Swaziland: Oppositions clash with security agents over anti-King Mswati III petitions

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In an unprecedented step, Eswatini (Swaziland) opposition supporters had come out in large numbers in Mbabane, the capital, to show solidarity to their leaders who went to deliver the anti-King Mswati III petitions, demanding for democracy and the ousting of King Mswati III who has been in power since 1986. As expected, however, the supporters were confronted by security officers, who demanded that the opposition leaders present the petitions to them.

The opposition leaders, whom municipality had refused to grant permission to march, however, presented the petition both to the South African High Commission to Swaziland and cabinet.

“We are reporting to you what has just been relayed to us. The municipality did not award us the permit to march and now the question that begs to be asked is: how do we deliver the petitions?” said the leader of the Swaziland Democratic Party (SWADEPA), Jan Sithole.

A proposal by the security personnel to have the leaders present the petitions to them was vehemently rejected by the agitated protesters who were shouting at the officers. However, Mr Sithole pleaded with the angry protesters to calm down.

Calls for a multi-party democracy are growing in the South African country bordered by Mozambique and South Africa. On November 10, the country’s political parties formed an alliance christened Political Parties Assembly (PPA), which they hope will spearhead the ushering of democracy by leading mass action to oust King Mswati III who has been in power since 1986.

Ngwane National Liberation Congress (NNLC), the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS), the Swazi Democratic Party (SDP) and the People’s United Democratic Party (PUDEMO) and civil society gave birth to PPA to bring the power back to the people.

“A Mass Meeting of every concerned organizations and person shall be convened on Saturday 16th, November at the SNAT CENTER starting at 0900hrs. A long-term program of action will be taken for implementation in the mass meeting envisaged. Any changes if any will be communicated in due as we receive direction from the PPA” reiterated the country’s Secretary-Generall of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) Mduduzi Gina.

Economic woes coupled with political intolerance are not new to Eswatini. Formerly known as Swaziland, Eswatini is in a deep economic crisis; soaring cost of living, a crisis in education and health, high unemployment and poor general service delivery are some of the many terrible calamities facing the country. Sadly, many people blame Mswati III  for their malice and recently, public servants took to the street, demanding salary increment and protesting against escalating cost of living.

But as usual, the King, who has 5 wives and 23 children seems hardly interested in the predicaments of his subjects. Nor has his wasteful and flamboyant lifestyle changed despite the economic nemesis and impasse facing his country. The king’s decision to spend USD$ 6 million to buy 19 Rolls-Royce cars and 120 luxury BMWs for himself and his family two weeks ago, despite the dire economic situation of the country further elicited criticism from the despondent Swazis.

Given the authoritarian nature of King Mswati III, many of his opponents are not only advocating for political openness, they equally want to modify the country’s form of government, which is Africa’s last absolute monarchy state. However, the King is expectedly fighting back. To silence his critics, the King in 2008 enacted the Suppression of Terrorism Act in 2008 which categorized some political parties, especially the “rebels” as terrorist organizations.

It is alleged he has also resorted to torture, jail and murder to muzzle the insurgents.

In the past, the South African government had always come to the aid of Swaziland, whenever the extravagant country could not pay its civil servants or carry out its financial and social obligations. Although those inabilities of the Swazi government did not stop King Mswati III from spending millions on cars, holidays, shopping, new palaces for himself and family.  PPA claims the South African High Commission to Swaziland is a beneficiary of King Mswati III dictatorial rule, a claim South Africa refuted.

Often referred to as the Switzerland of Africa, Eswatini (Swaziland) is a very small but incredibly beautiful country, known for its wilderness reserves and festivals, which promote the traditional Swazi culture. With beautiful Mountains, Nature Reserves, many hiking trails, National Park, which houses much diverse wildlife including, elephants, tigers, lions and hippos,  Eswatini would have been a prominent holiday destination for many wealthy tourists who would have contributed immensely to the economy of the country.

If Eswatini would manage its resources effectively and judiciously and fight corruption, the country would be self-sufficient. Perhaps, creating jobs for the average citizens and providing much-needed social services would have been the best way for  King Mswati III to minimize a direct challenge to his rule, which is now an open secret. A hungry man is, indeed, an angry man.

Image: Afrika Kontakt