April 13, 2005

Opposition fails in court plea to lift ban / Premier calls for 'positive' reporting on monarch

A ban on opposition political parties has been upheld after Swaziland's High Court has ruled in a case brought by the country’s two largest political organisations, the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) and the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC). Together with labour unions they had sought to challenge a new royal-approved draft constitution. The five justices cited a 1973 state of emergency decree imposed by Mswati's father, Sobhuza, that gave absolute power to the monarchy and banned organised political opposition to royal rule. The pro-democracy groups argued the constitutional process was illegal as it had gone against a 2002 decision by the Court of Appeal that ruled King Mswati had no legal basis to decree laws. The court also rejected a bid by the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) and the Swaziland Federation of Labour to block parliament from debating the new national constitution, saying they had no legal basis or mandate from their members to pursue political issues.

In the meantime, Prime Minister Absalom Themba Dlamini has stressed the importance of positive media coverage relating to the activities of King Mswati III. This recent call follows increasing tension within the royal spheres in the belief that the media had an agenda to dethrone the king. Dlamini highlighted to the editors and media owners the need for government and the media to establish good working relations. In his address, the premier told the media that it was not in the aim of government to muzzle the press. (South Scan, London / Media Institute of Southern Africa, Windhoek)

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