1. Socio-Political and Economic Context

Eswatini remains the last absolute monarchy in Africa. The situation remains highly volatile and the country still faces growing unrest from citizens amid a depressed economy characterised by fiscal stress, budget deficits, unemployment, wage cuts and declining social service delivery capacity. These national ills are largely a consequence of widespread corruption, nepotism and an absence of effective checks and balances within the governance system in the context of an Executive Monarch that is above the law and yet has unfettered power and access over national funds, resources and assets.

It looks like the call made by SADC chair President Cyril Ramaphosa announcing that the Kingdom of Eswatini will embark on a process that will work towards the establishment of a national dialogue forum, has not convinced the people in the trouble torn country. The people condemn the ‘arrogance’ of the king and the royal family who continue to dismiss the demands of the people for reforms and treat the intervention efforts by SADC with disdain and contempt. Emaswati maintain that the king is talking with forked tongues. In public, they maintain, he is calling for dialogue, but in private preparing for war. This follows the recent mysterious travel by the King’s first born son who is also the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of National Defence and Security to Russia to purchase arms of war instead of the facilitation of national dialogue. The efforts of acquiring more ammunition in an already volatile political environment in readiness for war, is a recipe for disaster. This has also seen growing calls on citizens by political activists to arm themselves in self-defence and such a scenario, serves as the quickest way in which a country descends into senseless civil war.


2. Jailed Parliamentarians

The two Members of Parliament, Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube, still remain incarcerated facing charges of terrorism and sedition. The MPs in a recent video posted on Facebook stated their love for the king and the nation, wishing no ill will towards unlike the salacious belief that they were. They stated that they were robust visionaries that want to take the country forward political, economically and socially without undermining the traditional manners of our nation. Nonetheless, they pushed on the failings of the current governance to uplift the lives of the Swazi populace and the country’s economy. They emphasized that despite their robust visionary approach, they wanted to maintain peace in the country and avert any more bloodshed and/or war.


3. Schools

The Ministry of Education and Training has decided to close schools after a two-week attendance by pupils. The closure was met with derision and accusations of the Ministry being either incompetent or failure to properly plan on how schools will operate in the advent of the fourth variant of COVID-19. Further, this closure incensed parents as many paid for the now closed schools term as schools keep demanding more schools fees to be operational. This open and close happens after the recent protests by pupils and destruction of school property.

The situation in schools also remains unpredictable as in the recent past weeks, some of them were torched including homes of some of the king’s close aides.


4. Omicron

The country has announced (through the Prime Minister, 10th December 2021) new eased COVID-19 restrictions. Some of the adjusted measures include the end of curfew and the return of normal operating hours of most businesses. Activities (Churches, entertainment…) are allowed subject to COVID-19 precautions.

This happens against a background where there has been the discovery of the Omicron variant, and an exponential increase in the numbers of new cases. On average, more than 1 200 tests are being conducted daily and of those tests, an approximate of above 80 per cent revert as positive cases. The rates of infected school children, ages between 10 – 19, has risen since opening on the November 23rd 2021, whilst more young people, who initially were more resilient, are testing positive with COVID-19. Discussions by government to impose restrictions has been met with fervent resistance with the citizenry claiming that it would generally make the festive season untenable; the business community also complained that it would be unpleasant on their balance sheet especially considering the losses endured during the year because of COVID-19. Thus, the government of eSwatini has not imposed any restrictions yet despite the numbers evident from health statistics.

 

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