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Eswatini: King Mswati III, challenged, "pray that God will show him the way"

The King of Ewatini, MSwati III, with his 15th wife

After more than 20 days of protests against the monarchy, the King of Eswatini, Mswati III, yesterday announced the appointment of Cleopas Dlamini as the new prime minister.

It is a new prime minister taking his place in the hierarchy of the last absolute monarchy in Africa. In Eswatini, a country sometimes better known as Swaziland, King Mswati III has finally appeared in public, after three weeks of protests against the monarchy. A monarchy that bends but does not want to break: after a long enigmatic speech, the king ended up announcing the appointment of Cleopas Dlamini, former boss of pension funds, as Prime Minister.

This decision comes eight months after the death of the previous Prime Minister, Prince Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini. The king's grandnephew and former head of government died in December after contracting Covid-19. Information that has never been confirmed by the government or the throne. Pending the appointment of a new head of government, Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku was at the helm. But the management of the health and economic crises has been catastrophic, going so far as to provoke the anger of the people.

In Eswatini, traditionally, the royal family holds by default the sovereign ministries, namely the Interior, Defense, Finance and Justice. Five members of Mswati III's family are currently ministers. However, without a prime minister, business slowed down in the small landlocked kingdom between Mozambique and the Zulu territory of South Africa.

A Prime Minister appointed and still not elected

The challenges facing Eswatini and its monarchy are fairly recent. The country has always had to face extreme poverty. However, its economy was saved by effective agricultural planning and urban decentralization that facilitates trade. Without counting, of course, on the fact that the country is endowed with a fertile agriculture, giving to Eswatini almost its food self-sufficient.

But lately things have gotten worse. For two decades, the kingdom of Eswatini has been 90% dependent on imports from South Africa. The few international companies established in the country pay very low taxes. And the banking sector, very strong, serves as the African tax haven of choice, but the kingdom benefits little from the funds that pass through its territory. For all these reasons, as well as a repression of the political opposition, civilians have taken to the streets by the thousands, asking for the first time in the history of the kingdom the end of the monarchy. The Covid-19 crisis, corruption and poverty have led the people to demand at least reforms.

In this case, the direct election of the Prime Minister was among the demands of the opposition. After a violent repression of the demonstrations, which left about thirty civilians dead, the king finally broke his silence. Mswati III simply said, “I prayed that God would show me the way. And a man who would bring the country back to normal and restore the economy has come forward ”. So the king chose a new Dlamini to take the place of the last, on divine advice. The people of Eswatini and the “satanic” demonstrators, as the king calls them, will therefore have to be satisfied with this decision. Sufficient to calm the street?

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