Mmiso Russell Dlamini is the new Prime Minister of Eswatini. He was a surprise appointment by King Mswati lll at a mass meeting at the country’s traditional capital, Ludzidzini on Friday (3 November 2023).
He replaces Cleopas Dlamini who held the post from 16 July 2023 following the death of Ambrose Dlamini, of COVID-19 in December 2020.
The new Prime Minister is a development specialist who cut his teeth with the Christian charity – World Vision International for which he became country director in Rwanda.
He returned to Eswatini to head the country’s Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) until he was picked by King Mswati lll on 3 November to head the Government. General elections to elect 59 Members of the House of Assembly were concluded on 29 September 2023 under the country’s home grown non-political party system under which candidates run for Parliamentary elections on personal merit. Under the 2005 Constitution, the King appoints 10 Members and an allowance is made for an additional 4 women in the event women do not make up the 30% threshold.
Though political parties are not allowed to participate in the elections, their members are free to run as individuals. Political tensions have marked the kingdom after almost year-long COVID-19 restrictions greatly upset people. The country erupted in violent protests since 28 June 2021 that left an estimated 40 people dead. The violence alarmed the region, prompting the regional body, SADC to recommend a political dialogue. Political parties who believed that the eruption was evidence of a popular revolt to press demands for political reforms including an expansion of the political space and western style democracy called for inclusive dialogue.
Some members of the House of Parliament that stood up to take advantage of the public mood were subsequently rounded up and charged with instigating the disturbances. Two MPs, Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube were subsequently convicted and are awaiting sentencing. Another, Mduduzi Gawuzela Simelane skipped the country. He is now based in the United Kingdom from where he launched a political party – the Swaziland Liberation Movement (SWALIMO).
The dialogue was finally conducted, two years after the disturbances. It started on the 23 October 2023, and in line with the Kingdom’s constitution, was held inside the Royal Cattle Kraal at Ludzidzini, the Kingdom’s spiritual capital. People were bused in from all parts of the country to participate in the discussions. The King who opened the dialogue asked people to openly address issues that concerned them. Closing the meeting with the appointment of the Prime Minister, he promised that a report of the national dialogue would be compiled and used to inform subsequent policy reforms.
Opinion among political parties on their participation in the elections is divided. While the older political parties have traditionally advocated for a boycott of the elections, they are considered too weak. SWALIMO announced it would field members. Their spokesman subsequently declared that many of them had won seats in Parliament and will try to influence political reforms from within Parliament.
The country’s 2005 Constitution requires that the Prime Minister be a Member of Parliament. He is expected to be included among to the King’s 20 appointees to the 30 member House of Senate. An electoral college made up of the recently elected House of Assembly has already elected 10 Senators. They were steeped in controversy after it was revealed that prospective Senators had offered significant bribes to influence MPs to elect them. Police has indicated they are investigating the suspected corruption but there is little hope in the success of such an investigation.