By Staff Reporters

The political crisis in the kingdom of Eswatini is on a path filled with violent conflict. The country has experienced the bombing of state institutions and deadly attacks against security services.
At the same time, King Mswati’s brutal suppression of protests and plain as the nose on your face abductions of civil society members continue unabated.
Activists assert that Mswati is intensifying state violence to thwart pro-democracy in that country.
In July, the global human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, claimed that the government of Eswatini launched a ruthless crackdown on human rights in response to pro-democracy protests, with dozens killed and many others tortured, detained or abducted.
“The government of Eswatini has launched a full-frontal assault on human rights in response to ongoing pro-democracy protests. Dozens of people have been killed for daring to demand that their government respects human rights, many of them human rights defenders and activists,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International Director for East and Southern Africa.
Political activists and parliamentarians exiled in South Africa say the monarch has become completely paranoid. He has amassed all state power to himself.
“Mswati rules with an iron fist and a barrel of a gun against anyone who threatens his throne.
“He has absolute power with control over all organs of the state – the legislature, the executive and the judicial. “He appoints and controls the prime minister and cabinet ministers. He even interferes in Parliament, to an extent that two MPs – Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube – have been prisoned without justice since June 2021,” said Mduduzi Simelane, President of the Swaziland Liberation Movement (Swalimo) who is in exile in South Africa. Simelane said the two politicians were jailed for demanding that a prime minister be elected by parliament. The king’s intransigence led to mass protests and over 100 citizens were shot and killed, with many left disabled in June 2021.
He said the country has been experiencing daily protests as people remain resolute in their demand for democracy and the release of the incarcerated parliamentarians. “In October 2021, President Cyril Ramaphosa conducted a fact-finding mission in his capacity as the SADC Troika Chairperson.
SADC then instructed Mswati to hold a national dialogue to seek peace but he has not complied, to date. He has also been snubbing subsequent SADC meetings where Swaziland is on the agenda in April and July,” said Simelane. Pro-democracy movements have demanded that SADC’s national dialogue should be inclusive, fair and be held in a neutral place with external facilitators for peace to be realised.
But Mswati’s regime insists that if the dialogue happens, it should be held in his residence as he considers this traditional summoning of the nation as the constitutional platform for peace-keeping.
“To date, the killing and brutality of citizens continue. Two weeks ago, Mswati instructed armed forces to shoot to kill (iso ngeso) after an anonymous group calling themselves solidarity forces had started to retaliate and kill police,” Simelane said. Ringisai Chikohomero, Research Consultant, Institute for Security Studies wrote; “SADC must do everything possible to prevent the Eswatini crisis from escalating into a full-blown violent conflict. “In a region already dealing with major challenges linked to inequality and poverty, political strife caused by a lack of democracy in one of its member states must be avoided.
“Mswati has been given too much space to dictate the pace of a peaceful resolution, to the detriment of the SADC initiative and Eswatini’s citizens. The regional bloc should establish a high-level presence in the country rather than continuing with intermittent visits by officials.
“This can be achieved using SADC’s existing structures, like its Mediation Reference Group and the panel of elders currently led by former Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete. These mechanisms have the mandate and capacity to engage with the king. Activating them would also indicate to Mswati that SADC is serious about finding a lasting solution.”
As the political situation worsens in Eswatini, a diplomatic storm is brewing between that country and neighbouring South Africa. This follows a scathing attack on South Africa by Eswatini government spokesman, Alpheous Nxumalo, during an interview on SAFM. Nxumalo told the station’s current affairs host, Sakina KaMwendo, that “South Africa is infested with a cancer of criminality from head to toe”.
The damning comments were made as Nxumalo was questioned about Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) former Secretary General Godrich Gardee’s allegations that King Mswati orchestrated the killing of his daughter, Hillary Gardee. Clayson Monyela, the Director General of the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), says they will engage the Eswatini government to seek clarity regarding sentiments that were allegedly uttered by Nxumalo.
“We will certainly be taking this issue up, we will not allow for inaccurate statements, covered with insults to be thrown at the government of South Africa and the people of this country,” said Monyela.
The looming diplomatic tension between South Africa and Eswatini over Nxumalo’s sentiments comes amid efforts by Ramaphosa to seek solutions to the on-going political crisis in that country.
President Ramaphosa is the Chairperson of the South African Development Community (SADC) Troika on Politics, Defense and Security. The state of Eswatini is the last absolute monarchy in Africa. King Mswati III, together with his mother, Queen Mother Ntombi, rule as monarchs, exercise veto powers over the three branches of government and are positioned above the constitution. The bicameral parliament consists of the Senate and House of Assembly with elected members and members appointed by the king. The king also appoints the prime minister. The role of political parties is contested and unclear despite the constitution of 2005. Political parties are not allowed to compete in elections.
Human rights issues include limitation on political participation and media freedom, corruption, forceful evictions, rape and violence against women, criminalisation of LGBTQ+ communities and child labour.
The government rarely investigates, prosecutes or administratively punishes officials who commit human rights abuses. Impunity is widespread and police brutality is common during political demonstrations and in the enforcement of lockdown measures related to the Covid-19 pandemic. King Mswati III acts as if the kingdom is his personal fiefdom. As a result, the majority of the population experiences little economic development and live in poverty. New investments are unlikely to materialise due to the low level of skilled labour and the relatively high cost of wages in comparison to the level of production.
The political environment is not conducive to business due to negative and unpredictable interference by the royal family and companies associated with it, although there was more trust in the late prime minister’s economic competence. Eswatini is a relatively small, landlocked country within the territory of South Africa. The presence of the monarch, as head of state, is represented throughout the country by the traditional system of chiefs and headmen. The more rural, the more undisputed the system is.
This means the government has a complete monopoly on the use of force.
Police are poorly paid and equipped, leading to underperformance and overreaction like brutality during peaceful demonstrations or in the enforcement of pandemic-related lockdown measures.
The media has reported deaths in police custody. Chikohomero also asked a question few have dared to ask: “Is King Mswati III letting his fear of losing the monarchy get in the way of national peace?
“His remarks at this year’s 5 August Eswatini Police Day show a lack of commitment to true national dialogue. Referring to the increasing attacks on state institutions, he called for ‘an eye for an eye.’ This position moves the country away from talks.”

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