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Jeff Radebe heads Ramaphosa’s SADC team to engage King Mswati III over violent crackdown on eSwatini protests

President Cyril Ramaphosa engages with King Mswati III of eSwatini. File Picture: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa engages with King Mswati III of eSwatini. File Picture: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS

Published Oct 21, 2021


Pretoria - President Cyril Ramaphosa has, in his capacity as chairperson of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) organ on defence, politics and security cooperation, appointed special envoys to engage with King Mswati III of the Kingdom of eSwatini on security and political developments in the landlocked nation amidst rising reports of escalation of repression and human rights abuses.

Acting Presidency spokesperson Tyrone Seale said Ramaphosa had expressed appreciation for King Mswati III’s availability to receive the SADC delegation comprising of former South African Cabinet minister Jeffrey Radebe; South Africa’s Deputy Minister of International Relations Candith Mashego-Dlamini; a representative of Botswana, which is the former chair of the organ; a representative of Namibia which is the incoming chair of the organ; Ramaphosa’s special adviser on international relations Maropene Ramokgopa.

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“The special envoys will be accompanied by SADC Executive Secretary, Mr Elias Magosi, senior officials of the SADC Secretariat and senior officials of the South African government,” said Seale.

“The envoys are expected to travel to the Kingdom this week.”

On Wednesday, in another day of ongoing pro-democracy protests in eSwatini, protesters suffered serious injuries when the police fired tear gas inside a bus that was transporting them to a protest in the capital city of Mbabane.

According to online news outlet Swazi News, the forces of King Mswati III took to the capital to shoot unarmed protesting civilians who were demanding democratic reforms.

Local media reported that women and children were among the casualties on Wednesday.

eSwatini, which is completely landlocked by South Africa, has been on a knife’s edge since being rocked by a wave of unprecedented violent pro-democracy protests earlier this year.

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Protesters are calling for an end to the rule of King Mswati III and are also calling for democracy.

King Mswati III this week ordered the immediate and indefinite closure of schools in the kingdom after the protests flared up. Students and pupils boycotted lessons and called for free schooling, as well as an end to Mswati's rule.

In South Africa, the civil rights movement #NotInMyName has called on the South African government to immediately intervene “by condemning the barbaric actions of the eSwatini regime against its own people”.

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Additionally, #NotInMyName secretary-general Themba Masango called for the immediate closure of the eSwatini high commission in Pretoria.

“We cannot sit still and watch Emaswati die. The struggle is no longer theirs alone. The monarch must stop eating his own,” said Masango.

On Tuesday, the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) called on the South African government to intervene, saying Pretoria’s laissez-faire attitude was reminiscent of how the continent and international bodies had watched on and “monitored” the genocide in Rwanda until it was too late.

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Blade Nzimande, general secretary of the South African Communist Party, told reporters in an interview on Wednesday that the time for democracy in the southern African country was long overdue and that the time for a monarchical government was over. He said the SACP supported the democratisation of eSwatini.