Mswati III faces court af­ter name change

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A lead­ing con­sti­tu­tional lawyer and hu­man rights ac­tivist, Thu­lani Maseko, has taken Swazi­land’s King Mswati III to court for chang­ing the coun­try’s name and un­der­min­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to pa­pers filed by an or­gan­i­sa­tion known as the In­sti­tute for Democ­racy and Lead­er­ship (Ideal), Maseko has ap­proached the high court of the king­dom, chal­leng­ing the name change.

In his ap­pli­ca­tion, Maseko, who is the founder of Ideal, wants the court to set aside Le­gal No­tice No. 80 of 2018 as un­law­ful and of no force and ef­fect.

“All ci­ti­zens had a right to be in­volved through a leg­isla­tive process in Par­lia­ment or through Sibaya [peo­ple’s par­lia­ment at the royal cat­tle byre) be­fore a name change could be made.

“The name change has con­sti­tu­tional im­pli­ca­tions in as much as the name is en­shrined in sec­tion 1 and men­tioned at least 200 times in other pro­vi­sions of the Con­sti­tu­tion. The coun­try rat­i­fied the In­ter­na­tional Covenant on Civil and Po­lit­i­cal Rights treaty, which stip­u­lates that ev­ery cit­i­zen shall have a right and the op­por­tu­nity, with­out any of the dis­tinc­tions and with­out rea­son­able re­stric­tions.

“Ev­ery cit­i­zen had a right through to take part in the con­duct of pub­lic af­fairs, di­rectly or through freely cho­sen rep­re­sen­ta­tives. The name change had cost im­pli­ca­tions yet the coun­try’s econ­omy was slug­gish such that the gov­ern­ment was strug­gling to meet its wage bill,” ar­gued Maseko in his court pa­pers.

He ar­gued that the re­sources to be chan­nelled to the name change should rather be chan­nelled to­wards im­prov­ing liv­ing stan­dards of the poor.

He fur­ther sub­mit­ted that in de­fence of the rule of law, con­sti­tu­tion­al­ism and hu­man rights, gov­ern­ment and its agen­cies should ex­er­cise their pow­ers within the pa­ram­e­ters of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

“Ac­cord­ing to sec­tion 14(2), the fun­da­men­tal rights and free­doms en­shrined in this chap­ter shall be re­spected and up­held by the ex­ec­u­tive, leg­isla­tive and other or­gans or agen­cies of gov­ern­ment and where ap­pli­ca­ble to them, by all nat­u­ral and le­gal per­sons in Swazi­land, and shall be en­force­able by the courts as pro­vided by this Con­sti­tu­tion,” said the sub­mis­sion.

The ap­pli­ca­tion is di­rected to the King­dom of Swazi­land and the Of­fice of the At­tor­ney-Gen­eral, both of whom have not yet filed re­ply­ing pa­pers.

King Mswati changed the coun­try’s name in April, when the coun­try held its golden ju­bilee. Im­me­di­ately af­ter the pro­nounce­ment, gov­ern­ment press sec­re­tary Percy Sime­lane dis­closed that the tran­si­tion would be well man­aged so that peo­ple did not in­cur ex­or­bi­tant costs fol­low­ing the change.

Sime­lane told City Press that all na­tional doc­u­ments bear­ing the old name would be used un­til they were fin­ished.

“Doc­u­ments like birth cer­tifi­cates with per­sonal iden­tity num­bers will not be phased out, but if a per­son loses it the du­pli­cate will then have King­dom of eSwa­tini.

Mo­tor car reg­is­tra­tion plates have a lifes­pan of five years and when the five years lapses the car owner will have to then be given a new reg­is­tra­tion plate with the changed let­ters.

“On things like iden­tity num­bers, your num­ber will die when one ceases to ex­ist. The gov­ern­ment will not make sweep­ing changes re­gard­ing the name change, so peo­ple should not panic,” Sime­lane said.

How­ever, the pres­i­dent of Ng­wane Na­tional Lib­er­a­tory Congress (NNLC), Alvit Dlamini, be­lieves the coun­try should carry the bur­den of chang­ing all doc­u­ments with in­ter­na­tional bod­ies.

The leader of the NNLC, which was the main op­po­si­tion when Swazi­land at­tained in­de­pen­dence, called on in­ter­na­tional bod­ies to di­rect costs to the gov­ern­ment for dis­or­gan­is­ing them.

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