Will King Mswati III listen to the demands for political change?

Swaziland faces a number of problems with its current system of governance and a political change leaning towards a democracy seem unlikely and poses a great challenge for banned opposition parties. April 12 is a significant day for the Swazi nation. This is the day that the then King Sobhuza II repealed the 1973 Multi Party Constitution effectively banning political activities and bestowing all executive, judicial and legislative powers upon himself. In 2005, a new era of hope was seen across the horizons of the Eswatini landscape as a new Constitution was promulgated by the late king’s son, King Mswati III. Despite having a Constitution in place, the country witnessed gross human rights violations and a total disregard for the constitution. It exists only when the powers that be deem it convenient, but otherwise it is in permanent abeyance.

Since the political unrest in June 2021, Eswatini has not been peaceful. People have been killed allegedly by state security, others have fled the country in fear of being killed, some have been arrested and others have been displaced from their families. Pro-Democracy organizations continue to put pressure on the authorities for meaningful political reforms and the total unbanning of political parties. Instead of fast-tracking the much-awaited National Dialogue on political reform, the government continues to arrest those calling for change. This has resulted over the past 3 months in the use of guns to kill people and petrol bombs which are being used to burn structures allegedly by pro-democracy activists.

Above: Protesting of the students at the entrance of the University of Swaziland


A source working closely with the King reported that Mswati allegedly issued an order to burn properties belonging to leaders of the pro-democracy movements. The PUDEMO Secretary-General said the political organization was certain that the criminal acts across the country are driven, sponsored and carried out by King Mswati III. Recent attacks on PUDEMO’s Panuel Malinga, Wandile Dludlu and Ngomyayona Gamedze warned of a looming civil war. Even place of safety and learning like schools are also bombed. Eswatini’s biggest tertiary institution, the University of Eswatini, has just been recently closed and all students were ordered to vacate the premises immediately.

An intercepted telephone conversation between a royal guard who works closely with the King spoke about a plot to make the Swaziland Liberation Movement (SWALIMO) and the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) fight each other. “We are expecting SWALIMO and PUDEMO to fight each other and the fight is expected to start in the next week of April”.

Above: The remains of the bombing of St Elizabeth Primary School library in Majembeni

On the ground, tensions continue unabated. The high numbers of arson attacks being witnessed in the country on a daily basis are a ticking time bomb. “The anger that has been building over the years, occasioned by bad governance…is beginning to find ventilation. The silence of the people has all along been interpreted as peace. The violence on the streets, at home, in communities and just about everywhere else, is a manifestation of very worse times lying ahead” asserted one observer.

When asked “what is the number one problem facing Swaziland today?” one Swazi calmly replied, “Our number one problem today is the King”.

As a way of commemorating 12 April 1973 and also putting pressure on the political reforms, the pro-democracy movement will be conducting awareness-raising activities such as dialogues and debates in all the regions in the country and pickets at the main ports of entry such as Oshoek, Matsamo, Lavumisa and Mahamba. There is also a planned border blockade of goods coming in and out of Eswatini at the main ports of entry/exit. This is being jointly implemented by the Multi-Stakeholder Forum (MSF), Political Party Assembly (PPA) together with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN), South African Communist Party (SACP) and the African National Congress (ANC).

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