opinionBy Richard Rooney
The Swaziland House of Assembly has reversed its vote of no-confidence in the government, amid great controversy.
On Monday (15 October 2012) after an eight-hour debate members rescinded a vote that had taken place two weeks earlier. That vote, by a three-fifths majority of members of the House, was enough to force the cabinet to resign, in line with Section 68 (5) of the Swazi Constitution.
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.
Last weekend it was reported that the king, who is sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, was furious at the vote of no-confidence and he refused to see the Speaker of the House on the matter. It was widely interpreted that because the king did not accept the vote's outcome, a reason would be found to declare it void.
Within days of this, the House met on Monday to reverse the original vote. Only 32 members of the House were present for the vote and this fell short of the three-fifths majority the original vote enjoyed. There are 65 members of the House and the 32 present for the vote was only two members over the minimum number who must be present for the House to be quorate.
The votes on Monday were not recorded; Speaker Prince Guduza used the 'Aye or Nay' voting principle to decide the outcome, so the exact numbers who voted for the reversal can never be known.
There are doubts about the legality of Monday's vote. The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom's only independent daily newspaper, reported that on Monday the Attorney General, Majahenkhaba Dlamini had not been able to tell the House on Monday what instrument was being used to allow the vote to go ahead.
Chairman of the Lawyers for Human Rights Swaziland Mandla Mkhwanazi reported in the Times, said, 'My view is that if it takes two to tango, it should also take two to un-tango. By this I mean that since it took a three-fifths majority for the vote to be passed, it should also take the same number of votes to reverse it.'