Cape Town – Pro-democracy protests against King Mswati III and the government continued to rock eSwatini (previously Swaziland) on Tuesday, with reports of soldiers deployed overnight to an industrial town near the capital to crack down on dissent against the rulers of Africa's last absolute monarchy.
The eSwatini government denied as false, media reports suggesting the king had fled the country as the protests turned chaotic on Monday night.
According to online news outlet Swaziland News, the government allegedly deployed police and the army to shoot citizens in Matsapha and other areas.
People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) Secretary General Wandile Dludlu said over 200 people were wounded, about 15 critically, on Monday night.
Lucky Lukhele, the spokesman for the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN), a solidarity movement based in neighbouring South Africa, told the African News Agency (ANA) on Tuesday that eSwatini had erupted into utter chaos, as the police and army occupied the streets.
According to reports, there have been cases of looting as businesses close their doors in the face of the protests.
All public transport vehicles evacuated a rank in the capital Mbabane, and local media reported that a bus ferrying police officers had entered the central business district.
In a statement posted on its Facebook page, the SSN said the situation on the ground was extremely volatile as supermarkets and industrial plants had been set alight by unidentified people, with the army deployed to control the situation.
“There are allegations that more than one bystander or protester has already been killed by the army or the police,” it said.
The SSN urged regional grouping Southern African Development Community (SADC) to act urgently on the crisis.
“While we stand by the people of Swaziland in this very difficult period, we wish to urge the international community once again to play a pro-active role in minimising casualties,” said Lukhele.
PUDEMO was meant to hold a press briefing in Mbabane on Tuesday, but reports suggested the city had been shut down.
South Africa’s militant, left-leaning opposition party the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) commended the people of eSwatini on the protests.
“We call on the people of eSwatini to boldly intensify the militant struggles against the dictatorial family,” the EFF said in a statement on Tuesday.
It called on the South African government to isolate and close down the diplomatic offices of King Mswati III in the country as a form of protest against what it called his order to brutalise and maim the struggling people of eSwatini.
African News Agency (ANA)