EDITORIAL | SADC must be more assertive with Swazi king

Ideas

EDITORIAL | SADC must be more assertive with Swazi king

Amid renewed violence, the organisation’s interventions so far appear to have been nothing but hot air

Editorial

Africa’s last absolute monarchy, Eswatini, is facing its most intense pro-democracy protests in recent years. Ruled by King Mswati III, the country landlocked by SA and Mozambique last week saw President Cyril Ramaphosa dispatch five special envoys for talks with the monarch. How much good that would do remains to be seen. Judging by the 53-year-old king’s response to the protests, there is zero interest from the Eswatini government’s side in reform.

As anti-monarchy riots spread across the tiny kingdom, those in charge shut down all schools and blocked access to Facebook. The latest unrest came four months after the last wave of protests during which security forces cracked down on demonstrators. Now schoolchildren and public transport workers have joined the actions demanding change. But Mswati, who has been king for 35 years after taking over from his father King Sobhuza II, is doing everything in his power to crush his opponents.

Amnesty International last week described his actions as being in “clear contravention of human rights”. Life for the 1.2-million Swazis living under his rule is hard, with more than 60% of the population subsisting below the poverty line while Mswati lives a life of luxury with a string of wives. He rules by decree, chooses the prime minister and cabinet and appoints the director of public prosecutions, as well as the chiefs of the army and police. He cannot be criminally charged and does not have to pay taxes...

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