Pro-democracy protests still continue in Eswatini with an unwavering demand for immediate reform of the country’s current political system.
By Ernst Calitz (Staff Writer)
King Mswati III, 53, is the last of Africa’s remaining absolute monarchs. However, pro-democracy protests calling for the king’s power to be curtailed have been going on for two months in the kingdom of Eswatini, starting in June of 2021.
Cebelinhle Mbuyisa, a local journalist in Eswatini, told the Guardian on 26th June 2021 that the initial protests started in response to the death of Thabani Nkomonye, who allegedly died at the hands of the police. Thabani was a 25-year-old law student at the University of Eswatini. “They delivered a list of demands, something like a petition. Calling for justice for Thabani among other things. The police fired rubber bullets and threw tear gas.” Lamented Mbuyisa.
Mr Mbuyisa further stated that: “On the 24th of June, the government banned the delivery of petitions. That’s when the real protests started.”
It was during these protests that violence erupted from both parties involved. Leading to the deaths of dozens of people, and hundreds being injured.
Allegedly, businesses which are owned or linked to members of the royal family have been deliberately targeted in Mbanane and Manzini. The protesters erected roadblocks and set fire to the aforementioned businesses and factories, according to Times.
The acting prime minister has claimed that the legitimate protests were “hijacked by criminal elements”. He further justified the deployment of the military, by stating that the authorities had to “protect critical national infrastructure” and to further enforce “coronavirus rules.”
Mbuyisa commented on the response from authorities saying that: “I’ve been on the ground specifically, I’ve spoken to witnesses. It’s state security officers killing people. The government is denying everything, they’re denying liability, they are denying being involved.”
Thokozane Kunene, the secretary general of the ‘Communist Party of Swaziland’ commented on the authorities attempts to mask the rising death toll in the country to the Times of London. Stating that: “The military is doing all it can to conceal evidence of its brutal murders.”
As of July 8th, the Guardian stated that the authorities in Eswatini have promised a “national dialogue” to prevent further unrest after the death of dozens of people. This was greeted by skepticism from opposition leaders, who fear that more violence could break out if substantive reforms of the current political system do not occur.
Mlungisi Makhanya, 43, a leading opposition figure, told The Times that protests would continue if no substantive change is seen. Stating that: “We have all grown up in poverty while the king and his family fly round the world in their jets and live in palaces. But we have reached a point of no return.”