The king of eSwatini recently sought to appease the people by giving them another of his appointees totally ignoring what the people want. In his first public address since violent demonstrations broke out in the kingdom last month, King Mswati III announced that former pension fund boss Cleopas Dlamini would replace Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini, who died in December after contracting COVID-19.

The people of eSwatini are currently demanding democratic reforms amid police crackdown on demonstrations. “I have prayed that I have a man that would bring the country to normalcy, restore the country and resuscitate the economy,” Mswati told crowds gathered on Friday at the Ludzidzini Royal Palace, around 20km (12.4 miles) south of the capital Mbabane.

Meanwhile, the above call by the king, is completely the opposite of what the people of eSwatini want and the king knows what the people want but he chooses to ignore them as he continues on his self-destruct path.

The announcement was made following demonstrations demanding the right to democratically elect a prime minister among other reforms in Africa’s only remaining absolute monarchy. In his remarks on the protests, the king called them “satanic” and said they had taken the country backwards.

Protesters took to the streets again on Friday in Manzini, the second-largest city, before the king’s address. Activists said two people were wounded and that police arrested 15 others.

Many people are shocked by the king’s response to the people’s demands. Government of eSwatini has been telling the citizens that Mswati was going to respond to the peoples demands, and he responds to them in such a way by giving them “another of his appointees” when they are demanding an elected Prime Minister.

In the meantime, all these developments are happening under the watchful eye of the SADC Troika team on the ground. SADC sent a ministerial team to investigate and hear from both parties in eSwatini on the way forward. President Masisi announced last week that a SADC Troika Team was going to be in eSwatini from the 15-22 July.

We hope that the SADC Troika Team will report exactly as they see things on the ground to President Masisi of Botswana and that SADC will this time around not going to protect the leaders of eSwatini but the people of eSwatini.

This development of the king appointing his own Prime Minister totally ignoring the pro-democracy demands of an elected Prime Minister, is indeed a slap on SADC face. King Mswati is being disrespectful of both SADC and his people.

He is challenging the people of eSwatini that they can’t do anything to him, completely treating them as children who are hopelessly desperate and are dependent on his mercy. This has serious repercussions on king Mswati going forward as the people of eSwatini might loose all the respect that they have of their king and depose him. This is not far from happening and no amount of crackdown will stop this as long as he does not listen to his people’s demands.

Civil society and opposition groups demonstrated in Manzini and Mbabane late last month, looting shops and ransacking properties, some of which belonged to the king. At least according to official sources, 27 people died as police clashed with protesters in some of the worst unrest in the country’s history. However, opposition sources are putting the number of the dead much higher than this.

We are calling upon the AU, SADC, and the UN, to exert much more pressure on king Mswati to think like an adult and stop thinking like a child, and save himself, his family and his countrymen and women from further death by doing the best in this respect, dialogue. Much more important, could be the pressure coming from South Africa.

Singlehandedly, South Africa can be the game changer if it chooses to be. We know that eSwatini cannot withstand pressure from Pretoria. Therefore, we call upon President Ramaphosa to act decisively and help the people of eSwatini to find the much elusive peace that they require.

eSwatini, a landlocked state in southern Africa, was previously known as Swaziland.

Crowned in 1986 at the age of 18, Mswati III, who has 15 wives and more than 25 children, is criticised for his iron fist and lavish lifestyle in a country where two-thirds of the population lives below the poverty line.


Dr. Mustafa Mheta

Senior researcher/Head of Africa Desk

Media Review Network

South Africa