Sunday, October 19, 2008


King Mswati III has illegally appointed Barnabas Dlamini as Prime Minister of Swaziland.

The King has disregarded the constitution he signed in 2005 that clearly states that the Prime Minister must be a member of the House of Assembly.

Dlamini has not been elected by anybody to anything in Swaziland.

Dlamini is a former Prime Minister of Swaziland who was in office for seven and a half years until 2003. While in office he gained a deserved reputation as someone who ignored the rule of law.

During office in 2003 he refused to recognise two court judgements that challenged the King’s right to rule by decree. This led to the resignation of all six judges in the Appeal Court. The court had ruled that Mswati III had no constitutional mandate to override
parliament by issuing his own decrees.

Clearly, Dlamini is a strong supporter of the monarchy and what he perceives to be its right to rule illegally. King Mswati probably sees him as a staunch ally at a time when the call for democracy in Swaziland is being heard loudly both inside the kingdom and in the international community.

Swaziland was roundly condemned last month for running national elections but keeping a ban on political parties that dates back to 1973.

Dlamini’s illegal appointment on Thursday (16 October 2008) will be seen as sending a direct threat to the democrats.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, ran its report on Dlamini’s appointment under the heading KING DECLARES WAR ON TERROR.

The newspaper said the King prompted the kingdom ‘to strongly resist all elements that undermine national peace and security’.

He referred to a recent incident in which two alleged bombers had blown themselves up while planting a bomb near one of the King’s 13 palaces and offered this unveiled warning, ‘Nowhere else has such acts of terrorism been treated with kid gloves. Internationally, terrorism is dealt with the contempt it deserves. Why should we be lenient on it?’

He added, ‘These terrorist have to learn a lesson they would never forget.’

The Observer reported, ‘His Majesty says the Swazi nation cannot afford to delay retaliation to terrorism, whilst claiming to be following procedure. He says time for action is now.’

Swaziland is not a democracy. As well as the ban on political parties, as we saw yesterday, the King appoints whoever he wants to high office. The Swazi parliament has very little power and the King makes all the important decisions.

The fact that Dlamini’s appointment flies in the face of the constitution demonstrates that King Mswati has no intention of honouring the document. It in effect means that an illegal Prime Minister will be heading an illegal government.

It remains to be seen whether anyone will challenge the appointment in the Swazi High Court. The High Court has been known to overturn government decisions that contravene the constitution. (Earlier this week it overturned a decision of the Acting Prime Minister Bheki Dlamini to ban the Southern African Social Forum from meeting in Swaziland.)

It remains to be seen whether the courts would overturn an unconstitutional decision made by the King.

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