Jan Sithole: Swaziland activist elected MP

Jan Sithole, secretary-general of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) addresses a march through the streets of Mbabane 25 January 2004. Jan Sithole has been campaigning for change in Swaziland for many years

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Leading pro-democracy activist Jan Sithole has told the BBC he will be able to bring change to Swaziland, after being elected to parliament.

He becomes one of 55 independent MPs after last week's polls in which political parties could not take part.

Mr Sithole, 60, leads the Swaziland Democratic Party (Swadepa).

King Mswati III, 45, is Africa's last absolute monarch, with the powers to rule by decree and dissolve the parliament whenever he wants.

But Mr Sithole denied that he would be powerless to bring about change.

"Action takes place in parliament," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme, stressing he was still a critic of the current system.

The Swadepa leader, who was elected as an independent candidate, said one of the first things he would do would be to bring a bill of rights to parliament.

The constitution guarantees the freedom of expression, association and the press but laws enacting these freedoms have not been passed, he said.

For example, the long-standing ban on political parties has not yet been overturned, although they are now allowed to register.

According to official results, 46 of the 55 lawmakers were new to parliament, the AFP news agency reports.

While King Mswati's family has ruled Swaziland since the 1800s there has been growing criticism of his large family's lavish lifestyle at a time when many in the country live below the poverty line.

He recently announced that he would be taking his 15th wife, an 18-year-old beauty queen whom he spotted at the annual reed dance.

King Mswati (file photo) King Mswati has been criticised for his lavish lifestyle

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