Friday, May 23, 2008


From Swazi Media Commentary

Swaziland’s Times Sunday newspaper has started a debate that I hope will become a campaign ahead of the national election this year (2008).

On Sunday (10 February 2008) it reminded readers that only people with the surname Dlamini are eligible to become the kingdom’s Prime Minister. This ‘tradition’ should be stopped, it said.

The present Prime Minister A. T. (Themba) Dlamini may be reappointed by King Mswati III after the elections but this is by no means certain.

In an editorial comment the Times Sunday says,

‘If A. T. Dlamini is not reappointed, we will be expecting yet another surprise. Such a surprise, traditionally announced at the Ludzidzini cattle byre, comes after intense lobbying by traditionalists and those who are close to the Swazi power circles. Unfortunately such a selection is limited to individuals – deserving or not – whose surname is Dlamini.

‘We are aware of the lobbying that occurs around this period in the country, with different factions pushing for their candidates to be appointed. We are also aware of the people whose names are being raised by those close to the powers that be. Some are already enjoying honourable status as we speak.

‘However, it would appear we have run out of people (Dlamini candidates) who are capable of steering the next government, if any of the names put forth so far is anything to go by (and if A.T. is not retained).’

The Times Sunday goes on to say we should consider opening up the position of Prime Minister to sections of the Swazi population who do not have Dlamini as a surname.

The Times Sunday leaves the argument hanging in the air there.

The Times Sunday is correct. Of course, the best people for the job should be given the chance to be leader of Swaziland. The Constitution that came into force in 2006 does not limit the choice of Prime Minister to people called Dlamini.

What the Constitution does say is that the king appoints the Prime Minister from among members of the House of Assembly acting upon recommendation of the King’s Advisory Council (Section 67 (i)).

The King’s Advisory Council or Liqoqo is made up of chiefs and other traditionalists (Section 231 (i)).

What that means is that it is for the King to choose and he is not required to appoint a Dlamini.

Of course, in a real democracy it would not be the monarch’s choice. Members of Parliament themselves would elect a Prime Minister from among their number. The man or woman who could command support of the House would be Prime Minister until such a time as the House decided by a vote to remove him or her, or the Prime Minister decided to stand down.

The election that will take place later this year (2008) at a date yet to be announced will be the first held under the new Swaziland Constitution. This gives the kingdom’s rulers the opportunity to demonstrate to King Mswati’s subjects and to the world beyond the Swazi borders that Swaziland is becoming a modern democracy.

I doubt that the ‘traditionalists’ who really rule Swaziland will be willing to give up without a fight their influence by having the king select one of their own as Prime Minister.

I applauded the Times Sunday for giving an airing to the issue, now let’s get a proper debate going and make sure we get the right man (or woman) for the job of Prime Minister.


First published 13 February 2008

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