Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Swaziland King appoints new Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini in violation of Constitution

King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland/ Eswatini, chose his new Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini in violation of the kingdom’s Constitution.

Section 67 of the Constitution says the King must appoint the PM ‘from among members of the House [of Assembly]’ but Dlamini is not a member. He was not elected by the people. The King also appoints ten members of the House of Assembly but did not give Dlamini a place.

The appointment is a clear breach of the Constitution and it highlights how the document that came into effect in 2006 is generally meaningless. King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch and this is allowed for in S65(4) of the Constitution which states, ‘Where the King is required by the Constitution to exercise any function after consultation with any person or authority, the King may or may not exercise that function following the consultation.’

Put in simple language, ‘The King is permitted to do what he likes.’

King Mswati has a firm grip on power in his kingdom. At the election on 21 September 2018 his subjects were only allowed to select 59 members of the House of Assembly, the King appointed a further 10. Political parties were banned from taking part.

None of the 30 members of the Swazi Senate are elected by the people; the House elects 10 and the King appoints 20. After the election the King appointed six members of his own family to the House of Assembly and eight to the Senate.

The King also chooses the PM, government ministers and top civil servants and judges.

Lisa Peterson, the United States Ambassador to Swaziland, criticised the King for not following the constitution when making appointments after the election. In an article that appeared in both of Swaziland’s two national daily newspapers she wrote, ‘I am disappointed, disheartened and disturbed that parliamentary appointments made by the Palace disregard explicit provisions of the country’s Constitution. 

‘The terms are quite simple: among the members of the House of Assembly appointed by the King, at least half shall be women: among the 20 for the Senate, at least eight shall be women. Out of 10 appointees to the House, only three were women. In the Senate, only seven women were appointed. These shortfalls show that gender equity is not a priority for the country’s most senior officials, which means that it will not be a priority for many others in Eswatini’s male-dominated leadership.’

She warned failure to stick by the Constitution ‘will likely’ affect the amount of development aid Swaziland receives in future from the US.

She wrote, ‘This failure to abide by the terms of the Constitution has an impact not only on women’s economic, political and social participation, but on all aspects of the rule of law in this country.  If senior leaders do not need to follow the rules laid out and agreed to, why should anyone else in the country have to abide by any rules? Failure to uphold the rule of law has ramifications far beyond Parliament.’

‘As Eswatini faces a critical fiscal crisis, foreign investment will be an important component of a multifaceted economic recovery and growth strategy. Foreign investors are attracted to or deterred by a range of factors, but rule of law is a major consideration. If the Constitution itself is treated as an optional guide or a collection of recommendations, this provides little comfort to investors who seek assurance that contractual matters will be addressed transparently in accordance with the law. 

‘Beyond the potential impact on foreign direct investment, violation of the basic framework of governance will likely also have an impact on prospective foreign assistance mechanisms from the United States.’

Richard Rooney

See also

Swaziland King chooses new PM with no political experience, but together they have close business ties

Monday, October 29, 2018

Qatar embassy in Swaziland breifly detains two journalists

Committee to Protect Journalists, 25 October 2018

Security staff detained two Times of Swaziland journalists for more than an hour at the Qatar Embassy in Swaziland's capital, Mbabane, on October 5, 2018, according to a statement by the local chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), writes the Committee toProtect Journalists. The journalists were detained after a senior diplomat tried to make them sign a statement barring them from publishing a report about his alleged involvement in an assault, according to The Times of Swaziland.

The paper's business editor Kwanele Dhladhla and investigative journalist Welcome Dlamini were at the embassy to interview Qatar's Charge d' Affaires and acting ambassador Yaqoub Yousuf al-Mulla about an incident in which the diplomat allegedly pointed a firearm at a street vendor, according to The Times of Swaziland Sunday and a Swazi journalist with knowledge of the case, who spoke with CPJ but asked not to be named for fear of reprisal.

Al-Mulla agreed to speak to the journalists, but then tried to force Dhladhla and Dlamini to sign a written acknowledgement they would not publish the article, according to a Times of Swaziland report. 

A document on an Embassy of Qatar letterhead, dated October 5 and published by the Times of Swaziland, stated, We, the employees of The Times newspaper, are committed not to publish any information of the embassy of the state of Qatar without an order or written permission from the embassy. In case of anything, the newspaper and the responsible persons will be prosecuted.

Dhladhla and Dlamini refused to sign, saying the story was in the public interest, according to the Zimbabwe chapter of MISA, who also issued a statement, and the Times of Swaziland. The pair recorded the interview, according to the journalist with whom CPJ spoke. 

According to MISA-Zimbabwe, the diplomat ordered embassy security staff to detain the journalists until they signed the agreement. The diplomat allegedly threatened to report the journalists to senior member of the Swazi Royal House, according to MISA and the Times of Swaziland article.

Al-Mulla called the Swazi police and reported that the journalists had broken into the embassy because they did not have an appointment or permission to be there, MISA-Zimbabwe said.

After Dhladhla and Dlamini were released, they went to the police and laid a charge of kidnapping against the diplomat, according to MISA-Zimbabwe. Neither journalist signed the document, according to the journalist with whom CPJ spoke. 

The Times of Swaziland article about the incident, published on October 6, 2018, quoted Assistant Chief Police Information and Communications Officer Inspector Nosipho Mnguni as saying that an enquiry pertaining to trespassing was being pursued against the journalists.

Swazi police spokeswoman Phindile Vilakati referred CPJ to Swaziland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment. As of October 24, 2018, Joel Nhleko, the ministry's principal secretary, had not responded to CPJ's WhatsApp messages seeking comment.

The paper published the article about al-Mulla's alleged assault of a street vendor on October 7, 2018. The report said that the diplomat admitted having a gun but disputed allegations that he threatened the vendor. 

Times of Swaziland editor Martin Dlamini told CPJ, “We are shocked that our journalists could be subjected to such treatment by an ambassador. This is not just a serious attack on the local media but displays disrespect toward the country. We will follow this matter until justice is served.”

A senior official in the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs told CPJ in an emailed statement that al-Mulla had agreed to an off-the-record briefing on October 5, but that Dlamini and Dhladhla had “misunderstood the agreed ground rules as the Acting Ambassador was surprised to find that he had been recorded throughout”, the official said. The official denied that the journalists were held against their will and said that if any evidence of a violation from a Qatari diplomat toward a journalist is found, “the necessary steps will be taken.”

See also

Two More Human Rights Groups Condemn Swaziland Police Attack on Journalist

Media Freedom Group Calls On SADC To Investigate Swaziland For ‘State-Sponsored’ Attacks On Journalists