Swaziland: MPs Don't Understand Constitution

opinion

Photo: Swaziland Solidarity Network Forum
File photo: Swaziland anti-government protests.

For the first time it has been publicly acknowledged that King Mswati III took it upon himself to ignore a vote of confidence passed on his government by the Swaziland House of Assembly.

And, it is also revealed that members of the Swazi parliament do not understand the constitution, and some may never have even read it.

The House vote meant that the king should have sacked the Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini, but he chose not to do so. Instead, the House was forced to take a second vote to overturn its earlier decision.

Now, Mpolonjeni MP Nicodemus Mashwama has publicly said that parliament had no choice but to withdraw the vote of no-confidence, because the king did not accept it.

The Times ofSwaziland reported him saying the king's resolve on the matter automatically compelled MPs to rescind the motion.

But, in giving his explanation as to why this happened, Mashwama unwittingly revealed that members of the Swazi parliament do not understand the Swaziland Constitution.

The newspaper quotes Mashwama saying that the king, 'as the highest authority in the land, has executive powers to either implement or not implement the MPs resolution to axe Cabinet. He said the King's powers are enshrined in the Constitution.'

But, this is not true. The constitution does not give the king any discretion in the matter. Section S68 (5) clearly states that where a resolution of no-confidence is passed on the Cabinet by three-fifths of all members of the House the king 'shall dissolve Cabinet'.

There is no discretion for the king: the constitution requires him to do it. And, there is not the slightest ambiguity in the section of the constitution. Anyone reading it cannot be confused about what it says, which suggests that Mashwama and his parliamentary colleagues have never read the constitution.

But, Mashwama, told the Times that he believed 'the MPs' vote of no-confidence on Cabinet was merely an advice to His Majesty King Mswati III. He said it was then within the king's discretion to implement the advice or not.'

He went on to give a completely inaccurate description of the role of the House of Assembly in the matter of the vote of no-confidence. He is reported saying, 'The nation has to understand that whatever MPs decided either pro or against Cabinet, they were doing that as part of emabandla (committees) advising the king.

'If the king decides not to accept the advice, as he may elect to do so as the highest authority in the land, he has to be respected as it is his right.

'In the issue of the vote of no confidence, the king decided to not accept the MPs' advice. Protocol, as all Swazis understand, dictates that MPs had to automatically succumb or relent to the king's wisdom in dealing with the issue.

'Obviously the king's actions showed that he is not sanctioning the axing of Cabinet.

'For the sake of national progress and respect for the king, as the nation's father, we just had to reverse the motion. Every Swazi, worthy of his identity, will understand that you just can't continue maintaining a stance that is against your father,' said Mashwama.

Mashwama again unwittingly demonstrated that King Mswati rules Swaziland as an absolute monarch. He told the newspaper that members of parliament take an oath that 'states clearly that they are not only serving the nation, but the king as the father of the nation'.

He added, 'It is an honest fact that we backtracked on our decision to axe Cabinet.

'We did this because we believe in the wisdom of the king as the father of the nation that he has the best interest of the nation by not sanctioning the removal of Cabinet.'

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