‘A conditional love’: King Mswati's long reign became a sleepwalk into disaster

When journalist Patrick Bulger met the young Swazi king in 1983, a teenager who’d returned from boarding school in the UK to meet his subjects, no-one could have predicted how things would turn out for Eswatini

31 October 2021 - 00:04

King Mswati III, the playboy ruler and absolute monarch of the Kingdom of Eswatini,  was a schoolboy in Britain when he was taken from the proverbial playing fields of Eton and introduced to the “nation’’ in what was then Swaziland, in September 1983.

This theatrical power play, in which he was presented to the chiefs and elders as the future king at age 15, was stage-managed to save the monarchy from imploding in the power vacuum left after the death of King Sobhuza II a year earlier, in August 1982. Sobhuza had reigned for more than 82 years and had been chosen when he was just four months old. Few in Swaziland had known another king...

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