21 people reportedly killed in ongoing eSwatini pro-democracy protests
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Johannesburg - At least 21 people have been allegedly killed by eSwatini’s security forces during pro-democracy protests, the Swaziland Youth Congress (Swayoco) said on Wednesday.
The protests started peacefully in the Manzini region of Africa’s last absolute monarchy on June 20 when young people took to the streets in a push for the right to democratically choose the prime minister, currently appointed by King Mswati III. They have, however, since turned violent.
“We were off-line due to an internet shutdown. We have 21 confirmed cases of Swazi patriots killed by the state security. In honour of our fallen patriots we will soldier on until democracy,” youth movement Swayoco said on its social media.
Acting Prime Minster Themba Masuku on Tuesday announced a 6pm to 5am curfew which he said was meant to minimise unnecessary movement and ensure the safety and security of eSwatini’s people.
“This is a conscious decision to maintain the rule of law and de-escalate tension that had turned this exercise into violence and disorder,” he said.
Footage of a burning building belonging to eSwatini Beverages went viral on social media. The brewery, which King Mswati partly owns, was reportedly torched on Tuesday night after the government imposed the curfew and blocked internet access.
The protests took a violent turn after Masuku issued an order last week suspending the delivery of petitions from citizens, saying this had created “a breeding ground for anarchy and has been intentionally hijacked to sow seeds of division”.
The government has refuted reports that King Mswati fled to either South Africa or Mozambique in the wake of the protests.
Protesters are demanding that the king, who has ruled for 35 years, hand over power and allow democracy to prevail.