All points of entry into Eswatini and roads linking the kingdom’s major cities remained closed on Tuesday while shops were being looted and vandalised as pro-democracy protests against royal supremacy grapples the kingdom.
Oshoek and Mahamba border posts in Mpumalanga and Golela border in KwaZulu-Natal were closed for most parts of on Tuesday and under the guard of Eswatini soldiers as Monday night’s protests in Mbabane and Manzini spread to the outskirts of the country, leaving many people unable to move about while others could not get into that country.
Thokozane Kunene, general secretary of the Communist Party of Swaziland, told Sowetan that many shops were looted by protesters in towns like Matsapha and Nhlangano on Tuesday and soldiers had to be deployed at Plaza Complex in Mbabane as police and the army clashed with protesters.
“The whole country is under a shutdown. All shops, businesses and petrol stations are closed. People can’t buy bread and there is no public transport. It’s a ghost town,” said Kunene.
Earlier on Tuesday, there were reports that King Mswati III had fled the country and took refuge in a hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg.
However, department of international relations and corporation spokesperson Clayton Monyela could not confirm this and referred all questions about the king’s movement to Eswatini government.
Acting Eswatini prime minister Themba Masuku denied that the king had left his country.
“I would like to take this opportunity to assure emaSwati and the international community that His Majesty King Mswati III is in the country and continues to lead in working with government to advance the Kingdom’s goals… In the meantime we appeal for calm, restraint and peace from all emaSwati,” said Masuku.
Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) spokesperson Lucky Lukhele said the chaotic scenes from Monday evening were triggered by Masuku’s decision a few days ago to suspend the delivery of petitions that called for democratic reforms to MPs (MPs).
He said three MPs mobilised the youth into boycotting the rule by the king and to seek a democratic state. This escalated to the burning of businesses and blockading of several roads entering the country from SA.
By on Tuesday, several protesters had been arrested.
Mlungisi Makhanya from the People’s UDM said they were demanding the eradication of the royal supremacy and allow an all-inclusive political dialogue, unbanning of political parties and the return of political exiles.
They also want to establish a democratically elected structure that will develop a new democratic constitution followed by a general election.
He said members of the Southern African Development Community have reached out to them and they will send them communication detailing the way forward for Eswatini governance.
Meanwhile, Lukhele said the chaos has also sowed divisions among the military.
“The barracks in Matsapha is loyal to the king and it is the one that has been shooting at protesters. The soldiers in the Mdzimba Mountain Barracks are still in the camp and soldiers from neighbouring countries have been brought in to engage with both factions,” said Lukhele.