“These people started the violence first but when the state institutes a crackdown on them for their actions, they make a lot of noise blaming King Mswati for bringing in mercenaries”, these were the words uttered by the King of Eswatini while addressing regiments on the 21st of January 2023 at Engabezweni Royal Residence after the Incwala ceremony.
King Mswati III is famously known for being Africa’s last absolute monarch. The king is not only the head of state but also holds Executive, Judicial and Legislative powers in the country, and also serves as the Commander in Chief of the armed forces. Since the June massacre of 2021 the Kingdom of Eswatini has been on the verge of civil war due to the calls for democracy within the country. The dialogue proposed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and promised by the king has been postponed since the end of the Incwala ceremony in 2022. Even with so many consecutive postponements the Eswatini Government still insists on their commitment to hold the national dialogue. “Government notes the need for national dialogue involving all EmaSwati. We reiterate government’s commitment to holding a peaceful, open, and fair national dialogue. Whilst noting the need to hold a national dialogue as soon as possible, however, with the continued spate of violent killings and arson attacks against innocent people the government is forced to consider the safety of the people first. The country’s leadership is working towards the restoration of law and order as we pave the way to a peaceful and open national dialogue.” said The Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Themba Masuku.
However, most people in the country believe the lack or postponements of the national dialogue are the root cause of the violence that has been plaguing the small land-locked country, and that further delays would only lead to more bloodshed. Most notably among the victims of the political unrest are 11 police officers and an undisclosed number of political activists and freedom fighters. The deaths of the police officers have been accredited to members of the pro-democracy underground forces that have identified themselves as the Swaziland International Solidarity Forces (SISF). However, the deaths of the political activists and freedom fighters are alleged to be perpetrated by the king and his government through state hired mercenaries, the army and the police. It is a widely spread claim that the king has been delaying the political dialogue with the hope that he would eliminate dissention by killing political leaders who are calling for democratic reforms.
Chief among the leaders alleged to be assassinated on instruction of the king by mercenaries is human rights lawyer and political activist Thulani Maseko, who at the time of his death was Chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum. Maseko was regarded as a uniting figure of the Swazi struggle for democracy and a champion for human rights on the continent. He was gunned down in front of his wife Tanele Maseko and children Nkosenhle (10) and Nkosivile (6) at his home in Luyengo. His death happened not more than six hours after King Mswati’s Incwala speech, where he threatened that those causing instability in the country will be dealt with, leading many to question the king’s involvement in the brutal murder of Thulani Maseko.
The Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Themba Masuku however, denied claims of mercenaries hired to kill political activists and other citizens. Addressing a press conference in Mbabane on the 26th of January 2023, regarding the death of Thulani Maseko, the DPM stated that “Government has noted with concern that there are individuals and organisations that are intent on spreading disinformation. These unfounded allegations of state sponsored killings and use of mercenaries are not true and are part of a campaign designed to promote hatred and disorder and thrive on distortion of information to fit a particular narrative. Government has not hired any mercenaries. However, there are security experts that have been engaged to assist with certain aspects of the country’s security issues.”
One of these security experts is the man alleged by Swaziland News to be the leader of the mercenaries responsible for the death and disappearance of political activists, founder of Bastion Security, Arno Pienaar. A man who served in the South African army during the apartheid era and later worked in Iraq, speaking to the Sunday Times Pienaar confirmed that his firm has a security agreement with the king but denied any involvement with the alleged assassinations, stating that his firm only deals with training. “I could see that the security forces were totally untrained for the job of dealing with terrorists,” he said, and further stated that there are no freedom fighters in Eswatini, only terrorists. Pertaining to Maseko’s death Pienaar blamed the power struggle within the democracy movement “I have worked all over Africa, that’s how it works here. There is always in-fighting. There was no reason to kill him, he was not on our list of terrorists.” He said, however he did not care to elaborate how and why a security firm hired to train law enforcement would possess a list of terrorist.
Human rights activist and writer for the Daily Maverick Mark Heywood nevertheless refutes the notion that there are terrorists in the country. Speaking to NewsRoom Afrika TV Heywood stated that “There’s no terrorism agenda in Eswatini, there’s an agenda for democracy and for human rights. There are no terrorists in Eswatini, there are activists, and the activists are being killed at the instruction of King Mswati III and members of his government who are seeking to protect their extreme wealth. Mswati is one of the richest men in the world, in one of the poorest countries in the world. The people of Swaziland are fed-up, they want a decent life, they have been protesting for democracy. Just over a year ago on June 29th, 2021, in those protests, more than a hundred people were gunned down by the Swaziland police and defence forces. As you and I speak today, there are two Members of Parliament (MPs) in Swaziland who are in prison, Members of Parliament, just because they were supporting the democracy movement in that country. So that is what Mswati calls terrorism.”
No matter how Mswati and his cohorts twist and turn the facts of what is happening to political activists in Eswatini, the truth shall not be buried for ever, there will come a time when the tables will turn and the king will be publicly exposed for who and what he is – a murder, an oppressor, a dictator and a genocidal maniac. The activists in the diaspora including us at Swazi Vigil UK, we say “Aluta Continua…” we will not stop protesting against the violation of human right in Eswatini and against the murderous activities of King Mswati… we say “Phansi ngaMswati phansi!!!!” (Down with the Mswati). Viva Swazi Vigil Viva!!!!!
On the evening of the 25th of July 2021, MPs Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube were arrested and charged with terrorism under the Suppression of Terrorism Act 2008. A warrant of arrest was also issued for Mduduzi “Magawugawu” Simelane but he escaped capture. The arrest warrants for the 3 pro-democracy MPs was signed by Magistrate Msibi although they were ordered by the country’s Chief Justice His Majesty King Mswati III. The arrested MPs are just two in over 690 citizens arrested and charged in connection with the political instability the country has faced over the past months. The “Pro-democracy” protests started in June following the mysterious death of 25 year-old student, Thabani Nkomonye. He allegedly died at the hands of the police. Since the protests dozens have been killed and many others tortured, detained or abducted.
The king issued the order to arrest the MP's. On the 23rd of August 2021 the Eswatini Defence Force Army Commander, Jeffrey Shabalala resigned from his post after a viral audio recording alleged to be of him was posted on Swazi News. In a press statement released in Nokwane, Shabalala stated that after all the developments which are in the public domain, he had taken upon himself to make a plea to the king that he felt it would not be proper for him to continue as the army commander because this had a great potential to compromise his position. He then requested the king to allow him to step down from his role as the army commander. In the audio Shabalala alleges that the king had ordered the security forces to arrest the 3 pro-democracy MPs calling for political reforms.
The source of this audio and the other voice recordings in this audio scandal has been revealed to be the former Sergeant Cebile Shongwe. The senior police officer who has been making headlines after a video of her, dressed in uniform was posted on Social media. In the video the former sergeant addresses why she decided to hand in her resignation letter, lamenting that she cannot and will not in good conscience continue to work for the Eswatini government that kills its people. In the now viral video former Sergeant Cebile Shongwe cites the now infamous “order to kill” whose allegations the king denies, the death of over 70 unarmed protesters at the hands of the police and army Forces and the arrest of people including the Pro-democracy MPs on what she claims are fabricated charges. It is worth noting that Sergeant Cebile Shongwe fled the country after her resignation.
Another individual alleged to have fled the country is MP Mduduzi “Magawugawu” Simelane. In an interview with Etv News the MP revealed that he was working on engaging international bodies to intervene in Eswatini. He also refuted all the charges laid against him and claimed that he along with his fellow MPs are being persecuted for speaking for the people. His job as an MP is to be the voice of his constituents, the people who voted for him, so that he should speak for them. If he did not do that, he would not be fulfilling his duties. The people want a democratically chosen prime minister.
Since the arrests of the Pro-democracy MPs a number of schools including Elulakeni High School, Hosea High School and many others have seen their pupils engaging in protests to demand the release of the arrested MPs. Mbongwa Dlamini, The President of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) confirmed that that pupils were protesting in various schools due to the arrest of the Pro-democracy MPs and the lack of democracy in the country.
On the 9th of August Judge Mumcy Dlamini who is married to Judge Prince Majahenkhaba, one of King Mswati III’s cousins dismissed MP Mabuza's and MP Dube’s bail applications. A new bail application was filed by the Pro-democracy MPs was postponed to the 7th of September after the judge cited the death of a family member as the cause of the postponement. However, the bail hearing was postponed again after Judge Mumcy Dlamini failed to appear in Court. When the bail hearing was finally held on the 14th of September the judge dismissed the bail application within 30 seconds. While delivering her judgment she stated that “there was no need for that court to make a determination whether there are new grounds for the present bail application or not. I find that this court is functus officio”. Many took this as a confession from the judge of being nothing more than a mouth-piece delivering the king’s verdict.
The MPs trial is scheduled to be held on 11th October 2021, and it has been confirmed that the same Judge Mumcy Dlamaini will preside. Many call for the judge to recuse herself as she is related to the king but many dispute if it would be of any use as King Mswati is an absolute Monarch with Executive, Judicial and Legislative powers he is the one who appoints judges. One wonders if it is possible to find an unbiased judge for the case within the kingdom. This has caused anger to the majority of the nation, there are protests all over the country. School children are also involved, primary, high schools and universities. The country has turned into a war zone. The king is turning a deaf ear to the nation's grievances, innocent people are being harassed and shot by the security forces. The security forces have been turned to be the enemy of the people they are supposed to protect. People now are scared to seek help from the police.
The pro-democracy MPs and all political prisoners are facing injustice inside King Mswati’s courts while murderers are granted bail, the MPs did not commit any crime, they are being persecuted for expressing their political views and wishes of their people in their constituencies they are representing. We are calling on the international community intervene. King Mswati has to be held responsible for all this and face charges in the international court. Enough is enough!
By: Juliet Zodwa Dlamini
Two of the three MPs who are leading calls for democratic reforms in parliament were arrested and charged with the suppression of terrorism Act 2008 on the strength of an order issued by King Mswati lll. The two MPs are Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube. They were arrested on the 25th of July 2021.
The third MP is Mduduzi Magawugawu Simelane. King Mswati lll also allegedly issued an order to arrest Magawugawu,he is wanted by police on terrorism charges.
The two MPs Bacede and Mthandeni are currently kept in a prison after the judge Mummcy Dlamini dismissed the bail application.
After the refusal of the bail of the two MPs, residents from the constituencies where the two MPs stands for marched to the nearest police station . This was to surrender themselves to the state police as part of the protests demanding the release of the two MPs who were arrested for terrorism after calling for democratic reforms.
Another bail application was submitted but again Judge Mummcy Dlamini dismissed the bail application on the 09 of August 2021. She was obviously acting on the strength of the royal order from King Mswati lll. Unfortunately the whole country including the Judiciary is held hostage by one man whose thinking capacity was exposed during the recently held Sibaya.
Same like political activists, It is a norm in the Kingdom of Eswatini that anyone who raises a voice and demand democracy ends up facing the Suppression of Terrorism Act 2008. Being Arrested, tortured and the worst killed.
This has to stop, we are calling on the King to hear the people of Eswatini and advocate for political reforms. We are calling on the International Human Rights Organisation to intervene . King Mswati has to face justice for human rights violation and brutal killing of Eswatini people.✊🏿✊🏿
By: Rainny Nomvula Dlamini
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