Swaziland's King Mswati III

Swaziland plans to crack down on criticism of King Mswati III by making it illegal to bad-mouth Africa's last absolute monarch on Facebook and Twitter, the justice minister said Friday.

“We will be tough on those who write bad things about the king on Twitter and Facebook. We want to set an example,” justice minister Mgwagwa Gamedze told the senate.

The minister said government was finalising a law that will make it illegal to speak badly of the king on social media networks and that it would soon come to the tiny mountain kingdom's parliament, which rubber stamps legislation.

Mswati has faced growing criticism and unprecedented public protests over the last year due to a financial crisis that has pushed the kingdom to the brink of bankruptcy.

Gamedze was responding to Senator Thuli Msane, who on Thursday said people continuously wrote terrible things about the nation and its authorities on social media.

“It's like the moment Swazi people cross the border to neighbouring countries they begin to go on a campaign to disrespect their own country and king,” said Msane.

“Surely there is something that must be done with them. There must be a law that can take them to task.”

The minister said he too had noted that the reputation of the country and that of the king was being tarnished hence the law.

The announcement came as students and labour unions are planning a series of protests in the coming weeks, beginning with a student protest Monday against the collapse of higher education. - Sapa-AFP