Swaziland’s absolute monarch King Mswati III has granted his Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini unlimited power to intervene in the business of any government department.
The move comes after the President of the Swazi Senate Gelane Zwane, questioned the power of the Prime Minister.
Neither Dlamini nor Zwane were elected to office; both were directly appointed by the King.
In Swaziland political parties are banned from taking part in elections. Elections which take place every five years (the last was in 2013) are only for 55 of the 65-member House of Assembly. The other ten members are appointed by King Mswati III. No members of the 30-strong Swaziland Senate are elected; 20 are appointed by the King and 10 are selected by the House of Assembly.
The King appoints all government ministers and the kingdom’s top judges.
News of the change was tabled in the Swazi Parliament on Monday (22 February 2016) although the legal notice had been signed by the King in November 2015.
The Times of Swaziland reported that the King had revoked the Assignment of Responsibilities to Ministers Notice 2009 which had been in force since the current ministries were set up.
The new legal notice N0.189 of 2015 was signed by the King on 10 November 2015 at Lozitha Palace. It confirms S70 of the Swaziland Constitution which states, ‘The King may, after consultation with the Prime Minister, assign to the Prime Minister or any other Minister responsibility for the conduct of any business of the Government including the administration of any department of Government.’
The Times reported on Wednesday (24 February 2016), ‘When asked by this reporter why he had waited so long to table the Legal Notice or working instrument, the PM said it had always been his intention to table it in Parliament and that is why his office had even bounded it to make it presentable to the legislators.
‘“However, with the sudden turn of events when my responsibilities have been questioned by the Senate President, Gelane Zwane, I also felt it was proper to inform the legislators as early as possible,” said Dlamini.’
This was a reference to an on-going dispute between the Prime Minister and the Senate President about the powers of the PM. In a speech at the opening of the Swazi Parliament on 12 February 2016 Zwane warned the PM about taking powers that were not his and said he was only ‘chairman of cabinet and leader of government business in parliament’.