Since Mario Masuku, president of the banned People’s Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) was acquitted by Swaziland’s High Court of a terrorism charge a lot of people have asked me how could it have happened?
They see some kind of sea change in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Could democracy be on the way, they ask?
Well for those who have had a little too much to drink in celebration of Masuku’s release here’s a reality check.
At the latest meeting of Liqoqo, the Swaziland National Council, otherwise known as King Mswati’s advisory council, there was Hell to pay following the news of Masuku’s release.
Prince Mahlaba – a ‘praise singer’ to King Mswati – stormed out of the meeting describing the Swazi Constitution as ‘rubbish’ because it took powers away from the king.
He reportedly believes the constitution granted people like Masuku rights to do as they pleased.
Prince Mahlaba conveniently ignored the fact that since the constitution came into effect in 2006, the king and his cronies have ignored it anytime they felt like it. Even Barnabas Dlamini, was appointed prime minister in contravention of the constitution. As were a good number of his government ministers.
Prince Mahlaba, a soldier by trade, is said to be an ‘influential’ member of the Swazi Royal Family complained to Liqoqo that the constitution took all powers from the king and vested them upon judges of the High Court.
Which of course is where they should be.
According to a report in the Times Sunday, an independent newspaper in Swaziland, the prince wasn’t the only one with a downer on the constitution. Unsurprisingly, ‘several royal family members reportedly believe the country is now under the leadership of the courts’, according to the Times Sunday.
The newspaper said Prince Mahlaba also believed the constitution ‘grants people absolute rights to misbehave in the name of freedom of expression and get away with it’.
Called to comment on these allegations, he said the constitution was crafted for the educated elite, saying he was uneducated, hence the constitution was not meant for him. (Or to put it another way, he doesn’t understand it).
The Times Sunday said Prince Mahlaba said he did not care much about the constitution, especially because things were beginning to change rapidly in the country. ‘He then talked about the cities of Mbabane and Manzini, which had begun to confuse him a lot when he drives around.’
The Times Sunday reported Prince Logcogco Mangaliso, the chairman of the Liqoqo, did not want to talk about the Prince.
‘He then politely wanted to know the person who leaked the information to the newspaper.’