The Kingdom of Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, is Africa’s last absolute monarchy. King Mswati III has rules since 1986, since the age of 18.
According a United States Department of State 2011 report on the country: “the three main human rights abuses were police use of excessive force, including use of torture
and beatings; a breakdown of the judiciary system and judicial independence; and
discrimination and abuse of women and children.
Other significant human rights problems included extrajudicial killings by security
forces; arbitrary arrests and lengthy pretrial detention; arbitrary interference with
privacy and home; restrictions on freedom of speech, assembly, and association;
prohibitions on political activity and harassment of political activists; trafficking in
persons; societal discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgender (LGBT) community; harassment of labor leaders; restrictions on
worker rights; child labor; and mob violence.”
Pro-democracy protests began on 20th June, and during the course of this last week disturbing images made their way onto social media platforms. Businesses, reportedly owned by the king, were torched, tires were burning in the streets and at least 21 people were killed by the state’s security agency (according to a statement by Swaziland Youth Congress – Swayoco – made on Wednesday).
A nationwide curfew was put in place from 6pm to 5am, and access to the Internet was shut down.
On Wednesday this week, investigative journalist and record producer Mzilikazi wa Afrika posted the following pictures on Twitter:
DA Shadow Minister of of International Relations and Cooperation, Darren Bergman MP, made the following statement
‘The DA calls on the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, together with her counterparts in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to initiate a process of pro-democracy talks between the Kingdom of Eswatini and political parties.
Over the last few weeks, Eswatini has been hit by protests from different groupings calling for democratic reforms in the country. However, this week videos of wounded individuals, burning tires and street barricades have been doing the rounds on social media and paints a grim picture of the current state of affairs in the Mountain Kingdom.
Whilst the DA respects the independence of the Eswatini state, we believe that the citizens have the right to protest peacefully and that the will of the people should be respected. We condemn any form of action that seeks to curtail the right to protest as this might intensify resistance from either side and turn an otherwise peaceful democratic process into a violent one.
It is critical that the South African government and SADC reach out and offer immediate mediation between the Monarchy and the leaders of the protest. It is in the best interest of the Swazi people and the region as a whole to ensure the consolidation of democracy throughout SADC.
Should there be an impasse in the mediation process, and the safety of either party not be guaranteed then SADC should be mobilised to monitor this situation immediately to ensure that measures are put in place to ensure protection to life.’