Swaziland's Senate chief said on Friday lawmakers should not divorce to avoid embarrassing the country's polygamous king, who has declared that only death can undo marriages.
Gelane Zwane, leader of the upper house in Africa's last absolute monarchy, said lawmakers should set a good example to young people in the deeply conservative country and warned them against the temptations of the flesh.
She also urged women lawmakers against allowing their position to make them "disrespectful" to their husbands – while telling men to keep their eyes off female colleagues' cleavages.
The edict – which Zwane said applied particularly to women – came after King Mswati III said earlier this year that only death can undo a traditional union, even though Swazi culture allows marriages to be terminated.
"Once people become legislators they lose their private lives," she said. "We discourage divorce because politicians should behave in a moral way to leave a positive legacy."
Zwane issued the edict at a recent workshop for lawmakers. Parliamentarians who had already started divorce proceedings were to hold off until after their term ended in 2018, she said.
She said there is a "misconception that when women occupy political positions they then become disrespectful and divorce their husbands".
She has therefore reminded lawmakers, especially female ones, "that when in this position, being embroiled in messy divorce disputes embarrasses the appointing authority", referring to the king.
Married 13 times
Africa's 45-year-old last absolute monarch has been married 13 times although three wives have left the royal household in recent years.
In May last year, one of his wives, Angela Dlamini, known as LaGija, fled the royal palace for South Africa, claiming years of physical and emotional abuse by her husband.
His other wife was kicked out after being caught in bed with the monarch's friend, Ndumiso Mamba, who was the justice minister.
Mamba resigned after his affair with the royal spouse was exposed.
But the long history of scandals has not stopped Mswati from picking more wives. In September he became engaged to Sindiswa Dlamini (18), who will become his 14th wife once she falls pregnant.
Zwane said she also wanted to dissuade men – who account for the bulk of Swaziland's 95 lawmakers – from forming relationships with female parliamentary officials.
"There are many beautiful ladies working here in Parliament, but don't be tempted to be intimate with them, even if you see their cleavage, treat them like colleagues," Zwane said.
"MPs have to set a good example and be role models to Swazi children who are future leaders of the country."
Facing increasing criticism
The tiny mountain kingdom elected only one woman to the lower house during a vote in September, although the king then appointed three more female members out of the 10 he is allowed to hand pick.
Swaziland remains one of the world's poorest countries, though its monarch is said to be worth around $200-million.
The king has immense power under the current system, which the African Union faulted for barring political parties.
It allows him to appoint two-thirds of 30-strong Parliament's upper house as well as the prime minister.
The king faces increasing criticism over his lavish lifestyle while 60% of his subjects live on less than $2 a day, as well as over his refusal to implement democratic reforms. – AFP