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Divergent views on forces driving push for change in eSwatini

Published May 22, 2022

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Johannesburg - The situation in eSwatini appears to differ based on who you speak to. Some say the protests will continue and not cease until King Mswati has been removed from power, while others believe calls for him to step aside are dying down in anticipation of a forthcoming national dialogue.

People's United Democratic Movement secretary-general Wandile Dluldlu said emaSwati continued to call for democracy in the kingdom despite the authorities' failure to listen to them.

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"People want change, but Mswati doesn't want to listen. We will continue with the protests until he does," Dludlu said.

He refuted claims that the protests were funded by outsiders with vested interests in the country's resources.

"There have always been those lies. If some want to support our calls, that is great. But this is a Swati struggle and it is not cooked somewhere," he said.

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Journalist Alec Lushaba said pro-democracy protests were no longer so intense. Instead, emaSwati “were looking forward to the Sibaya national dialogue”.

"Precautions in logistics for (the national dialogue) have begun, and a committee chaired by Prime Minister Cleopas Sipho Dlamini is looking into it. The situation has improved, even though we still experience a few cases of arson on both public and individual properties," he said.

Lushaba added that there appeared to be divisions within the ranks of those calling for change. Some were in favour of dialogue, while others wanted to pursue violent means to attain their ends.

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"In recent weeks, divisions have been pronounced within those forces. We hope the national dialogue will give us a clear direction regarding what emaSwati want. It will not be a referendum, but the sentiments will give the authorities direction on what emaSwati want," he said.

Lushaba, who has also written about “foreign forces” in the protests, has indicated that divisions among the players were emerging due to people questioning who controls everything.

"It would seem much of the differences within the pro-democracy groups emanates from such funding and who controls it. They say who pays the piper calls the tune.

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“One would say it was good that authorities took their time to address the issue, so that we all can crystallise the nature of our issues and the underlying foreign interests.

“At least now we seem to have some sense of what we are confronted with. While some of the presented issues were genuine, like high levels of youth unemployment and increased consumer prices, many of them cannot be solved by what is proposed," he said.

Other journalists in the country have shared harrowing stories of being targeted, claiming persons had been paid R15 000 for carrying out arson attacks on them. They said they were now living in fear and afraid to write stories criticising pro-democracy groups.

Locals also appear to have caught wind of the alleged funding of the protests. A Swati national based in Manzini, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there were currently contradictions between the different political parties concerning a way forward.

She said the different ideologies among the parties were due to some of them supporting the dialogue, which would entail a "peaceful" removal of the king, and some advocating for the use of force, as they were convinced that the time for peace had long elapsed for the monarch.

The person said she had heard of the mumblings but wasn't sure how true they were.

"If such is true, I believe such individuals or groups shall distance themselves from such. I believe such acts are indirect ‘bribes’, since such organisations have a particular plan they are trying to accomplish.

“It may happen that those on the receiving (end) are not aware of such. To them, they see it as a genuine act, yet in the end you find it harms the struggle, thus disempowering fellow Swazis in their call for a democratic eSwatini," she said.

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