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Tuesday, 4 December, 2001, 20:08 GMT
Profile: Troubled King Mswati
King Mswati III of Swaziland
Mswati runs a large family and a small kingdom
By Bhekie Matsebula in Mbabane

King Mswati III has not had much peace of mind since he was first married and nor has he had any peace on the political front.

The latest upset centres around the death of four of his close associates in the past week, amid rumours that they were bewitched.


It has been our advice to the king that he must concentrate on one thing at a time. He must stop mixing family affairs with national issues

Senior Prince

The 33-year old King who has been on the throne since the death of his father in 1986 also fell ill earlier this year. He was understood to be suffering from stress.

Mswati admitted then that it could be difficult to cope with the pressure of work.

"I find very little time with my family most of the time. I normally work until 11pm... and this makes me feel stressed because I'm being over-worked, but I have to do everything possible to satisfy my people," he told me in an interview at the Ludzidzini royal residence.

King Mswati has been described as arrogant like his 19th century forefathers, King Mswati I and King Mswati II.

Restless democrats

Swazi history tells us that these two kings ruled Swaziland for less than 10 years each because of their "aggressive" attitude towards family conflicts in the royal household.

The reigning monarch has certainly refused to move on the growing calls by restless pro-democracy activists to hold multi-party elections and reform Africa's last absolute monarchy. One of their leaders is in detention awaiting trial.

At a time when most of Africa shunned the then apartheid regime in neighbouring South Africa, the kingdom invited the President PW Botha, to King Mswati's coronation.

He also has to battle with complex family affairs, involving the seven official wives he married through Swazi custom and tradition.

The king now has two more fiancées to look after, in addition to his wives and 15 children.

Controversial Queen

"It has been our advice to the king that he must concentrate on one thing at a time."

"He must stop mixing family affairs with national issues because that's the thing that caused the stress he suffered early this year," said a senior Prince who is very close to the king.

Queen LaMbikiza
Queen LaMbikiza is a practising lawyer

King Mswati has over 200 brothers and sisters and he has the task of taking care of them all, financially and otherwise.

He depends on the profits from the royal-owned company, Tibiyo TakaNgwane, which was established by the late King Sobhuza II to provide for his offspring.

On the social front, King Mswati has had to contend with repeated controversy surrounding his first wife, Queen LaMbikiza (born Sibonelo Mngomezulu).

She defied a royal tradition that the queen could not have a public job when she trained as a lawyer and is now an advocate of law at the high court.

Royal sources say that she is trying to ensure that her first-born son, Prince Lindani, succeeds to the throne. They say that she always refers to him as "His Majesty" in front of the king.

Misleading

What is most interesting is that the young monarch is aware that the people around him, especially the Swazi National Council, that advises him on various political, economic and traditional issues sometimes mislead him.

On his return from this year's New York World Summit on HIV and Aids held, King Mswati said that the council had made him sign a decree that nearly cost Swaziland dearly internationally.


I must admit that when I signed this decree (Decree No 2 of 2001), I did not read it at all. I just signed it

King Mswati III

Decree No 2 of 2001, announced the banning of newspapers, stopped the courts hearing matters that are already with the king and contained many other controversial issues.

"I must admit that when I signed this decree (Decree No 2 of 2001), I did not read it at all. I just signed it," he told journalists soon after his arrival.

He has also crossed the Swazi National Council by his openness to the press. The Council tried to screen him from awkward questions but he responded by banning the advisory body from his press conferences.

Although the decree was reversed, some of his opponents are languishing behind bars while others are in exile.

Royal record

While some accuse him of arrogance, he is always seen with a smile on his face and despite his royal position, maintains the Swazi custom of bowing to his elders.

With over 25% of his subject HIV positive, King Mswati is engaged in a number of HIV and Aids campaigns locally, regionally and internationally.

He is in the process of recording an album by world-renowned musicians like Michael Jackson to raise funds for Aids orphans in Africa.

He has travelled extensively in search of funds for the more than 70,000 Aids orphans in Swaziland.

His trips have yielded good results, including a promise to build a new orphanage in Siteki, in eastern Swaziland.

Before King Mswati went into seclusion in preparation of the Incwala ( fresh fruit-eating) ceremony to be danced later this month, he made it clear that when he returns, he will introduce major changes in government and the traditional structures.

This could spell bad news for some of those who are currently his closest advisors.

See also:

26 Oct 01 | Africa
Swaziland dissent over no-sex ban
28 Sep 01 | Africa
Swazi king takes eighth wife
17 Sep 01 | Africa
Swazi King sex ban
25 Jul 01 | Africa
Swazi king bows to pressure
25 Jun 01 | Africa
Anger at Swazi media decree
06 Nov 00 | Africa
Swazis protest at king's rule
31 Aug 00 | Africa
No new bride for Swazi king
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Swaziland
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