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Disregard for Swazi Rule of Law Continues Following Political Crisis
Freedom House is deeply concerned by the recent repeal by Swaziland’s legislature of a vote of no-confidence following apparent pressure from the country’s king. This repeal, and the blatant disregard by the king for country’s constitution, epitomizes the increasing deterioration for the rule of law and respect for democratic governance in the country.
On October 3, the Swazi House of Assembly, in an unusual act of independence, passed a vote of no confidence of the country’s prime minister and government. This vote followed a decision by the government to close down a popular cell phone service in favor of South African carrier in which the government and king have a financial interest. According to the country’s constitution, the prime minister is required to submit his resignation within three days of such a vote. However, since the vote the Prime Minister has refused to submit his resignation prompting a political crisis. King Mswati III, who is mandated by law to directly remove the prime minster following a vote of no confidence, has also refused to remove the government. On October 15, a vote to repeal the no confidence vote proceeded in the House of Assembly despite concerns over its legality due to the presence of only thirty-two (32) of its sixty-five (65) members.
Civil society throughout Swaziland has condemned the vote, accusing King Mswati III of ignoring his constitutional responsibilities and unlawfully supporting his political ally, the prime minister.
This crisis confirms a disturbing trend in Swaziland where the king continues to enjoy almost absolute control over the country. The recent actions taken by the king and his appointed government demonstrate a lack of consideration for the rule of law and the authority and independence of Swaziland’s governing institutions, including the House of Assembly, as written in the Constitution.