Fear and Uncertainty grips Eswatini on the First Anniversary of the June 2021 Massacre

Leading communists in Swaziland have been targeted in a series of police raids as the country geared up to commemorate the anniversary of a massacre by security forces . Vigils were held across the country on the 29 June to mark one year since what the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) described as “the gruesome massacre” of “an unarmed population calling for democracy in their country.”

Hundreds of thousands of Swazis took it upon themselves to demand a better and democratic Swaziland. 29th June 2022 marks an important day of reflection on the past year and look at how far we have come as a nation in the struggle for democracy. Scores of people were killed and about 400 detained during last year’s protest. Security forces were deployed with “shoot-to-kill” orders by King Mswati III.

Swaziland operates a so-called Tinkhundla system, which, in theory, sees the devolution of state power to 55 administrative bodies that, in turn, elect one member to the house of assembly. But in reality, the posts are appointed not elected, while political parties have been banned in Swaziland since 1973. Their reinstatement is one of the demands of the democracy protesters. Hundreds of police officers stormed homes on Tuesday 29 June 2022 as part of a “community raid” in Matshapa, with leading communists among those targeted.

“It was clear that the motive was to crush the CPS and its plans to mobilise a popular commemoration of the heinous massacre of the regime in 2021,” the party said.

As all of this unfolded, King Mswati and his immediate family and prime minister have left the country, leaving the army and police in control.

June 29, 2022 marks the first-year anniversary of the massacre that took place in 2021 that left political and social wounds for the Swazi people. This day has been declared a national holiday by Eswatini’s pro-democracy forces to commemorate the lives lost. However, the Prime Minister assured the nation that any hint of politically motivated commemoration will be dealt with using indiscriminate lethal force. Images emerging from the capital indicate a strong security presence.

Leading up to the first year anniversary, King Mswati III and his entourage left the country days before to Rwanda for a Commonwealth meeting. The government’s indifference to the mourning nation has been met with retaliatory violence against any appendage of the state. There have been violent attacks towards the Eswatini Defense Force and in recent times, the Royal Eswatini Police. For instance, earlier this week, two police officers were gunned down by unknown assailants after arriving at a scene from a hoax call; one is already dead and the other in critical condition. One other example is the burning of a military helicopter that is utilized as personal transporter of the Principal Secretary of the Defence Ministry, who is also the eldest prince and holds various high-ranking positions within the traditional and modern governing structures.

The nation has been waiting for more than half a year for the recommended National Dialogue to take place and there has been only silence from the State. There are fears that this reluctance by the State to hold the event will continue to frustrate and eventually radicalize the nation. Heavily armed military personnel were present on 29 June 2022 across all the country’s cities and it is gathered from sources that they were ordered to ‘shoot to kill’ anyone protesting or calling for change. The two jailed Members of Parliament remain incarcerated and their bid to be released on bail was recently denied by Eswatini’s Supreme Court of Appeal.

 

 

 

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