Princess Sikhanyiso Dlamini, eldest daughter of Swaziland ruler King Mswati’s 24 children, has been appointed to the Board of Directors of MTN Swaziland. The princess, who turned 25 this week and is older than the youngest of her father’s 14 wives, carries on the tradition of Swazi royal family members granted top positions on local corporate boards.
Serving with her on the board is former Swazi MTN CEO Themba Khumalo. Khumalo returned to the country after serving as CEO of MTN in Rwanda and Uganda.
“All big companies in Swaziland have to accommodate royal family members to their boards. The princess’s appointment signals that the time has come for a new generation … to enjoy that privilege,” said one Mbabane-based investment consultant.
Royal family members are on the boards of public and private enterprises, and are appointed by King Mswati, who is titular head of the royal Dlamini clan, to local, regional and national public bodies, including parliament and the Swazi Senate.
In return, the companies may feel they are given potential access to the thought process and decision-making of King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as Sub-Saharan Africa’s absolute monarch. In Swaziland, the king’s word is final, and he is said to have final say in all major projects and many quotidian decisions involving all sectors of the country’s life. Last week he bypassed the courts and cabinet to adjudicate in a teachers strike, ordering that the labour dispute end.
Princess Sikhanyiso graduated with a Masters Degree in Digital Communication at Sydney University in May 2012. At commencement, she told the Australian press that in Swaziland: “Most people have the Internet on their phones. I think most people in Swaziland are on Facebook.”
Subsequently, the fact checking website Swazi Media Commentary, reported that 4.3 percent of Swazis are on Facebook.
The country is one of Africa’s poorest, with more than two-thirds of the population living in chronic poverty. The economy has been on the decline for more than a decade. Thanks to the monopoly in mobile cellular communication MTN Swaziland has enjoyed since 1998, the company does good business.
In November, MTN Swaziland announced a profit increase of 238 percent over the previous year, from R18m in 2010 to R61m in 2011.
MTN Swaziland is the top performer at the tiny Swaziland Stock Exchange. King Mswati is believed to be a major shareholder.