Mswati props up throne with family, friends
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Mbabane - Swaziland’s King Mswati put his eldest daughter, brothers and sisters, family members, political loyalists and traditionalists in top government positions this week when he appointed his band of palace advisers, the Liqoqo.
The group ran Swaziland before Mswati’s installation and sets national policy as well as advises the king on the suppression of pro-democracy forces.
“It is important to understand not just that King Mswati runs Swaziland, but also who influences policy. The king’s cabinet ministers are functionaries who carry out the will of the palace advisers.
“The appointment of the king’s daughter is important, because it shows that, rather than reaching out for new ideas, the king wants to surround himself with a more cloistered and like-thinking group that will rule Swaziland by putting the interests of the monarchy first,” said Charles Dlamini, a political commentator and blogger who follows Swazi politics.
An absolute monarch, who forbids political opposition to his rule, Mswati said he considered members of the Swazi parliament not lawmakers, but his “advisers”.
While the rest of the world assumes that the Swazi prime minister is head of the government, as in other countries, Mswati refers to his prime minister as “a boy who works for the king”. The king always appoints a male family member to be prime minister.
Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini, appointed to a fourth term last week, praised the king for permitting parliamentary elections and for his commitment to the development and welfare of the Swazi nation.
At the swearing in of the cabinet, at which each minister took an oath dedicating himself or herself not to the constitution or the people, but to the king, Dlamini announced a new national slogan or “brand”, as he called it, to be used for marketing: “Swaziland: Africa’s New Promise.”
“Those who question His Majesty’s appointments are just jealous malcontents. His Majesty is the sun who gives us life, and we are insects beneath his toes,” said Joseph Ncamphalala, a senior member of the traditional warrior regiments who participate in national pageants.
Swaziland’s two newspapers commented favourably on the prime minister’s reappointment and reported the king’s other appointments without criticism or comment. “Especially the palace counsellor, their appointments are never questioned. The Swazi people are very passive about things beyond our control,” said Dorothy Tsabedze, a copy editor in Manzini.
Like any monarchy, those closest to the king exert the greatest influence on governing decisions. The Liqoqo works out of Lozitha Palace. Their deliberations, which are never publicly released, determine matters that are executed by palace-appointed cabinet ministers 30km away in Mbabane.
The king appointed his eldest daughter, Princess Sikhanyiso, 26, to join eight other princes and princesses on the Liqoqo royal advisory council. The other 14 members included two chiefs and several traditionalists, two other family members, including two brothers Mswati previously appointed as prime ministers, and long-standing loyalists.
“Princess Sikhanyiso has never worked in her life, although nominally she is a police officer. She was appointed to the force in 2010.
“She also sits on the board of MTN-Swaziland, the only mobile phone company in the country. King Mswati is reported to have a substantial personal investment in MTN,” wrote political analyst Richard Rooney in his Swazi Media blog this week.
A second group of royal advisers, the Ludzidzini Council which advises the queen mother at her Ludzidzini residence, were appointed this week. Three princesses and three chiefs will join traditionalists and two evangelical preachers on the Ludzidzini Council. Two Swazi evangelical leaders were also appointed to the Liqoqo council, reflecting the palace’s alliance with the pro-monarchy local evangelical movement.
At religious festivals held at Lozitha Palace, invited preachers quote Biblical passages as proof that all countries should be ruled by kings, that democracy is ungodly, and that citizens of democracies will not be admitted to heaven.
This week Mswati also appointed two of his brothers to head the Land Management Board that must approve the sale and registration of all land in the country. He appointed another brother, a chief and two key loyalists as regional administrators to oversee the affairs of Swaziland’s four regions.
Mswati also rewarded loyalists with appointments on the Board Restoration Committee, which is tasked with obtaining large sections of South Africa for incorporation into Swaziland.
“South Africa has never acknowledged the Swazi king’s territorial claims to Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. King Mswati wants to control all areas in Mpumalanga where Swazis reside and wants to extend Swaziland eastward to the Indian Ocean, taking all of KwaZulu-Natal that’s in the way,” said Alicia Khumalo, a real estate agent in Mpumalanga who is Swazi by heritage.
Political observers feel that Swaziland is more likely to be incorporated into South Africa one day than King Mswati is likely to double the size of his realm by expanding into South Africa. However, the Border Adjustment Committee is an ideal way for the king to reward friends, hand out lucrative posts to family members and to keep quiet former government officials who know too much about the way Swaziland is run.
“The irony is that the king’s body, that wants thousands of kilometres of South Africa and a few million South Africans to live in Swaziland under King Mswati, is paid for by South Africa. Seventy percent of government revenue comes from Swaziland’s allocation of South African Customs Union receipts, courtesy of South Africa,” Dlamini said.
Independent Foreign Service