Swaziland Democracy Protests Continue Despite Ban and Police Violence

Dmitry Feoktistov/TASS Host Photo Agency

King Mswati III of eSwatini (file photo).

28 JUNE 2021

Swazi Media Commentary (Gaborone)

Pro-democracy protests continued across Swaziland (eSwatini) despite a ban on marching imposed by the kingdom's absolute monarch.

Marches took place in at least 10 locations - mainly in rural areas.

Police fired teargas and live ammunition in an attempt to disperse protestors. There were many injuries, including to two journalists.

Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King chooses the Prime Minister and government cabinet ministers as well as top judges and civil servants. Groups advocating for democracy are outlawed under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

Campaigners who marched on Friday (25 June 2021) and Saturday called for wholesale political reforms and want to elect their own prime minister.

Acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku on behalf of the King had declared marches to deliver petitions illegal and the National Commissioner of Police William Dlamini warned police would show 'zero tolerance' and 'unleash the full might of the law' against anyone defying the ban.

The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN), a prodemocracy group banned in the kingdom, reported, 'The most violent protests occurred at Siphofaneni where police once again retreated immediately after infuriating the local population. In the aftermath of that clash the road passing though the town was completely closed as trucks were burnt. This was eerily similar to what occurred at Msunduza the previous day.'

Wonder Dlamini, a journalist for the eSwatini Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, was shot with a teargas cannister at close range at Lugongolweni.

Andile Langwenya, a reporter for the online publication Independent News, eSwatini, was hospitalised after being tear-gassed by police at Msunduza. Sifiso Sibandze, Independent News Editor, said, 'Police should stop employing hooliganism tactics when doing their job.'

At Msunduza, the Observer reported, 'Teargas canisters were also shot in all directions and to nearby residential places and in the absence of the Red Cross volunteers, journalists were forced to assist some children who were overwhelmed by the teargas by whisking them to safety.'

The Observer also reported, 'The protests that broke out across the country seemingly fuelled an ongoing conversation about police brutality and political reforms in the country. Previous protest marches had been calm and the protesters spoke of their frustration over being led by an unelected prime minister among a litany of many grievances.

'The issue of the elected PM had been foremost, with other grievances becoming only ancillary. The manner in which the protests quickly escalated into a national occurrence reflected long standing frustrations and rage by communities.'

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