Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Swaziland’s Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini told parliamentarians their duty was to the king above all else.

This is the latest twist in the national election that took place in Swaziland in September 2013. King Mswati III rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, and political parties were banned from taking part in the election.

Dlamini, who was directly appointed Prime Minister by the King, gave his instructions to parliamentarians at a workshop on their role on Monday (25 November 2013).

He told them, ‘We are here working on the instruction of the King and the nation.’ He said that Swaziland had a ‘unique democracy.’

He added, ‘This is because we were voted into power through the various methods permitted by our exclusive Constitution.’

However, in fact few parliamentarians were elected. Swaziland’s political system is known as tinkhundla, or a monarchical democracy. Under this system only 55 members of the 65- strong House of Assembly are elected by the people. The King directly appoints 10 members.

No members of the 30-stong Senate are elected by the people. The King appoints 20 senators and the other 10 are elected by members of the House of Assembly.

All cabinet ministers were appointed by King Mswati. Following the election he appointed nine princes and princesses to the House of Assembly and the Senate. He also appointed another 16 members of his Royal Family to top political jobs; effectively carving up public life in the kingdom in his favour.

Shortly before the election, King Mswati announced he had received a vision during a thunderstorm which told him that henceforth the political system in his kingdom should be known as a ‘monarchical democracy’. He said this would be ‘a system formed by merging the will of the people with the monarch’.

He went on to say 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.

However, the appointments after the election were overwhelmingly of people who did not stand for election.

The power wielded by King Mswati was criticised by two independent international groups which observed the Swazi election. Both the African Union and the Commonwealth Observer Mission suggested the kingdom’s constitution should be reviewed to allow political parties to contest elections.

The Commonwealth Observer Mission added that, ‘The presence of the monarch in the structure of everyday political life inevitably associates the institution of the monarchy with politics, a situation that runs counter to the development that the re-establishment of the Parliament and the devolution of executive authority into the hands of elected officials.’

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