MBABANE:A powerful royal clique allegedly linked to Information Communication and Technology (ICT) Minister Princess Sikhanyiso is vigorously working towards influencing the removal of Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini.
Princess Sikhanyiso, the then powerful member of MTN Eswatini Board of Directors-where she was representing the shares of her father King Mswati, was allegedly instrumental in recommending the appointment of the PM, however, a power struggle has since erupted within Cabinet resulting to the Princess intensifying moves to oust the Head of Government.
It has been disclosed that as the attempts by the Princess to remove the PM escalates; various political factions within the royal family has taken advantage and ‘hijacked’ the tension to lobby for their preferred candidates who might take over the powerful political position. The Princess is currently snubbing Cabinet meetings after she defiantly went on leave, on personal matters which senior insiders within the royal family said, might take ‘nine months’ or more, the leave was allegedly not approved by Cabinet.
Percy Simelane, the Government Spokesperson who responded on behalf of the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that he was not aware where the Princess was, however, he denied any knowledge of a tension between her and the Prime Minister.
“I don’t know where she might be. I am not aware too that there is tension between herself and the Prime Minister,” said the Government Spokesperson.
But preliminary findings of this investigation suggests that, as the power struggle between the Princess and the PM intensify, on or around October 2019, she allegedly tried to sabotage the authority of the PM by directing Eswatini TV Chief Executive Officer(CEO) Bongani ‘Sigcokosiyancinca’ Dlamini to stop featuring the Head of Government after the Queen in the news bulletin, the ‘order’ was allegedly communicated to Dlamini by Maxwell Masuku, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of ICT. The TV station is regarded as one of the key resources that enables the smooth operation of the government machinery.
It has been disclosed that the protocol within the State owned TV station suggests that His Majesty King Mswati III should be featured first during the news bulletin, followed by the Queen Mother, then Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers, however, the Princess successfully stopped that saying she was now the third most senior person in the country far above the PM.
On or around November 2019, the ICT Minister intensified moves to completely seize control of the TV station by submitting a Cabinet Paper seeking to remove Eswatini TV Board Chairperson Advocate Carol Ngcobo and Moses Langwenya, this was vigorously rejected by the PM and Cabinet. The intention according to insiders was to appoint a Board Chairperson who will then fire the station’s CEO, reasons behind the intended removal of Dlamini could be not be ascertained.
But insiders within the corridors of power, alleged that the move to remove the two Board members was stopped by Cabinet on a strength of a legal opinion by the Attorney General(AG) Sifiso Khumalo who submitted that to the best of his knowledge, the contracts of the members had not expired as alleged by the Princess “that was when an instruction was issued for the TV administration to submit the contracts to Cabinet”.
Reached for comments, Sifiso Khumalo, the Attorney General said he normally advise Cabinet on such matters and most of his advices were written, however, he cited client confidentiality that restrict him to confirm this matter.
“On this matter, it seems I provided a legal advice orally in a Cabinet meeting, you need to understand that I am restricted by client confidentiality to confirm such matters particularly where I provided advice” said the AG.
Reached for comments, Mncedisi Mayisela, the Eswatini TV Corporate Affairs Manager confirmed the matter that Cabinet requested the contracts, however, he said it was far above him, hence the CEO was the appropriate person to comment.
“I am aware of the matter, by the instruction of the CEO’s office, I submitted contracts of the Board members to Cabinet. However, this is far above me and the appropriate person to respond is the CEO,” he said.
When this publication reached Bongani ‘Sigcokosincinca’ Dlamini for comment on the matter, he confirmed that the Princess was now featured in their news bulletin as the third most senior person in the governing structure of the country. Dlamini further confirmed that there was an attempt to remove the two Board members, however, he referred further comments to the Principal Secretary Maxwell Masuku.
“I am aware that in our news bulletin, the Princess is now featured as the third most senior person before the PM. I am also aware of the attempt to remove the two Board members, however, the relevant person to comment on these matters is the Principal Secretary,” said the Eswatini TV CEO.
Responding to our questions on the subject matter, Maxwell Masuku, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of ICT said the Eswatini TV might be acting on the strength of a royal order to feature the Princess above the Prime Minister, however, he failed to disclose who issued that order.
“I think the TV station is acting on the strength of a royal order to feature her above the PM, I need to verify first lentasi(Palace) on why things ended like this,” he said.
When asked why the Princess was now absenting herself from public duties and snubbing Cabinet meeting, the PS said the Minister was available.
“The Minister is available and performing her public duties, it’s just that we don’t have activities currently, in the Ministry that might attract the attention of the media and put her in the spotlight. Otherwise, the mere fact that no one is acting on behalf means she is available,” said the PS.
A separate investigation further uncovered that on or around October 2019, the Princess tried to seize control of the Government Spokesperson communication office by lobbying for the Swazi Observer Managing Editor Mbongeni Mbingo and or alternatively, Phesheya Dube, Director of Media in the ICT Ministry, however, she was not successful the King allegedly ordered the renewal of Percy Simelane’s contract around December 2019 while he was in seclusion. The communication office is regarded as key in the functioning of government as it acts as a conduit pipe for the flow of information to the international community and the Nation.
It has been disclosed that the appointment of the Spokesperson loyal to the Princess and her clique was to be followed by the transfer of the Government Spokesperson office from the PM’s office to be under the ICT as the “Princess wanted all communications to be under her as the relevant Ministry”. Mbongeni Mbingo, the Swazi Observer Managing Editor, who was once tipped to take over Eswatini TV as CEO, allegedly enjoyed close relations with the Princess’ mother Inkhosikati Sibonelo Mngomezulu (LaMbikiza) and former Prime Minister Absalom Themba Dlamini. The relations between the editor and the Inkhosikati has grown so strong such that, on or around the year 2011, the Queen allegedly instructed Mbingo, the then Times of Swaziland Managing Editor to fire Dumisani Ntiwane, the then Sports editor for publishing a critical story about Manzini Wanderers. Reached for comments, former Prime Minister Absalom Themba Dlamini who was allegedly instrumental in securing the post of Managing Editor for Mbongeni Mbingo denied that he later lobbied for him to take over the Government Spokesperson position.
“I don’t want to respond to the question suggesting that I secured Mbingo the Swazi Observer Managing Editor post. What I can confirm is that I was not lobbying for him to be a government spokesperson,” said the former PM.
But Alpheus Nxumalo, the then Swazi Observer Managing Director confirmed the relationship between the former PM and Mbingo. In an earlier interview with this Swaziland News, Nxumalo disclosed that AT once invited him for a meeting at Royal Swazi Sun in 2011 where, he instructed him to employ Mbingo as the Managing Editor.
At the time, Mbingo was already in ‘good terms’ with Inkhosikati Sibonelo Mngometulu, hence he was enjoying more support to take over the royal owned newspaper.
“I can confirm that AT invited me for a meeting at Royal Swazi where he instructed that I employ Mbingo,” said the former Swazi Observer MD.
A questionnaire was sent to Queen LaMbikiza via her mobile number where she was asked to respond to the allegations, however, there was no response at the time of compiling this report.
Both Mbongeni Mbingo and Phesheya Dube failed to respond to our questions on the subject matter.
But in this midst of this high-level investigation, senior royal sources told this publication that Queen LaMbikiza was currently not in good terms with the King and there was more scramble within the family to control the affairs of government to enhance power and gain access to resources.
“The Princess is just used as a tool by powerful people, she is dividing Cabinet as some Ministers are now loyal to her while some are siding with Mandvulo,” said the source.
When this publication reached the Princess through her mobile phone, she ‘joined the fast lane’,avoided questions and terminated the conversation shortly after this investigative journalist introduced himself. A questionnaire was then sent to the Princess via a text message; however, she did not respond.
Reached for comments, Lucky Lukhele, the Spokesperson of the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SNN) said Princess Sikhanyiso was too powerful than the PM because government was run like a royal family business.
“She regards her appointment as more like running a family business, she has no respect whatsoever, the only person that she respects is herself and her family. So, if her family approves that she goes on holiday for therapy session, rapping for her music, to her, that’s what people must respect,” said the SNN Spokesperson.
Mbongwa Dlamini, the President of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) said their main concern as a stakeholder organization in the country was that the ICT Ministry was now more like a political playing ground.
“We are aware that when the PM visited various Ministries, he had difficulty with the ICT Ministry because the Princess refused to welcome him,” said the SNAT President.