian and wasteful reign in a country that suffers dire poverty.’
It quoted Alvit Dlamini, head of the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress, saying, ‘We see here King Mswati’s autocratic style. He can’t change the name of the country on his own. He was supposed to consult the nation.’
AFP reported, the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland warned that the process was not immediate. ‘When the king has made a pronouncement, due process must take its course,’ acting general secretary Mduduzi Gina said AFP. ‘The legislature must initiate a process to amend the constitution. The change cannot be a knee-jerk reaction.’
KING UNILATERALLY RENAMES SWAZILAND
NOTHING TO CELEBRATE FOR MOST SWAZIS
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