Republic or Constitutional Monarchy?

As the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC)’s Troika organ prepares to return to the country to consult with civil society members, the big and polarising question is what must be the demand of the political parties with regards the role of monarchy to any new democratic dispensation. The sticking question has been how do the leading political parties and the ‘democracy MPs', as the trio of Bacede Mabuza, Mduduzi Magawugawu Simelane and Mthandeni Dube are now commonly known, posture themselves on the polarising issue of Republic or Constitutional Monarchy.

Up until recently, the democracy MPs have been calling for an elected Prime Minister while all the political parties in the country, bar the Community Party of Swaziland (CPS), have called for a Constitutional Monarchy. With growing pressure from the public to do away with the monarchy as a whole, a conundrum has been placed on the laps of political parties: do they do an overnight change of policy position and embrace the public sentiment or stick to their organisational standing position on the monarchy. The CPS has been unequivocal that theirs is a country with no monarchy or where the monarchy exists within a Republic. What is clear though is that the call for dialogue is now a global consensus except that the monarchy is not prepared to give an inch, at least politically. SADC is trying to push for dialogue but the government has been playing mind games.

The writing is on the wrong

When the Chairperson for SADC’s Organ on Politics, Defence and Security dispatched a team of ministers to initiate dialogue the eSwatini government convened a group of lackeys and posed them as members of civil society. When the team of Ministers arrived in the kingdom they met with Cabinet Ministers, royal family members, a few government officials and some individuals handpicked by the state under the banner of civil society. Among those who were supposedly representing civil society is Sabelo Masuku, Pastor Kasaro from among others. The real civil society was meeting at a different venue and was tipped by CANGO’s Emmanuel Ndlangamandla of the SADC meeting.

When the real civic society bulldozed their way into the meeting, demanding to address TROIKA, the SADC ministers promised to come back to the country to engage the broader civil society. However, the government has since refused them permission to come back under some frivolous COVID reasoning. Meanwhile, the European Union office in the country, the USA embassy, the UK and Taiwanese embassy have all joined the call for dialogue. However, the government is refusing to engage in talks with anyone.

The Troika Ministers meeting in eSwatini 

Up to now, the king has not said anything publicly about the events of last week. When asked how PUDEMO would deal with the issue of Republic or monarchy Spokesperson Brian Sangweni did not give a clear answer. Said Sangweni: "The official position of PUDEMO is the creation and protection of a constitutional multiparty democracy founded on the will of the people. We do not specify whether the constitutional multiparty democracy will be under a Republic or a Constitutional Monarchy, the reason being that we want that dispensation to be born out of the will of the people and that is to say the people themselves will decide under which context it should be.

This was of course a departure from numerous public announcements of the party some going as recent as a communication done via Facebook live by the organisation’s President Mlungisi Makhanya. Meanwhile, Sive Siyinqaba, a traditionalist political party, is still firmly behind constitutional monarchy. The balance of power is shifting and people on the ground are beginning to question whether or not the king can still play a role in shaping the affairs of the nation in a new dispensation. Some say he has lost the moral ground to lead after commanding the army to kill unarmed civilians. These ones don't want anything to do with the royal family and this is evident on tweet upon tweet on social media.

To many, the king long lost it the moment he started killing his people. However, there is a section of the population that believes the king should have a ceremonial role and leave the running of the country in the hands of an elected government. This is a position that is seemingly supported by the democracy MPs even as they have avoided pronouncing themselves on this matter openly.