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Swaziland’s King Mswati shuffles cabinet

Swaziland’s King Mswati III announced a major cabinet reshuffle in a move his critics say is aimed at punishing those who do not toe the line.

Amongst those fired is Justice Minister David Matse who refused to fire an independently minded High Court judge, Thomas Masuku, earlier this month.

Information Minister Nelisiwe Shongwe, who has recently been at the centre of a bitter wrangle over the control of the telecom industry, also got the chop.

Both the King and Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini have personal stakes in the industry.

“These changes are aimed at revitalising and re-engineering government’s machinery to run with vigour and renewed strength toward realising the major priorities of the Kingdom of eSwatini (Swaziland),” Dlamini said in a statement posted on the government website on Monday.

Dlamini also said on state radio the justice minister should be someone who “knows how to work with the powers that be.”

Opponents of Africa’s last absolute monarchy say the reshuffle is more about tightening control than reinvigorating cabinet.

“This very embarrassing reshuffle … is a way of punishing the principled former justice minister,” the Johannesburg-based Swaziland Solidarity Network said in an online statement.

The move comes as Swaziland struggles to stave off financial collapse and deal with a crippling judicial crisis that has paralysed the courts.

“This is a nightmare. It (the government) is fixated with settling its own little scores, regardless of the cost,” said the national daily “Times of Swaziland” newspaper in an editorial on Tuesday.

This is the third time the justice ministry has changed hands in two years – a mark of the often soap-opera style politics that govern Africa’s last absolute monarchy.

Last year Ndumiso Mamba, a close friend to King Mswati, was sacked as justice minister after he was discovered in bed with one of the king’s wives.

Foreign Minister Lutfo Dlamini was given the labour portfolio and replaced by former Public Service Minister Mtiti Fakudze in another notable change.

Dlamini enjoys an “intimate relationship” with Mswati’s powerful mother, according to Wikileaks. He almost lost his job in January amid claims that he had embezzled funds from the Kuwaiti Royal Family.