IT’S DEFIANCE IN SWAZILAND AS CITIZENS STORM THE STREETS IN PROTEST FOR GOVERNMENT REFORMS


Daniel Tusiimukye K’abaasa An engineering student at Makerere University, Kampala.

Worth Noting:

  • The Government first unleashed the police to shoot peaceful protesters before banning the delivery of petitions. After banning of the delivery of petitions, Government unleashed the army and the police to shot protesters in the rural areas and towns and the situation subsequently manifested into chaos.
  • King Mswati who fled the country on Monday evening amid protests in demand for democratic reforms has ordered the arrest of pro-democracy Members of Parliament (MPs) Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mduduzi ‘Magawugawu’ Simelane. This was confirmed by Human Rights Lawyer Thulani Maseko when speaking to this Swaziland News, a newspaper in the country on Tuesday morning, the attorney said police allegedly refused to arrest the MPs, and he pleaded with the army to effect the order.
  • “It’s true, the King allegedly ordered the army to arrest the two MPs who are advocating for democracy. It is important to ensure their safety because it has never happened that a politician can be arrested by the army”, said the Human Rights Lawyer.

KAMPALA– King Mswati III of Kingdom Eswatini (Swaziland) on Monday night fled the kingdom to neighboring South Africa. This comes as violent protests threaten his decade’s long grip on levers of political and economic power. The demonstrations are said to be violent with businesses owned by the king being burned down.

This comes a few days after King Mswati’s commanding officer Senior Superintendent Clement Sihlongonyane told protesters at Siphofaneni that their Constitutional rights have been revoked. “Your Constitutional rights are revoked today,” said the police officer when blocking and shooting protesters on Saturday.

The 53-year-old king, who came to the throne 35 years ago at the age of 18 in 1986, rules by decree and is currently on the run after the poor subjects defied his decree banning delivery of petitions. His critics accuse him, and his 15 wives, of leading a lavish lifestyle and treating opponents harshly. He is accused of wearing US $1 million watches bought by the taxpayer’s money, rides expensive cars, builds mansions, yet his population of 63% still lives in poverty. He chooses a new virgin bride every year during their famous traditional Reed dance. It’s said that Swaziland has a poverty rate of 69.2%.

Addressing the Nation on Tuesday in the midst of political unrest in this tiny Kingdom of Eswatini, the Acting Prime Minister said that Government respects freedom of expression and banning of the delivery of petitions to Tinkhundla centres was not meant to shift emaSwati from raising grievances. “It should be clear that Government respects the freedom of expression and the banning of delivery of petitions to Tinkhundla is by no means shifting emaSwati from raising grievances,” he said.

The Government first unleashed the police to shoot peaceful protesters before banning the delivery of petitions. After banning of the delivery of petitions, Government unleashed the army and the police to shot protesters in the rural areas and towns and the situation subsequently manifested into chaos.

Pro-democracy protests intensified overnight on Tuesday in the country, formerly known as Swaziland, with government buildings, shops and trucks set alight. The private Swazi Newspaper has been tweeting some scenes of the unrest, showing buildings on fire in Matsapha, an industrial town which witnessed much of the violence.

Acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku said the Government was working towards normalising the situation; he appealed for calm and advised protesters to submit their grievances through email. Soldiers have been deployed in the rural areas and towns to shoot citizens.

According to the AFP news agency, soldiers were deployed overnight to Matsapha. There are chaotic scenes in the capital, Mbabane, where residents have been fleeing, with traffic jams leading out of the city and cars queuing at petrol stations for fuel. A shop assistant in Mbabane told the Reuters news agency: “I can hear gunshots and smell teargas. I do not know how I will get home, there is nothing in the bus rank, and there is a strong presence of riot police and the army.”

It has been disclosed that the army was deployed to control the situation at Matsapha on Monday evening, a few minutes after the King fled using his private jet. The police is also reported to have deployed there, and businesses and schools are shut. The soldiers immediately started opening fire protests intensified on Tuesday night with protesters targeting King Mswati and Government properties.

Some tweeters are reporting that the MTN Eswatini mobile phone network is no longer working. It has also been reported that the arrest has been ordered for two MPs who have been at the forefront of calls for democratic change.

HOW IT STARTED

A Pro-Democracy Revolution that began on November 2019 against Monarchical rules in eSwathini has gained weight. Gatvol citizens are burning properties & are threatening to burn his luxurious palaces.

The trouble began in May after law student Thabani Nkomonye’s body was found outside the city of Manzini. Police said he was a victim of a car accident, but students alleged the police were involved in his death.

Demonstrations erupted in response, originally organised under the hashtag #JusticeforThabani – calling for an end to police brutality, and have since morphed into calls for political change. Things began to deteriorate over the last weekend after the government banned protests – when people would gather to hand in petitions demanding change. Crowds rallied with banners and chanting slogans calling for King Mswati to make way for democratic reform. “True to form, this government responds to people’s grievances with the use of violence and force,” Mlungisi Makhanya, leader of the opposition Pudemo party, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa radio programme.

King Mswati who fled the country on Monday evening amid protests in demand for democratic reforms has ordered the arrest of pro-democracy Members of Parliament (MPs) Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mduduzi ‘Magawugawu’ Simelane. This was confirmed by Human Rights Lawyer Thulani Maseko when speaking to this Swaziland News, a newspaper in the country on Tuesday morning, the attorney said police allegedly refused to arrest the MPs, and he pleaded with the army to effect the order.

“It’s true, the King allegedly ordered the army to arrest the two MPs who are advocating for democracy. It is important to ensure their safety because it has never happened that a politician can be arrested by the army”, said the Human Rights Lawyer.

WHAT REFORMS DO THE PEOPLE WANT?

According to Mr. Makhanya, the leader of the opposition, young people want political freedoms and jobs – in particular an elected prime minister with executive power. Another key demand is an end to the royal family’s extravagant spending, as most Swazis with a job work in neighboring South Africa and send their earnings home.

“They are demanding an end to royal supremacy so that a lot of national funds are not spent on feeding one family,” he said. “It is unhealthy for any nation in the world to have powers that rest with one family at the expense of the entire nation.”

Mr. Makhanya says the country’s infrastructure and basic services are collapsing, including the health service in a country with the world’s highest prevalence rate for HIV/Aids. “Our people are unnecessarily dying because ambulances can’t access people because of the poor state of our roads,” he added.

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