Tuesday, November 30, 2021
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eSwatini opposition leaders go into hiding as Africa’s last absolute monarchy cracks down

United People’s Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) president Mlungisi Makhanya told CNN on Tuesday that he witnessed military and police patrols on the ground.

“The army has been brought in to help protect and preserve,” said Senator Manqoba Khumalo, Minister of Commerce, Commerce and Industry for eSwatini.

But acting President eSwatini of the Economic Freedom Fighters accused the military of having a more sinister purpose.

“For now, we are on the run after soldiers were sent to kill leaders of political parties,” activist Nombulelo Dlamini told CNN.

The president of the National Union of Students (SNUS) is also in hiding, he told CNN.

“All we want is dialogue. We are not promoting violence. The government should involve its people,” said SNUS chairman Colani Maseko.

A burning barricade on the road in Mbabane, eSwatini, June 29, 2021. Protests escalated dramatically in eSwatini as protesters took to the streets to demand immediate political reforms.

Tensions continue to mount despite an urgent mission dispatched to the kingdom by the President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi, including the foreign ministers of Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The South African Development Community mission called for national dialogue and calm, Masisi said in a statement Tuesday.

“Frontal attack on human rights”

Last week Amnesty International warned that the eSwatini government had launched a “frontal attack on human rights”.

“Dozens of people have been killed for daring to demand that their government respect human rights, many of whom are human rights defenders and activists,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty Director for East and Southern Africa.

With a population of just 1.16 million, the kingdom formerly known as Swaziland is an absolute monarchy ruled by King Mswati III. He has full authority and is consulted on all questions concerning the functioning of the State.

MPs and opposition party leaders are calling for constitutional changes to allow democratic elections and remove the king from the parliamentary process.

“We want freedom where the king cannot interfere with anything in parliament,” said lawmaker Mabuza Bacede. “We cannot meet in parliament without the king, yet the king is not in parliament. If you pass a motion, that motion must be approved by him alone.”

Trade Minister Khumalo said the king agreed that if the majority of the population of eSwatini wanted to effect a constitutional change, they would be respected. But, he said, this “must be done through national dialogue and reform.”

SADC representatives will return to the country for a second mission to facilitate the continuation of peace talks with stakeholders on the ground, the regional body said in its statement on Tuesday. No date has yet been confirmed.

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