14 October 2012

Swaziland: King 'Won't Act On No-Confidence Vote'

Photo: Darron Raw
His Majesty, King Mswati III (file photo): The first vote had cause a political crisis because the government, led by Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini, refused to resign and King Mswati III did not sack him, as he is required to do under the Constitution.

King Mswati III of Swaziland is refusing to recognise the vote of no-confidence in his government, an international news agency has revealed for the first time.

He is said to be 'extremely upset' by the vote and is refusing to meet with the Speaker of the House of Assembly on the issue.

The crisis began on 3 October 2012 when the House of Assembly passed a vote of no-confidence in the Swazi government by a majority greater than three-fifths. According to the constitution when this happens the king must sack the cabinet.

But, King Mswati III, generally recognised as sub-Saharan Africa's last remaining absolute monarch, has not done so. And, his government has refused to resign.

The Inter Press Service (IPS) news and feature agency reported a 'highly placed source' saying the king 'is not prepared to act on the vote because he was extremely upset by the House of Assembly's resolution'.

IPS reported King Mswati was refusing to meet with Prince Guduza the Speaker of the House of Assembly about the vote. In Swaziland, the protocol is that the king has to be officially told by the Speaker about decisions of the House before he can act.

The revelation is the first time since the crisis began that information about King Mswati's role has become public. In Swaziland the state-censored media and the self-censoring private media reported the cause of the delay in the king's action was because he was discussing what to do with advisers.

Some voices in the media blamed Barnabas Dlamini the Prime Minister for the crisis, saying that he should have resigned once the no-confidence vote was passed. However, the constitution puts the onus clearly on the king to sack the government. It is a constitutional requirement for him to do so; there is no allowance for him to do anything else.

The king personally appointed Dlamini as Prime Minister in 2008 in contravention of the constitution and together the king and PM picked the government. Many ministers, including the PM himself, were not elected to parliament, but appointed by King Mswati.

IPS reported political analysts saying the crisis 'has exposed the undemocratic nature of the Swazi system of government and that it has put Mswati in a precarious position where he has to choose between the will of the people and those he has placed in power'.

Swaziland government spokesperson Percy Simelane told IPS that the cabinet was still waiting for the king's decision.

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