Mbabane - Swazi King Mswati III has begun setting up a National Constitutional Forum as part of his promise to introduce political reforms, Education Minister Solomon Dlamini said Thursday.
However, as the forum will exclude now-banned political parties, it is likely to be opposed by opposition groups who in January brought the tiny southern African kingdom to a halt during an eight-day pro-democracy strike.
Dlamini told AFP that Mswati has ordered cabinet ministers to write to all formations falling under their ministries asking that they submit the names of five people, one of whom will be chosen to sit on the forum.
No date has yet been set for the first meeting of the proposed forum, which will negotiate changes to the constitution suspended by Mswati's father, King Sobhuza, in 1973.
Last month, Mswati promised US envoy George Moose that he planned to "embark on an exercise to improve the political structure of the country."
The monarch currently rules by decree and all party political activity is banned.
On March 1, South African President Nelson Mandela paid a brief visit to Mswati at his Lozitha palace near here to discuss political upheavals in Swaziland since the strike.
Political observers believe Mandela encouraged Mswati to embark on a constitutional negotiation process similar to that used in South Africa to negotiate an end to white minority rule.
While Mswati's plan includes organised labour, it excludes unregistered organisations such as the banned political parties and is likely to be opposed by the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU), which called the strike, and its allies.
The SFTU has called for a National Convention which will include all registered non-political and all unregistered political groups.