24 April 2017

Swaziland: Swazi King's 'God Delusion'

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King Mswati III, who rules as an absolute monarch over the destitute kingdom of Swaziland, appears to have a God delusion.

The King and his family say they have a direct-line to God. In 2013, King Mswati's elder brother, Prince Masitsela Dlamini, told African Eye News Service that God had given the royal family authority to rule over other Swazi clans. 'The Dlaminis are closer to God,' said Dlamini.

In 2011, the King said God spoke to him through a TV remote control. It happened at the Lozitha Palace, near Mbabane. At the time the King told his subjects about his 'miraculous experience'.

The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom's only independent daily newspaper, reported in October 2011, 'His Majesty saw a miracle yesterday when he was preparing a sermon [to preach to a group of evangelical Christians.] The King said a remote control lay at the centre of a coffee table but something mysteriously brought it down.

'He said there was no person or wind that could have brought it down. The King said he realised that God was with him. It was Him who brought the remote control down.'

Reverend Jonas Dlamini, one of the king's preachers, said, 'The King preached to us. He was filled with the light of the Lord when he told us that God had given him a sign when he was getting ready to meet us. He said a TV remote on his table dropped to the floor with no one touching it and that is how he knew God was communicating with him.'

In September 2013, the King himself told his subjects he had received a vision during a thunderstorm and was told that the political system in Swaziland that puts the King at the head and bans political parties should from then on be called 'Monarchical Democracy.'

It helps the King and his supporters if people think King Mswati is chosen by God. It suggests the King has special abilities and wisdom. For that reason, his word must be obeyed. Those who speak against the King, speak also against God and who can dare criticise God?

Of course, King Mswati wasn't chosen by God. A political group plotting within the ruling elite of Swaziland chose him.

The Nation, a monthly magazine of comment in Swaziland, in July 2008 reported extensively about a documentary called Without The King that revealed how the present King came to the throne - and the manoeuvrings were positively Shakespearian.

Unlike in many societies that still have monarchs, in Swaziland the eldest son doesn't simply become king once the reigning monarch dies. The king is chosen 'by virtue of the rank and character of his mother in accordance with Swazi law and custom'. But the part of Swazi law and custom relating to the selection of a successor to a king is unknown to a majority of ordinary Swazi. It may include the mother to the heir.

The Nation reported, 'In the documentary, King Mswati III shed some light on how he got to know that he would be the next King of Swaziland.

'He said then he was about 12½ years of age and it was after the demise of his father, King Sobhuza II when the news were broke to him.

'King Mswati III did not say anything about his mother who was then an ordinary wife to the late king. It was not until the then Supreme Council (Liqoqo) removed the then Queen Regent for the biological mother to the then Crown Prince that she was appointed to office.

'The act drew reprisals for the Liqoqo members who ousted the then Queen Regent.

'After the King was crowned, the Liqoqo members were charged with high treason arising from their decision to remove the Queen Regent Dzeliwe. Some were found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment terms as high as 15 years.

'The King subsequently pardoned them.'

One biography of King Mswati says the story of how King Mswati, who was known as Prince Makhosetive as a child, became the monarch goes like this.

'King Sobhuza II had deftly managed to hold rivalling power factions within the royal ruling alliance in check, and so his death in August 1982, left a power vacuum.'

At this time Makhosetive was 15 years old and a schoolboy at Sherborne in England.

'In keeping with tradition, Makhosetive's appointment by his father was not publicly announced. Before his death the King had chosen one of his queens, the childless Princess Dzeliwe, to preside over the monarchy as regent until the prince turned 21 years of age.

'It was in keeping with tradition that she be childless, so that she would not involve herself in a factional struggle to advance the position of her own son. Factional quarrels broke out into the open, however, in the interregnum period, while the prince was [at school] in the United Kingdom.

'Continuing disputes led members of the Liqoqo, a supreme traditional advisory body, to force the Queen Regent to resign. In her stead the Liqoqo appointed Queen Ntombi, Prince Makhosetive's mother, who initially refused to take up the position.

Further disputes between royal factions led to his coronation as King Mswati III, at the age of 18, in April 1986, three years earlier than expected.

At the time, the King was the youngest monarch in the world.

'Observers saw the early coronation as an attempt on the part of the Liqoqo to legitimate the usurpation of Dzeliwe and consolidate their gains in power. Prince Makhosetive, now King Mswati III, acted quickly however to disband the Liqoqo and call for parliamentary elections.

In May 1986 Mswati dismissed the Liqoqo, the traditional advisory council to regents, which had assumed greater powers than were customary. In July 1986 he dismissed and charged with treason Prime Minister Prince Bhekimpi and several government officials for their role in the ejection of Queen Regent Dzeliwe, though he eventually pardoned those who were convicted.

Another biography of King Mswati says, 'King Mswati's first two years of rule were characterized by a continuing struggle to gain control of the government and consolidate his rule.

'Immediately following his coronation, Mswati disbanded the Liqoqo and revised his cabinet appointments. In October 1986 Prime Minister Bhekimpi Dlamini was dismissed and for the first time a nonroyal, Sotsha Dlamini, was chosen for the post.

'Prince Bhekimpi and 11 other important Swazi figures were arrested in June 1987. [Prince] Mfanasibili, [Prince] Bhekimpi, and eight others were convicted of high treason. Eight of those convicted, however, were eventually pardoned.

In 2011, court papers relating to the treason trial that was held in secret come to light after 23 years. The papers that had been deliberately removed from Swaziland after the trial in 1987 were unearthed in Namibia.

They have not been released to the public and might contain details about the plotting that surrounded King Mswati's rise to power. The papers might also remind the King's subjects that he is really only where he is today because of political intrigue.

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