eSwatini govt defends decision to ban delivery of petitions by protestors

Amid the unrest escalating violence and looting of shops, government has imposed a curfew in the country with immediate effect barring residents from leaving their homes between 6 pm and 5 am.

Days of pro-democracy demonstrations in eSwatini led to shops being set alight in Matsapha on 28 June 2021. Picture: @SwaziNews/Twitter.

JOHANNESBURG - The eSwatini government has defended its decision to ban the delivery of petitions by pro-democracy protestors, saying it's by no means stifling citizens from raising grievances.

Amid the unrest escalating violence and looting of shops, government has imposed a curfew in the country with immediate effect barring residents from leaving their homes between 6 pm and 5 am.

The government said this was not to silence the freedom of expression of protesters but to stop the spread of the new COVID-19 Delta variant gripping its neighbouring country South Africa.

Acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku said government was by no means trying to silence protesters who were demanding democracy and change.

He insisted eSwatini citizens remained united despite their differences, challenges and perceptions.

Government has opened an email address where residents must direct their concerns and petitions, saying this was in the interest of COVID-19 lockdown regulations to minimise the spread of the pandemic.

However, pro-democracy protesters said they would not back down until King Mswati relinquished power.

The eSwatini government said it would remain on the ground to "restore law and order" and called on citizens to cooperate.

Government has also strongly denied reports that King Mswati had fled the country amid the unrest, saying he remained in the country and was in control.

Law enforcement officials continue to patrol the streets.

Meanwhile, Airlink has cancelled flights between Johannesburg and Sikhuphe's King Mswati III International Airport due to the civil unrest.

The cancellation includes the South African-based domestic and regional airline of the same name.

Eswatini Airlink general manager Joseph Dlamini said the decision was in the interest of the safety and security of customers and staff.

Dlamini said normal services would be restored as soon as it was safe to do so.

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