1 November 2013

Swaziland: MPs Praise King On Their Knees

Swaziland's new members of parliament got down on their knees before King Mswati III to pledge their allegiance to him and one by one made a speech praising him.

This is the ritual at the start of the new parliament in Swaziland, where the king rules as an absolute monarch.

Each MP is required to make a speech lasting no longer than three minutes in which he or she is expected to tell the king how much they love and respect him.

The two daily newspapers in Swaziland had extensive coverage of the ritual on Friday (1 November 2013). Both the Swazi Observer, which is in effect owed by the king, and the Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, gave extensive coverage to the speech of newly-elected MP Jan Sithole.

Sithole is the leader of a relatively new political party in Swaziland called the Swaziland Democratic Party (SWADEPA). All political parties were banned from taking part in Swaziland's national election on 20 September 2013, but Sithole stood as an individual, even though his political affiliations were well-known.

SWADEPA wants political reform in Swaziland, including an un-banning of political parties and greater freedom of speech and of assembly.

The Times of Swaziland reported Sithole 'pledged support' to the king in a five-minute speech in the ceremony at Lozitha Palace. The newspaper reported Sithole said his party respected the king and praised him for introducing a new constitution into Swaziland in 2005.

The Swazi Observer reported Sithole said he was not going to dump his party now that he was MP.

The Observer also reported that many of the new MPs and senators praised the king for reappointing Barnabas Dlamini, as Prime Minister. Dlamini has a controversial record as a serial human rights violator in Swaziland.

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