Mswati III

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Mswati III
King Mswati III 2014.jpg
Mswati in 2014
King of Eswatini
Reign25 April 1986 – present
Coronation25 April 1986
PredecessorSobhuza II
Prime Ministers
(1968-04-19) 19 April 1968 (age 53)
Raleigh Fitkin Memorial Hospital, Manzini, Protectorate of Swaziland
Spouse15 wives concurrently
Inkhosikati LaMasango (eighth wife)
Issue36 children
FatherSobhuza II
MotherNtfombi Tfwala

Mswati III (born Makhosetive; 19 April 1968[2]) is the king (Swazi: Ngwenyama, Ingwenyama yemaSwati) of Eswatini and head of the Swazi royal family. He was born in Manzini in the Protectorate of Swaziland to King Sobhuza II and one of his younger wives, Ntfombi Tfwala.[3] He was crowned as Mswati III, Ingwenyama and King of Swaziland, on 25 April 1986 at the age of 18, thus becoming the youngest ruling monarch in the world at that time. Together with his mother, Ntfombi Tfwala, now Queen Mother (Ndlovukati), he rules the country as an absolute monarch. Mswati III is known for his practice of polygyny (although at least two wives are appointed by the state) and currently has 15 wives.[4][5] Mswati III was also secretly funded and supported by the government of apartheid-era South Africa.[6]

Makhosetive's regime has been labelled authoritarian[7][8] with a large cult of personality.[9] Makhosetive's rule also saw a sharp increase in police brutality,[10] alongside the mass imprisonment and torture of journalists.[11][12] Makhosetive cracked down on 2021 pro-democracy protests, with dozens of protestors executed[13] and lawmakers arrested.[14]

Early life[edit]

Mswati III was born on 19 April 1968 at Raleigh Fitkin Memorial Hospital, Manzini, the son of Sobhuza II (who had more than 125 wives during his reign of 82 years),[15] and the only child of Ntfombi Tfwala, also known as Inkhosikati LaTfwala, one of Sobhuza's younger wives. He was born four months before Eswatini attained independence from the United Kingdom. When he and his mother were discharged from the hospital, they went to live at one of Sobhuza's residences, Etjeni, near the Masundwini royal residence. His birth name was Makhosetive (lit. "Kings of Nations", in reference to the heads of state who visited eSwatini that year for the independence celebrations), and his half-siblings included Mantfombi, a future queen of the South African Zulus.

As a young prince, Makhosetive attended Masundwini Primary School and later Lozitha Palace School. He sat for the Swaziland Primary Certificate examination in December 1982 at Phondo Royal Residence and received 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 on 21 August 1982, the Great Council of State (the Liqoqo) selected the 14-year-old prince Makhosetive to be the next king.[16] For the next four years, two wives of Sobhuza II, Queen Dzeliwe Shongwe (1982–1983) and Queen Ntfombi Tfwala (1983–1986), served as regent while he continued his education in the United Kingdom, attending Sherborne School (International College), before he was called back to ascend to the throne.


King Mswati at the Reed Dance 2006

Mswati was introduced as Crown Prince in September 1983 and was crowned king on 25 April 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 14 December 2006; he was also the youngest head of state until Joseph Kabila took office on 26 January 2001 as President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The king and his mother, whose title is Indlovukati ("Great She-Elephant"), rule jointly.

Today King Mswati III 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. Amnesty International has criticized the new constitution as inadequate in some respects.

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) under the patronage of a princess, which encouraged all Swazi maidens to abstain from sexual relations for five years. This was last done under Sobhuza II in 1971.[17] This rite banned sexual relations for Swazis under 18 years of age from 9 September 2001 to 19 August 2005, but just two months after imposing the ban, he violated this decree when a 17-year-old liphovela (royal fiancée) was chosen,[18] who became his 13th wife. As per custom, he was fined a cow by members of her regiment, which he duly paid.

Mswati has visited Taiwan seventeen times as of June 2018, and has promised to continue recognizing Taiwan instead of the People's Republic of China.[19]

Mswati contracted coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in January 2021, and later thanked Taiwan for providing antiviral medication that helped with his recovery. Mswati did not disclose that he had been hospitalized until after his recovery.[20][21]

In June 2021, the 2021 Eswatini protests broke out against authoritarianism, suppression of opposition, and misuse of funds. It was alleged that the king had fled on the night of 28–29 June, the illegal Communist Party of Swaziland alleged he had fled to South Africa while the Swaziland Solidarity Network claims he fled to Mozambique, both of these claims were denied by acting prime minister Themba Masuku.[22][21]

Wives, concubines, and succession[edit]

Some of his wives meeting the wife of the Japanese prime minister in 2013

The king currently has 15 wives and 36 children. A Swazi king's first two wives are chosen for him by the national councillors. There are complex rules on succession. Traditionally the king is chosen through his mother as represented in the Swazi saying Inkhosi, yinkhosi ngenina, meaning "a king is king through his mother".[23] According to tradition, he can marry his fiancées only after they have become pregnant, proving they can bear heirs. Until then, they are termed liphovela, or "concubines".


Mswati's reign has brought some changes in the government and political transformation. However, critics such as the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO)[24] believe that these changes are solely aimed at strengthening and perpetuating the traditional order.[25] His attendance at the May 2012 Sovereign Monarchs lunch, to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, caused some controversy, given criticisms of his regime's human rights record.[26]

Eswatini has been described as having been gripped by years of fiscal indiscipline, government corruption, and lavish lifestyles of the royal family. The nation has also been described as being on the brink of economic disaster due to these factors. Under Swazi law and custom, the king is vested with virtually all powers of the state. Despite Eswatini having a prime minister, Mswati holds supreme executive authority over the legislature and courts.[27]

Mswati's reign has been criticized for its several alleged human rights violations. His regime has been accused of using torture and excessive force to control the masses as well as blatant discrimination against various dissenting groups. His regime has been accused of extrajudicial killings by his forces, along with arbitrary arrests, detentions, and unwarranted searches and seizures of homes and property. His government has restricted freedom of speech, assembly and association, and has harassed activists and journalists. The government has reportedly targeted the LGBT community, labour leaders, and activists against child labour, among other groups. The courts took little or no action to punish Mswati's actions or the officials who committed the abuses.[28]

He has been accused of kidnapping women he desires to marry, although no case can be brought against him. In addition, in 2000 he allegedly called for a parliamentary meeting to debate if HIV-positive people should be "sterilized and branded".[29]


Mswati has been criticized for his lavish lifestyle, especially by the media; in one report he was accused of living a luxurious lifestyle while the people of his country starve.[30][31] In the 2014 national budget, parliament allocated $61 million (US) for the King's annual household budget,[32] while 63% of Swazis live on less than $1.25 per day.[33] Following criticism of his purchase of luxury cars, including a $500,000 DaimlerChrysler's flagship Maybach 62 luxury automobile, he banned the photography of his vehicles.[34] According to the Forbes 2009 list of the World's 15 Richest Royals, King Mswati is worth a reported $200 million.[35] In January 2004 the Times of Swaziland reported that the king asked his government to spend about $15-million to redecorate three main palaces and build others for each of his 11 wives.[36] 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 €19.9 million.[37] Later that year the go-ahead was given to build five new buildings at a cost of more than $4-million out of public funds.[38] In August 2008, Swazi scouts marched through the capital protesting the cost of a shopping spree taken abroad by nine of the King's thirteen wives.[citation needed][clarification needed] The demonstration was organized by Positive Living, a non-governmental organization for Swazi women living with AIDS.[39]

Mswati has a personal stake in a large portion of Eswatini's economy which is a factor in its below-average economic growth for a Sub-Saharan nation. As an absolute monarch, he holds the power to dissolve parties, and can veto any legislation parliament passes.[29]

LaMahlangu controversy[edit]

According to accusations by Amnesty International, Zena Mahlangu, an 18-year-old high school student, disappeared from her school in October 2002. Her mother, Lindiwe Dlamini, learned that her daughter had been taken by two men, Qethuka Sgombeni Dlamini and Tulujani Sikhondze, and she reported the matter to the police. Some time later, she was told that her daughter was at Ludzidzini Royal Village and was being prepared to be the next wife of the king.[40] She demanded that her daughter be returned to her custody, and threatened to sue.

Among the criteria for a liphovela (future bride) is that the girl must not be a twin; Zena Mahlangu was half of a brother-sister twin set, and therefore not eligible.[41] The matter went to the High Court, but Swaziland's Attorney-General Phesheya Dlamini intervened.[42] She has since had two children, and formally became the king's wife in 2010.[43]

Amnesty International said:

The king and his agents have violated the internationally recognized human rights of women and girls, including their right not to be arbitrarily detained and the right not to be subjected to forced marriage.

Name change[edit]

On 19 April 2018, King Mswati III changed the name of the country to Eswatini. The change was to mark the country's 50th anniversary of independence.[44] 19 April is actually the king's birthday, though the actual anniversary was indeed 6 September of that same year. Mswati III wanted the name Eswatini which is the ancient original name for the country and this change was to give up the previous colonial name Swaziland.[45]


Royal standard of Mswati III


  •  Eswatini : Grand Master of the Royal Order of King Sobhuza II (1986).[46]
  •  Eswatini : Grand Master of the Royal Order of the Great She-Elephant (2002).
  •  Eswatini : Grand Master of the Royal Order of the Crown (2002).
  •  Eswatini : Grand Master of the Royal Family Order of Mswati III (2002).
  •  Eswatini : Grand Master of the Military Order of Swaziland (2002).
  •  Eswatini : Grand Master of the Order of the Elephant (2018).[47]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Swaziland". U.S. Department of State.
  2. ^ Genealogy:SWAZILAND Archived 19 May 2018 at the Wayback Machine, World of Royalty
  3. ^ "King Mswati III is born | South African History Online". 19 April 1968. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  4. ^ Laing, Aislinn (18 September 2013). "King of Swaziland chooses teenager as 15th wife". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2 December 2013.
  5. ^ Bearak, Barry (5 September 2008). "In Destitute Swaziland, Leader Lives Royally". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 21 July 2021.
  6. ^ Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report, Volume Two (PDF) (Report). 29 October 1998. pp. 528–529. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 November 2009. Retrieved 6 October 2020. Individuals were paid to establish relationships and information flow, particularly in Africa. … Project Swaziland is described as follows. "Young King Mswati III took it for granted that, like his father, he would be furnished with the part-time services of an attorney at the expense of the South African government." Pretoria lawyerMr Ernst Penzhorn was employed at an annual fee of around R50 000 to "advise the King generally, accompany him to conferences, draft speeches for him, persuade him not to act in undesirable ways, and protect him from the machinations of undesirable characters".
  7. ^ Khumalo, Thuso. "Eswatini: King Mswati III sitting 'on a powder keg'". Retrieved 18 August 2021.
  8. ^ "King Mswati III, Africa's last absolute monarch, cracks down". TheEconomist. Retrieved 18 August 2021.
  9. ^ Redvers, Louise (19 April 2012). "Will the cult of Swazi King Mswati ever end?". BBC. Retrieved 18 August 2021.
  10. ^ "A first-hand account of police brutality in Eswatini". aljazeera. 16 August 2021. Retrieved 18 August 2021.
  11. ^ "Swaziland journalists harassed, threatened with treason charges over reporting on king". Committee to Protect Journalists. 30 April 2020. Retrieved 18 August 2021.
  12. ^ "Eswatini: Two journalists tortured by security forces". Reporters Without Borders. 7 July 2021. Retrieved 18 August 2021.
  13. ^ Laterza, Vito. "Can eSwatini's monarchy recover from the ongoing crisis?". Aljazeera. Retrieved 18 August 2021.
  14. ^ "Eswatini: Authorities must drop trumped-up charges against MP's and release them immediately and unconditionally". Amnesty. 29 July 2021. Retrieved 18 August 2021.
  15. ^ "'Mother-in-law' sues Swazi king". BBC News. 17 October 2002.
  16. ^ Simelane, Hamilton Sipho. (2005). "Swaziland: Reign of Mswati III," in Encyclopedia of African History, p. 1528.
  17. ^ Kuipers, Ludo (10 March 2014). "The uMcwasho Ceremony in 1971". Cairns, Queensland, Australia: OzOutback. Retrieved 26 April 2014. Photos of the umcwasho Ceremony in 1971, in which girls finish a period of moral restrictions and dance in front of the King.
  18. ^ "Swazi king drops sex-ban tassels". BBC. 23 August 2005. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  19. ^ Hsu, Stacy (9 June 2018). "Swazi king promises loyalty to Taiwan". Taipei Times.
  20. ^ "Eswatini king recovers from COVID, thanks Taiwan for sending drug". Al Jazeera English. 20 February 2021.
  21. ^ a b "News :: The Swaziland News".
  22. ^ "WATCH | Protests rock eSwatini, govt denies reports that King Mswati fled".
  23. ^ Hilda Kuper (1944). "A ritual of kingship among the Swazi". Journal of the International African Institute. 14 (5).
  24. ^ People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO); Dlamini, Ignatius Bonginkosi (31 July 2005). "PUDEMO rejects the Dlamini family constitution as it is meant to legitimize the continued oppression of our people by one family, King Mswati's family" (PDF). Swaziland: PUDEMO. Retrieved 26 April 2014.[permanent dead link]
  25. ^ Maroleng, Chris (26 June 2003). "Swaziland: The King's Constitution" (PDF). Paris, France: European Union Institute for Security Studies. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 August 2012. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  26. ^ The Daily Telegraph (18 May 2012). "King of Bahrain lunches with Queen as human rights storm rages". UK News. The Daily Telegraph. London, UK. ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  27. ^ "World Report 2012: Swaziland". Human Rights Watch. 22 January 2012.
  28. ^ "Swaziland" (PDF). United States Department of State.
  29. ^ a b Davis, Rebecca (10 May 2013). "King Mswati to WEF: Swazi people don't want change". Daily Maverick.
  30. ^ "King of Bahrain lunches with Queen as human rights storm rages". The Daily Telegraph. 18 May 2012. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
  31. ^ King Mswati is Bankrupting Swaziland: Mornachy not for Africa! Archived 17 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Ole Africa
  32. ^ King of impoverished Swaziland increases household budget to $61m, Agence France-Presse in Mbabane, 15 May 2014, The Guardian
  33. ^ UNDP Archived 5 August 2014 at the Wayback Machine, About Swaziland
  34. ^ Now only Mswati owns a Maybach! Archived 27 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine, City Press, 25 January 2009
  35. ^ Serafin, Tatiana (17 June 2009). "The World's Richest Royals". Forbes.
  36. ^ "king needs R100m for palaces for 13 wives". Cape Argus. South Africa. 13 April 2011. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  37. ^ "The Issue of "€1 Million Spent on Princess Sikhanyiso" and The Issue of "Building" Royal Palaces by Swaziland Government". Prime Ministers Office. 26 January 2004. Archived from the original on 26 November 2007. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  38. ^ "Swazi king gets go ahead for wives' palaces". Independent Online. 25 July 2004. Archived from the original on 30 April 2009. Retrieved 21 October 2009.
  39. ^ "Swazi anger at royal wives' trip," BBC News. 21 August 2008.
  40. ^ Amnesty International: "Swaziland: Human rights at risk in a climate of political and legal uncertainty,"Index No. AFR 55/004/2004. 29 July 2004.
  41. ^ Wayua, Muli. "A king, his culture, his wives," Daily Nation (Nairobi, Kenya). 7 December 2002.
  42. ^ "Swaziland's Royal Bridal Mess," CBS News. 4 November 2002.
  43. ^ " Uganda: Swaziland's King Mswati Iii Weds Again". 27 November 2010.
  44. ^ "Member States | United Nations".
  45. ^ "King Renames Swaziland to its 'Ancient', Pre-Colonial Name". 20 April 2018.
  46. ^ "Decorations of Swaziland".
  47. ^ Team, Internet. "President Tsai meets King Mswati III of Swaziland, attends state banquet". Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) in the Kingdom of Eswatini 駐史瓦帝尼王國大使館.
  48. ^ "Page 17188 | Issue 52712, 11 November 1991 | London Gazette | The Gazette".
  49. ^ 1995 National Orders Awards Archived 22 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  50. ^ "" (PDF).


External links[edit]

Regnal titles
Preceded by

as Ndlovukati
King of Eswatini