Swazi activist challenges country renaming

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A human rights activist has launched a legal challenge over the King of eSwatini’s decision to change the country’s name, arguing it is against the constitution.

Without prior warning, King Mswati III renamed the small kingdom of Swaziland on the 50th anniversary of its independence in April.

eSwatini means ‘the land of Swazi’ in Swati language.

Activist Thalane Maseko, who said he has brought his case to the High Court, accuses the King of acting outside of the constitution and failing to consult the nation.

“What law did he use when he changed the name of the country?” he said.

“The name of the country is spelled out in the constitution and the constitution is the supreme law.”

“Let us ask ourselves if the King can single handedly amend the constitution by legal notice,” he added.

Critics say the name change is proof of the King’s authoritarianism and could result in unnecessary administration costs.

Government spokesperson Percy Simelane said eSwatini was the country’s name before the era of colonial rule by Britain.

“The king only reinstated the official name of the country, that’s all. He didn’t need to consult to do just that.”

General elections are scheduled in the country, one of the poorest in Africa, in September.