4 October 2012

Swaziland: MPs Vote to Kick Out Cabinet

Photo: Taurai Maduna/IRIN
King Mswati III: According to the Constitution, if the prime minister does not resign the king must sack either the government or the entire Parliament.


There is a battle royal looming in Swaziland after the country's much-maligned and justifiably-derided parliament took an incredible, historic step yesterday - by passing a no confidence motion in the Cabinet.

Usually little more than a rubber-stamp for the wishes of King Mswati III and his Cabinet cronies, the Swazi parliament took its astonishing decision over the controversial Cabinet decision last week to switch off SPTC's Fixedfones and data components - leaving thousands of people with expensive and useless gadgets.

42 MPs voted to kick out the Cabinet - leaving the King with a very tough decision. Does he follow the constitution that compels him to dissolve the Cabinet if more than 3/5ths of MPs support a no confidence motion? Or does he stick with his allies - including the widely despised Prime Minister, Sibusiso Dlamini - and simply ignore the constitution?

Whatever he decides, parliament has shown that it does have teeth - even it if hides them pretty well most of the time - and that on this issue it is in step with the public. Firstly, it is clear that Swazis are very angry about the SPTC saga, believing that everything has been rigged to favour MTN, which is currently the sole mobile service provider and which boasts the King as one of its major shareholders.

And secondly, it is obvious that few Swazis have faith in a Cabinet that many view as corrupt and out-of-touch and that the MPs realised that they needed to make a stand - to protect their jobs come the 2013 elections. Indeed, the recent 'national consultation' or sibaya called on the Cabinet to be sacked.

"You will get to the voting centres and the electorate will hit you with these useless gadgets. Do this for yourselves and the Swazi nation," said Robert Magongo, MP, who told his fellow parliamentarians that they risked a rude awakening in the elections if they did not vote to kick the Cabinet out.

Needless to say, the Cabinet's response has been swift with the Attorney General Majahenkhaba Dlamini arguing that the motion was basically null and void because the courts had already ruled on the matter - and forced the government's hand.

However, he seems to have missed the point. The MPs were voting to axe the Cabinet because of the way the matter was handled - and because it was the latest in a long line of controversial executive decisions.

Meanwhile, in a press conference at midnight, Prime Minister Dlamini declared that he and his cabinet were "going nowhere" and that Parliament was "confused and crazy" because his government cannot defy court orders or undermine the Rule of Law - a gloriously ironic comment from a man who has done exactly that on numerous occasions.

But the final decision now rests with the King. Who will he choose to side with - Cabinet or Constitution? Either way, this remarkable event has begun a new chapter in the Swazi story.

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