MBABANE - Swaziland’s government is more than ever a royal family affair now that King Mswati has appointed six brothers and sisters to be senators. The royal siblings will join 14 loyalists, chiefs, traditionalists and cronies the king also appointed to fill 20 of the Swazi Senate’s 30 seats.
Ten senators who met the king’s approval had already been selected by Swazi MPs last week.
“Old wine in older wineskins. The royal label only adds less value and more expense,” said Andreas Zwane, a political activist who supports a constitutional monarchy for Swaziland.
No senator is ever elected by the Swazi people, and Mswati ignored pleas from women’s organisations and people living with disabilities to have a more diverse upper body in parliament. Instead he chose royal family members and cronies who can be counted on to resist all political reforms.
The appointments were consistent with the king’s choice of Barnabas Dlamini to an unprecedented fourth term as prime minister.
Swaziland’s prime ministers are always male members of the ruling Dlamini clan.
Palace sources say that royal senators and their loyalists are required to counter what may be the first real political opposition in parliament. Although MPs have no power and instead pass legislation presented by palace-appointed cabinet ministers and originating with the king and his advisers, some members of political parties, including banned ones, have hidden their party affiliations and won seats in the House of Assembly.
Former labour leader Jan Sithole heads the Swaziland Democratic Party, which has not been banned but was forbidden to run a slate of candidates in last month’s parliamentary elections. Sithole ran as an independent and won a seat representing Manzini.
Prime Minister Dlamini was originally appointed in 1996 to crack down on dissent after Sithole led a successful series of national worker stayaways. The strikes paralysed Swaziland for up to a week at a time but did not move Mswati toward political reforms.
Sithole said of Dlamini’s re-appointment as prime minister, “The writing was on the wall.” Sithole also criticised the constitutional ploy used to instal King Mswati’s choice for Speaker of the House, a politician appointed as an MP for that purpose.