16 May 2013

Swaziland: PM Bars Democrats From Swazi Senate

Members of political parties advocating for democracy in Swaziland will not be allowed to become members of the Swazi Senate, the kingdom's Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini has decreed.

Swaziland goes to the polls later this year to select a parliament, generally considered outside the kingdom to be without powers and simply a fig-leaf for King Mswati III to claim he does not rule as an absolute monarch.

Ordinary people are not allowed to vote for members of the Swazi Senate. Of its 30 members, 20 are chosen by the king and 10 are elected by members of the House of Assembly.

Of the 65 members of the House of Assembly, 10 are chosen by King Mswati and 55 are elected by the people.

All political parties are banned from participating at the elections. King Mswati claims that political parties are allowed to operate in his kingdom, but he has banned completely all parties that oppose his absolute rule and advocate democracy in Swaziland, because he considers them to be 'terrorists'.

The Prime Minister told the House of Assembly on Monday (13 May 2013) that members of the banned political parties, most notably the Peoples' United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) and its youth wing, the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO), would not be allowed into the senate.

He was responding at a meeting of PM's office portfolio committee to a question from Lobamba MP Majahodvwa Khumalo who wanted to know if he could elect a card carrying member of any of the proscribed entities in the kingdom.

Dlamini, himself was not elected Prime Minister, or even to parliament. King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, personally appointed him following the last election in 2008.

Despite the claims of King Mswati and his supporters that ordinary Swazi have representation in parliament, King Mswati is in complete control of his kingdom.

Last August (2012), at the Sibaya People's Parliament (a quaint idea of democracy where people turn up at a cattle byre and voice their opinions on topics of concern to them) speakers overwhelmingly called on the government to resign, citing its inability to control an economy spiralling out of control as a major reason.

The king claims that Sibaya is the supreme governing body in Swaziland and is above the king, but he ignored the peoples' voice.

In October 2012, the House of Assembly passed a vote of no-confidence in the prime minister and cabinet. In such circumstances the constitution requires the monarch to sack the government (he has no discretion in the matter), but King Mswati ignored this and put pressure on the House to re-run the vote, this time ensuring that it did not have the required majority to pass. Members of the House did as they were told and the government continued in office.

A number of prodemocracy groups have called for a boycott of this year's election. These include the Communist Party of Swaziland, Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) and the Swaziland United Democratic Front.

They describe the Swazi system of governance known as Tinkhundla as 'illegitimate, unpopular and a mockery to democracy'.

King Mswati has yet to set a date for the election. He has sole say over its timing.

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