Swaziland - Leadership

King Mswati's first two years of rule were characterized by a continuing struggle to gain control of the government and consolidate his rule. Immediately following his coronation, Mswati disbanded the Liqoqo and revised his cabinet appointments. In October 1986 Prime Minister Bhekimpi Dlamini was dismissed and for the first time a nonroyal, Sotsha Dlamini, was chosen for the post. Prince Bhekimpi and 11 other important Swazi figures were arrested in June 1987. Mfanasibili, Bhekimpi, and eight others were convicted of high treason. Eight of those convicted, however, were eventually pardoned. In early 1989, rumors circulated to the effect that Prince Mfanasibili had attempted to orchestrate a coup while in prison. Other rumors suggested that Mfanasibili was planning an escape from prison for the purpose of mounting a coup. After Mswati's coronation, royal infighting and intrigue remained very much an aspect of Swazi governance.

Mswati has also faced non-royal challenges to his rule. In 1989, Dr. Ambrose Zwane, a Swazi nationalist from the preindependence period was caught with pamphlets promoting a People's United Democratic Movement, which reflected popular displeasure with the endemic royal infighting. Also that year, Mswati appointed Obed Dlamini, a former unionist and labor activist, to the post of prime minister, in an unsuccessful effort to quell labor unrest, especially at the Havelock asbestos mine. In 2003, Mswati attracted international attention when he selected an 18-year-old student to be his tenth wife; the girl's mother accused Mswati of kidnapping after his aides removed the girl from her classroom, allegedly against her will, taking her to join the Mswati household.

The media have found it increasingly difficult to function with independence in a country where the monarch's reign is supreme. In September 1999, authorities charged the editor-in-chief of the Times of Swaziland, Bheki Makhubu, with criminal defamation for publishing a profile of a fiancée of King Mswati, the eighth wife-to-be. In 2000, Mswati gave in to public pressure by allowing a few reforms and releasing some political prisoners. Popular discontent, however, was increasing, with some citizens asking for more political freedom and an actual bill of rights.

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