Friday, December 9, 2011

Mswati III

Mswati III (born Makhosetive Dlamini on April 19, 1968) is the King of Swaziland and head of the Swazi Royal Family. In 1986, he succeeded his father Sobhuza II as ruler of the southern African kingdom. He is generally considered to be one of the last absolute monarchs in the world, as he has the authority to appoint the country's Prime Minister, members of the cabinet, and the judiciary. However, he is bound to a certain degree by Swazi traditions and he does not have the authority to choose his heir.

Mswati III is known for his taste for luxury and his practice of polygamy (although at least two wives are appointed by the state), and has been criticized abroad for pursuing his personal interests at the expense of his country, one of the poorest in the world. In 2001 he attempted to curb the AIDS epidemic by invoking an ancient chastity rite, the umchwasho, that banned women under the age of 18 from sex. Within Swaziland, Mswati is a respected and largely popular figure. However, his policies and opulent lifestyle have also triggered domestic protests and international criticism.

Early life
He is one of many sons of king Sobhuza II (who had 70 wives, 210 children and at the time of his death left over 1000 grandchildren) and the only child of Ntombi Tfwala, also known as Inkhosikati LaTfwala, one of the king's younger wives. He was born at the Raleigh Fitkin Memorial Hospital, four months before Swaziland attained independence from Britain. When he and his mother were discharged from the hospital they went to live at one of king Sobhuza's residences of Etjeni near Masundwini Palace. His birth name was Makhosetive (King of Nations).

As a young prince, Makhosetive attended Masundwini Primary School and Lozitha Palace School. He sat for the Swaziland Primary Certificate examination in December 1982 at Phondo Royal Residence and got a First Class with merit in Mathematics and English. He developed a great interest in the royal guard, becoming the first young cadet to join the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF).

When king Sobhuza II died in 1982, the Great Council of State (the Liqoqo) selected the 14-year-old prince Makhosetive to be the next king.[3] For the next four years two wives of the late king Sobhuza II, Queen Dzeliwe Shongwe (1982–1983) and Queen Ntombi Tfwala (1983–1986), served as regent while he continued his education in England, attending Sherborne School, before he was called back to take over.

He was introduced as Crown Prince in September 1983 and was crowned king on April 25, 1986, aged 18 years and 6 days, and thus making him the youngest reigning monarch until the ascension of King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan on December 14, 2006; he was also the youngest head of state until Joseph Kabila took office on January 26, 2001 as President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The king and his mother, whose title is Indlovukazi (Great She-Elephant), rule jointly.

Today he is Africa's last absolute monarch in the sense that he has the power to choose the prime minister, other top government posts and top traditional posts. Even though he makes the appointments, he still has to get special advice from the queen mother and council, for example when he chooses the prime minister. In matters of cabinet appointments, he gets advice from the prime minister. He ruled by decree, but did restore the nation's Parliament, which had been dissolved by his father in order to ensure concentration of power remained with the king.

In 2004, Mswati promulgated a new constitution that allows freedom of speech and assembly for the media and public, while retaining the traditional Tinkhundla system. Although Amnesty International criticized the new constitution as inadequate in some respects, Swaziland's reporters have told conferences with regional media houses (MISA) that they are generally free to report as they please.

In an attempt to mitigate the HIV and AIDS pandemic in 2001, the king used his traditional powers to invoke a time-honoured chastity rite (umcwasho), which encouraged all Swazi maidens to abstain from sexual relations for five years. This rite banned sexual relations for Swazis under 18 years of age from 9 September 2001 and 19 August 2005, but just two months after imposing the ban, he violated this decree when he married a 17-year-old girl, who became his 13th wife. As per custom, he was fined a cow by members of her regiment, which he duly paid.

The king currently has fourteen wives and 23 children. A Swazi king's first two wives are chosen for him by the national councillors. There are complex rules on succession. According to tradition, he can only marry his fiancées after they have fallen pregnant, proving they can bear heirs. Until then, they are termed liphovela, or "brides".

Mswati's reign has brought some changes in the government and political transformation. However, critics such as the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) believe that these changes are solely aimed at strengthening and perpetuating the traditional order.

The king faced substantial criticism for his handling of the HIV/AIDS crisis. In 2000, he announced in a parliamentary debate that all HIV-positive people should be "sterilized and branded".

Mswati III is generally considered to be an absolute monarch, and international media has frequently portrayed him as a dictator with few checks and balances. Supporters of the king argue[citation needed] that although he is not entirely bound by the Constitution, he is bound by tradition and shares power with the Queen Mother, and is therefore not an "absolute" monarch. They also claim that both the Empress[clarification needed] and the Tinkhundla system are popular in Swaziland as they represent the wishes of the aristocracy.

An unofficial referendum was held by the Constitutional Draft Committee headed by Prince David during the constitutional review process[clarification needed]. Before then, two more reviews had been held by Vusela, a committee headed by Prince Mahlalengangeni, and another unofficial referendum[specify], which was headed by Prince Mangaliso. However, critics argue that there has never been an actual or official referendum prior to the introduction of the new constitution.

Mswati has been criticized for his lifestyle, especially by the media. Following criticism of his purchase of luxury cars, including a $500,000 luxury automobile, he banned the photography of his vehicles. According to the former CEO of the Office of the king, the purchases were personally funded and the king of Swaziland earns a high salary as Head of State, has investments within and outside the country and owns an unspecified amount of shares in different companies within Swaziland.

According to the Forbes 2009 list of the World's Richest Royals, king Mswati is worth a reported $200 Million USD. This does not include a sum of about $10 Billion USD that his father king Sobhuza II put in trust for the Swazi nation during his reign, in which Mswati III is the trustee.

In January 2004 the Times of Swaziland reported that the king requested his government to spend about $15-million to redecorate three main palaces and build others for each of his 11 wives. The Prime Minister's Office issued a press statement saying the article in the Times of Swaziland was "reckless and untrue" and that the proposal was for the construction of 5 State Houses, not Palaces, and the cost was only E19.9 million. Later that year the go-ahead was given to build five new palaces at a cost of more than $4-million out of public funds.

In August 2008, Swazi scouts marched through the capital protesting against the cost of a shopping spree taken abroad by nine of the King's thirteen wives. The demonstration was organized by Positive Living, a non-governmental organization for Swazi women living with AIDS.

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