Eswatini Struggles for Political Reforms 

In the past weeks Eswatini has been plagued by violent clashes between security forces and protesters calling for democratic reforms. With over 70 people confirmed dead, over 200 hundred injured and billions of Emalangeni in damages, these protests mark the country’s most explosive civil unrest since the country gained independence 53 years ago.

The pro-democracy protest reached a boiling point after the submission of petitions to have an elected Prime Minister was banned, and police response to peaceful protests with violence (the use of teargas, rubber bullets, mullets and live ammunition) shooting and killing civilians. This led to protesters burning and looting properties and businesses that are linked to the king. These businesses are where the king has the majority of shares. As the pro-democracy protest escalated, internet access to the outside world was blocked for the whole country for a number of days while the strike raged on. 

However, at the time, the acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku consistently denied that security forces were killing civilians or that the government had shut down the internet despite confirmations from the MTN Group and other network providers. The internet black-out was clearly an attempt to disrupt the flow of information regarding the crimes committed against humanity by the king's government, to the international community.  In the midst of all this, the king who is supposed to look after the civilians disappeared when the nation needed him the most, he was so quiet as if everything in the country was normal.

On the 1st of July 2021, the king’s first born, Princess Sikhanyiso, who is also the minister of ICT spoke on a voice note which was broadcast in Eswatini national radio station and circulated through social media addressing the nation.

In her speech she told the nation that she had been instructed by the monarch to address the nation following the countrywide protests and chaos which had engulfed the country.  This was very strange and unusual for the country, a king asking his daughter to address the nation when the country was in crises.

She acknowledged the petitions that had been delivered to different Tinkhundla had assisted them a lot including the submissions made by some MPs regard to how the lives of citizens in the country could be improved. She said the acting prime minister had already alluded to the issue as being addressed. She advised that any concerns should be raised with the king who had always encouraged dialogue.  She also sympathised with those who had been injured and those who had their properties destroyed.

She admitted that the behaviour of some royal household members in their spending of the public purse had contributed to the current situation.  She assured the nation that they had listened and accepted several advices concerning the behaviour of the royal family, she asked the nation for forgiveness and for the nation to keep calm.  In her speech she also emphasised that the king and the royal family were in the country contrary to the reports that they had fled amid the turmoil, which did not justify why the king was not addressing the nation if he was in the country because it is the king's responsibility to address the nation in such circumstances.  

On the 1st of July 2021 the king’s daughter Princess Sikhanyiso held an interview with the BBC, contrary to her speech above, she denied that the people of Eswatini were protesting against the king. She blamed the country’s unrest on foreign mercenaries who had not only looted and burnt properties within the country but were also killing civilians.

Several reports have cited the king’s armed forces as having attempted to destroy evidence of their involvement in the deaths of protesters. Armed forces allegedly stormed the mortuaries in Good Shepherd (Siteki) and Nazarene Referral Hospital to collect bullets recovered from victims. 

Amidst the political unrest, on the 4th of July 2021 the SADC Troika Mission arrived in Eswatini on a fact-finding mission as they had been requested to facilitate the democratic reforms by the Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN). However, upon arrival there were attempts to mislead the delegation as the civil society was side-lined and members of the king's family and his loyalist were paraded as members of the civil society. However the Troika was set to come back after being alerted that they only met the royal family and the government side. The citizens who were pushing for democratic reforms, then organised a mass protest that took place on Friday the 16th of July 2021.  

As the nation was gearing up for the mass protest the king showed up after disappearing for almost three weeks and called for Sibaya (Cattle Byre) a traditional gathering in which the king addresses the nation. The king's decision to summon the nation to Sibaya on Friday the 16th of July 2021, after banning the pro-democracy protests against his government citing Covid-19 third wave was a political hypocrisy. And most Swazis were inclined to join the mass protest than attend Sibaya. 

The decision to boycott the king’s summons to the Sibaya at Ludzidzini palace was evidence that the nation was tired of being oppressed, the tipper trucks meant to transport those who wished to attend the Sibaya were empty or had a few passengers. Nonetheless the king delivered his speech to those in attendance. There was no dialogue. He continued as usual with his dictatorship and no one was given a chance to speak, he did not address the grievances of the nation and he never acknowledged that people had been injured or had lost their lives.

In his speech the king appointed Former Public Service Pension Fund’s (SNPF) Chief Executive Officer - Cleopas Sipho Dlamini - as the new prime minister.  The nation was not aware that the king was going to appoint a new prime minister.  The king ignored the voice of the people who have been protesting to elect their own prime minister. He also addressed the recent political unrest in the country and he announced the establishment of a Reconstruction Programme Fund aimed at assisting those that were affected during the recent riots, and that the government would contribute E500 Million. He also invited the nation to make a contribution towards this fund.  There was no mention of any funding for those who are still in hospitals undergoing treatment or for those who had lost their loved ones.

The king said it was unfortunate that people felt frustrated by the Covid-19 regulations which saw the banning of petition deliveries such that people resorted to burning businesses and killing each other. In his speech he denied the reports that he had fled the country or issued a shoot to kill command.

There were media reports saying the king had fled the country to South Africa and later to Mozambique, which have been followed by other reports that the king had unleashed his troops on unarmed civilians. The king denied it all and said all the reports were not true and that those who reported these stories were smoking “dagga”.

In his speech the king misled the international community into believing that he never issued that order “shoot to kill”. The fact that he did not mention the foreign mercenaries in his entire speech, yet Princess Sikhanyiso had mentioned it, misled the nation.

The peaceful protest that was held as the king delivered his speech was however met with brutality as members of the police and armed forces arrested and detained more protesters.  The country’s security forces also shot at protesters in a bid to disperse the pro-democracy protest.  People are living in fear, the harassment from the security forces is taking its toll.  In some cases children who had been playing outside their homes ended up badly wounded by the security forces. 

This has to stop, we are calling on the king to hear the civilian grievances and advocate for political reforms.  We are calling on the International Human Rights Organisations to intervene. King Mswati has to face justice for human rights violations and the brutal killing of his own people.  

 

By: Zodwa Juliet Dlamini

 

References: 

https://www.france24.com/en/africa/20210702-africa-s-last-absolute-monarch-faces-push-for-democracy-as-unrest-rocks-eswatini

https://www.news24.com/news24/africa/news/sadc-fact-finding-mission-wraps-up-visit-to-eswatini-with-mixed-results-20210722

http://www.times.co.sz/news/133099-we-are-still-in-mourning-cango.html

 

HOW MANY MORE YOUNG GIRLS IS PRINCE SICELO GOING TO RAPE BEFORE HE IS ARRESTED??

It is the BIG QUESTION the Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse SWAGAA and SWAZI VIGIL UK WOMEN are asking the High Commissioner of Police and His Majesty's government, is prince Sicelo also above the law like his father the King of Swaziland King Mswati III who is ruling the country under the 1973 decree?? That makes him above every law in the country, he is the law, all laws, all powers in the country are in his (King Mswati III) hands. All judges, government officials, public servants, members of police force, the prison service, armed forces are by definition under his direct command and therefore shall carry out orders from His Majesty the king. Traditionally, one of the king's references is: "he is always right, he never lies" (Umlomo longacalimanga). Hence, his word is final, no one can go against it. No court, no judge shall go against his word.

So the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act of 2018 that was passed was meant for the ordinary man not meant for the Royals!!!!! First, prince Sicelo raped a young girl who was at the University of eSwatini, he was not arrested, now he has raped another young girl at Ezulwini but still not in custody. It is said that the the first case was sabotaged by police Senior Superintendent Clement Sihlongonyane. He must have been warned by the His Majesty's Government that if he still wanted to put food on the table for his family he should mind his own business or else he would lose his job or be demoted from his position.

The Kingdom of eSwatini is lying to the whole world that they are protecting women and young girls by enacting the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence ACT of 2018. It is just on paper but not applied at real life. We as Swazi Vigil UK are joining the Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse to find out "UP TO HOW MANY GIRLS IS PRINCE SICELO GOING TO RAPE BEFORE HE IS ARRESTED?"

We Demand Women's Rghts in the Kingdom of eSwatini.

 

By: Khanyisile Purity Ndlangamandla

 

References:

http://www.swazilandnews.co.za/fundza.php?nguyiphi=1250

http://www.swazilandnews.co.za/fundza.php?nguyiphi=1243

 

Police Brutality continues in Eswatini

The mounting tension between the Swazi police and the citizens they are charged to protect is at its peak. Since the start of the pandemic there have been countless reports of police brutality towards those alleged to have violated Covid-19 regulations. The police are the main suspects in the death of Thabani Nkomonye.

Thabani Nkomonye was in the final year of his law degree at the University of eSwatini. He was reported by his family missing and was later found dead. His disappearance and death remained a mystery due to the alleged police cover ups.

There was a viral social media call for justice for Thabani and the end of police brutality which culminated in the organisation of a peaceful protest. The protest was peaceful however after the police dispensed protesters with teargas and water cannons. Some young people who were part of the protest were assaulted and arrested by the police.

On the 21 May a memorial service was held for Thabani, during the service police officers fired teargas and live ammunition at those in attendance. Among those that were injured and rushed to the hospital were members of Thabani’s family. Mandla Nkomonye, the late Thabani Nkomonye’s brother who informed the media that the family was still in shock over the events that transpired at his late brother’s memorial service. “This was a peaceful service, but the police, without even consulting with the family disrupted the service unprovoked. The service was well organised and the Covid-19 regulations were observed. The family are still wondering as to why the police decided to disrupt the memorial service.

This however was not the last time the public would experience police brutality during a time of mourning. Just two weeks after the disruption of Thabani Nkomonye’s funeral the police again shamelessly attacked mourners at Ancorn Hlatswako’s funeral. In the most recent incident Police fired teargas to disrupt the funeral of Ancorn Hlatswako, an Indvuna of Ebutfongweni chiefdom. According to a close family member, a battalion of armed police officers stormed the grave yard and fired teargas in order to stop the funeral. This was a result of a long standing land dispute between the Nkiliji and Ebutfongweni Chiefdoms. This incident yet again was too many, more evidence of use of over exertive force by police and total disregard for the civilians they are meant to serve and protect.

Further escalating the issue was a statement made by the King's brother while addressing parliament, Major General Prince Simelane urged the police to “fight protest action with fire”. In this statement The Minister of Housing and Urban Development, who also allegedly holds and gets paid for the position of Major General within the Umbutfo Eswatini Defence Force (the country’s military force), declared war against protesting citizens who are demanding the end of police brutality.

It is also worth noting that this statement comes after the now viral, gut wrenching video of Sanele Shiba being assaulted by few police officers after the “Justice for Thabani” protest. It is alleged that after being arrested he was further assaulted by the police at the Manzini Police station and they denied him medical treatment for the injuries he sustained.

The issue of police brutality isn’t a new problem in eSwatini. It is a norm to hear reports about the king's riot police, the OSSU (Operational Support Service Unit) using excessive force to disperse peaceful protesters. The nation is tired of this police behaviour and demand a stop. We are calling on the king of eSwatini to listen to the voice of the people.

 

References:

http://new.observer.org.sz/details.php?id=16023 https://allafrica.com/stories/202105200648.html http://www.swazilandnews.co.za/fundza.php?nguyiphi=1231