- King Mswati of Swaziland on Friday accepted a new national constitution that safeguards monarchical rule, and appointed a member of the royal clan as his new Prime Minister.
- The whole nation contributed to this constitution, said King Mswati. "The man I give you can work with the King, and you will work with him. He is Themba Dlamini," the King told a crowd of 10,000 subjects in the main cattle kraal of Ludzidzini Royal Village, 20 km east of the capital, Mbabane.
Themba Dlamini, the ninth Prime Minister since Swaziland's independence from Great Britain in 1968, has for over 10 years run the royal conglomerate, Tibiyo TakaNgwane.
The conglomerate, which pays no taxes, partners with, or owns portions of, many large businesses in the Kingdom. The assets of Tibiyo TakaNgwane are intended to be held in trust by King Mswati for the Swazi people. But pro-democracy advocates charge that profits primarily benefit the royal family.
Mswati's brother, Prince David Dlamini, presented the King with a gift-wrapped copy of a new national constitution, which will not be publicly distributed until a Siswati translation is available. The prince gave no date for the document's delivery.
- The translation excuse is another ruse to delay the constitutional process further, said Elliot Mkhatshwa, President of the Swaziland National Association of Civil Servants. "But we know the constitution's content, and it is not representative of the democratic aspirations of the Swazi people," he added.
Speaking with Jan Sithole, secretary-general of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions in a joint interview with IRIN, Mkhatshwa said: "We foresee chaos. You can't have a constitution that says Swazis are entitled to human rights, and have those rights taken away when government determines they are not in the 'public interest'. The public interest is not defined. Any chief can tell you what to do."
Mr Sithole promised mass action to challenge the palace's assertion that all Swazis are behind the constitution, which was written by Mswati's brothers.
- We will take to the streets, Mr Sithole said. "We will test this constitution piece by piece. The authorities will respond the only way they know how, as they have in the past, with oppression and violence," he added.
King Mswati further secured a royal hold on governance by making half of his 20 appointees to the 30-member Senate members of the royal family or palace-appointed chiefs, who are considered princes.
Senators were sworn in on Thursday, hours after their appointments were announced. Each declared allegiance to King Mswati, promising to serve him and his heirs. Like the oath of office sworn by MPs last week, no mention was made of upholding a national constitution or serving the Swazi people.
King Mswati withheld the identity of his final Senate nominee, the new prime minister, until Friday, so as not to compromise the surprise of the announcement. Usually Swazi premiers and cabinet ministers are appointed from the House of Assembly, but King Mswati used his prerogative to make his appointee an honourary MP to fulfil the requirement.
Swaziland's Prime Minister and cabinet do not make policy, but act in an administrative capacity to carry out goals determined by the palace.
"Things are not good in Swaziland. We are not seeing a change of government with a new prime minister and cabinet, as you find in other countries," said Mr Sithole.
Themba Dlamini has a reputation for incorruptibility and is reportedly well respected in the business community. Political observers predict that the working relationship he has established over the years with the ruling authorities will help make his administration a long one.
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