Serving as the Kingdom of Eswatini’s Permanent Representative to the UN was my biggest honour- Melusi Masuku

07 May 2024


Melusi Masuku, Principal Secretary at the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office, is a decorated civil servant who has also served as the Kingdom of Eswatini’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York. In this week’s civil servants’ blog, he talks about his journey from Hlatikhulu to the apex of Government administration.

Government Communication (GC): “Who is Melusi Masuku?”

Melusi Masuku (MM): “I am from Hlatikhulu in the Shiselweni region. I did my primary and early secondary education at Christ The King school in Hlatikhulu. I completed my high school education at Evelyn Baring in Nhlangano. Upon completion, I was admitted at the then University of Swaziland where I did my Bachelor of Arts in Law and LLB, which were separate courses then. I am a sports fanatic and played football for a local team in Hlatikhulu, Tycoons which played in the Shiselweni Promotion League. I grew up in a strict home so the university experience and the freedom that came with it was completely new to me. Luckily for me, I was able to survive. I can’t say I didn’t try to take up bad habits but I discovered that drinking, for example, was just not my thing. After graduating in 1992, I stayed at home while job hunting for about a year.”

GC: “When did you join the Civil Service?”

MM: “I joined in 1994. At the time when I graduated, there was already a lack of jobs within the law field. Luckily for me, there was a vacancy advert issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for an Assistant Protocol Officer. I took a chance and applied and I was lucky that I was offered the job. I remember I had to leave my family and move to Mbabane to live alone for the first time and that was tough. I do recall that I was allocated a three-bedroom house at Checkers only to discover, via one taxi man, that a

person had died inside that house. I was so shocked and I couldn’t event sleep that night. That was my last night sleeping in that house.”

GC: “Before your current role, what other positions did you occupy in the Service?”

MM: “a.) Principal Secretary, Deputy Prime Minister’s Office (2022- to date)

  • Principal Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2021-2022)
  • Eswatini Permanent Representative to the United Nations, New York (2017- 2021)
  • State Chief of Protocol, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2015-2017)
  • Under Secretary, Political Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2011-2015)
  • Legal Advisor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2006-2011)
  • Legal Officer, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2004-2006)
  • Counsellor, Eswatini Embassy in Nairobi, (2004)
  • First Secretary, Legal Affairs, Eswatini Permanent Mission to the United Nations (UN), New York (1995-2004)
  • Assistant Protocol Officer, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (1994-1995)”

GC: “Please share more about your career progression journey?”

MM: “During my tenure as Legal Officer at the Eswatini Permanent Mission to the UN, I dealt with legal matters, including treaty negotiations and drafting of international conventions, some of which Eswatini has ratified. One that I am proud to have been involved in were negotiations for the establishment of the International Criminal Court,

the so called Rome Statute. During this time, I also attained my Master’s Degree in Liberal Studies via a scholarship offered by the Roman Catholic Church to diplomats from developing countries serving at the UN. In 2004, I was promoted to the position of Counsellor at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Eswatini in Nairobi, Kenya. I didn’t spend a long time there as the Embassy was closing down. I spent about six months there and then the office was shut down and moved to the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. At that time, I requested to return home as I felt I had spent a lot of time away from home. Upon my return in the same year, I became Legal Officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2006, I was promoted to Legal Advisor in the same Ministry. There was then an opening for Under Secretary, Political Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2011, for which I was then promoted to. I didn’t spend long in that position. In 2015, I was appointed Chief of Protocol in the same Ministry and held that role for two years. In 2017, I was then appointed the Kingdom of Eswatini’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations with concurrent accreditation to Cuba, Mexico, Jamaica, and the Bahamas. In 2021, I was recalled home following appointment as PS in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs International Cooperation, which was another short stint. In 2022, I was transferred to the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office, where I currently serve as Principal Secretary.”

GC: “As a Principal Secretary, what do you do?”

MM: “The scope of the work of a PS is huge and demanding. The smooth running of the entire Ministry rests on your shoulders as a PS. As the overall supervisor and day to day administrator, firstly, you must know and understand the mandate of your Ministry. It’s also important to develop a healthy working relationship with your boss, your Minister. As a PS, you must also cultivate a healthy working relationship across the Ministry with the people you work with. The most important duty, though, is that of being a controlling officer in that Ministry. This means you are responsible and answerable on everything related to the usage of public funds by the Ministry. Officers have many ways of trying to get you to approve spending and it is key that you do due diligence in order to approve what is worthy and say no where it is required.”

GC: “How does one get to be a PS? Do you apply?”

MM: “For now, you do not apply to be a PS. I do believe that they (appointing authority) look at your career and experience before making the appointment.”

(Editor’s note: Principal Secretaries hold public office and are appointed by His Majesty the King, on the advice of the Civil Service Commission).

GC: “So far, what would you say the biggest highlight/achievement of your Civil Service journey has been?”

MM: “For me, it was representing my country at the United Nations. Getting that recognition is not a joke because it comes with being recognised by the Head of State. Even the appointing letter that His Majesty signs and you present to the UN Secretary General underscores that trust. I am just a boy from ka-Hlatsi and I do not come from a prominent family. It was also an honour to work with other peers representing their countries across the world. The icing on top was serving as Vice President of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, which happened during my last year in New York. Together with other colleagues from the five regional blocks of the UN, my role was to serve in the General Committee where I assisted the President of the General Assembly towards ensuring that the proceedings of the General Assembly went smoothly. My only regret is that I couldn’t Chair while His Majesty the King was at the General Assembly in New York because my tenure coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic and there were no physical meetings held during that time. During my time in New York, I also got to Chair a UN-based SADC Permanent Representatives Committee, due to the fact that Eswatini had also assumed Chairmanship of SADC. For two years, I was also Chairperson of the African group of Ambassadors based in New York during Eswatini’s Chairmanship of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA). When the country changed its name from Swaziland to Eswatini in 2018, I had the honour of communicating the new name by Diplomatic Note to the UN and to all member states.”

GC: “As a PS, you are also a Chief Advisor to the DPM. How do you prepare yourself daily to be always ready to give this advice as and when needed?”

MM: “Luckily for me when I got here, I found that my predecessors had established a culture of holding weekly Heads of Department (HOD) meetings. So, we meet every Monday morning to prepare for the week ahead and to keep ourselves updated on what’s happening across the Departments. That platform enables me to know exactly what issues are there in each Department. On top of that, I do make direct follow-ups with the concerned Departments if there are any outstanding issues. The DPM (Hon. Thulisile Dladla) is hands-on. Luckily for me, I worked with her at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and also, she was my teacher at Evelyn Baring. She taught me History in Form 4 and 5. So, I know what kind of person she is. Even on weekends, she calls to enquire about things so you need to be always ready.”

GC: “How does the role of an Ambassador differ from that of a Principal Secretary?”

MM: “There is a big difference. When you are an Ambassador, you are a Warrant Holder and only answerable for the diplomatic post you are in charge of as opposed to being a Controlling Officer, where you oversee an entire Ministry’s budget. As Ambassador, you report to the PS in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The responsibility and scope of work for a PS is broad. You also answer to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) as a PS.”

GC: “Based on your experience as an Ambassador, what would you say people’s perceptions of Eswatini and Government abroad are?”

MM: “I discovered that a lot of people do not know about our country. I think that is probably one gap that the Ministry of Tourism should look into, and try and explore to our advantage. When you walk around in New York and meet people, many do not know about Eswatini.”

GC: “The DPM’s office is responsible for numerous social safety net programmes. How important is it to ensure that such programmes are sustained and reach the most vulnerable among us?”

MM: “Recent studies show that poverty is still rife in our country. On top of that, we have other issues such as unemployment. Many people rely on Government to support them. Sometimes we do get criticism that we are turning the country into a welfare state but these programmes are necessary. For Government to stop providing social assistance it would be disastrous.”

GC: “What do you love the most about working in Government?”

MM: “What I love the most about working for Government is the opportunity to serve your country. I love public service and the fact that Government is well structured and affords one gradual progression in your career; that measured growth in a person’s career path. For example, I started down as Assistant Protocol Officer and I will be exiting from a Senior Management post. So, I think the availability of that progression is very helpful.”

GC: “What would you say are some of the challenges that come with your job?”

MM: “I think one of the challenges is getting your team to be in sync in terms of what you want to achieve. Another challenge is the disciplinary process within the civil service, which can be too complicated. This is an issue that the Ministry of Public Service should resolve.”

GC: “What advice would you have for someone who wants to achieve what you have achieved?”

MM: “My advice is, to focus and be humble. Be honest to yourself and conduct yourself well. Respect your superiors and all your clients, even people who come to you to request assistance, because you don’t know where tomorrow will take you.”

GC: “What are your aspirations for the future in Government?”

MM: “I am nearing the end of my career. Soon I’ll be exiting the civil service. However, I still feel that my stay in foreign service was short-lived so I would want to go back and serve the country abroad. I think working here at the DPM’s Office has enhanced my understanding of the needs of our people and I think I would use that knowledge in the foreign service to advocate for relevant support and partnerships, to respond to those needs.”



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