Anti-monarchy protests in African kingdom Eswatini turn violent

Swaziland's King Mswati III. (Photo: Gallo Images)

MBABANE, June 29 (Reuters) - Demonstrators in the small southern African kingdom of eSwatini demanded reforms to its system of absolute monarchy on Tuesday, and security forces tried to repel them with gunfire and tear gas.

By Lunga Masuku

“I can hear gunshots and smell teargas. I do not know how I will get home, there is nothing in the bus rank, there is a strong presence of riot police and the army,” Vusi Madalane, a shop assistant in the capital Mbabane, said by telephone.

Acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku denied some media reports that King Mswati III had fled the violence to neighbouring South Africa.

Anger against Mswati has been building for years, and protests occasionally turn violent, with police using tear gas, stun grenades and water cannons to disperse stone-throwing protesters.

Security forces set up road blocks to prevent access by some vehicles to the capital, Mbabane, on Tuesday. Some banks said they had shut until the unrest — which started on the weekend and turned violent overnight — subsides.

Government spokesperson Sabelo Dlamini said schools and bus stations had been ordered closed. Reuters saw school children hurrying home on the outskirts of the capital.

Campaigners say the king has consistently evaded calls for meaningful reforms that would nudge eSwatini, which changed its name from Swaziland in 2018, in the direction of democracy. They also accuse him of using public coffers as a piggy bank, funding a lavish lifestyle off the backs of his 1.5 million subjects, most of them subsistence farmers.

“His Majesty King Mswati III is in the country and continues to lead in working with government to advance the Kingdom’s goals,” the statement from Masuku said. “We appeal for calm, restraint and peace from all emaSwati (eSwatini citizens).”

The 53-year-old king denies being an autocrat, and is impenitent about the lifestyle enjoyed by him and his fifteen wives, who between them occupy several state-funded palaces.

A spate of crackdowns, such as the arrest of opposition leaders and activists in 2019, has done little to discourage anti-monarchy sentiment in the former British protectorate. (Reporting by Lunga Masuku Writing by Tim Cocks Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Peter Graff)


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • John Bestwick says:

    Another lost cause vainglorious African “king”.

  • Cormac Cullinan Cullinan says:

    Biased and poor reporting. The title of your story (repeated in the text) is about protests turning violent yet the only evidence of violence that you refer to is by the police. So reminiscent of how the conservative press in South Africa reported the struggle against apartheid. Drop your pro- establishment bias and dont blame protestors without providing facts to show that they were responsible for the violence.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Daily Maverick Elections Toolbox

Feeling powerless in politics?

Equip yourself with the tools you need for an informed decision this election. Get the Elections Toolbox with shareable party manifesto guide.