Eswatini civil groups condemn security ‘heavy-handedness’ amid unrest

In the midst of mounting frustration in the kingdom, Eswatini has been on high alert amid weeks of rolling mass action calling for an end to the regime under King Mswati III.

FILE: A victim of a police brutality, who was shot by Swazi Special Police Unit's Operation Service Support Unit (OSSU), is carried away on a stretcher in Mbabane, Eswatini, on 20 October 2021. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG/MBABANE - The Swaziland Solidarity Network has condemned what it called the heavy-handedness of security officials in Eswatini when dealing with protesters.

In the midst of mounting frustration in the kingdom, Eswatini has been on high alert amid weeks of rolling mass action calling for an end to the regime under King Mswati III.

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There have been more security force members deployed in Mbabane where the Solidarity Network said protests had intensified.

The Swaziland Solidarity Network's Lucky Lukhule said the internet had once again been shut down in Eswatini as per the instruction from the king.

“It has come to our attention that teargas is thrown at buses full of protestors on their way to Mbabane. Those who were lucky to escape through the windows of the buses are being shot at with live ammunition.”

According to AFP, at least 80 people were injured in Eswatini on Wednesday, a union leader said, as security forces cracked down on escalating pro-democracy protests in Africa's last absolute monarchy.

Civil servants' union NAPSAWU said 50 of its members were taken to hospital in the capital Mbabane, with another 30 hospitalised in the city of Manzini.

Hundreds of soldiers and police began fanning through both cities early in the day, firing teargas at even small gatherings of people and unleashing volleys of rubber bullets, an AFP correspondent saw.

"This is a recipe for war," said Wonder Mkhonza, head of the Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland. "The king is fighting for a war, he is making the country ungovernable by deploying the armed forces."

Heavily armed soldiers and police were seen on the streets, while one Mbabane high school caught fire, sending plumes of smoke billowing over the city.

At least 28 people have died this year as police clashed with protesters in some of the worst unrest in the southern African country's history. The latest fatality was last week.

King Mswati III has ruled this landlocked nation since 1986 and owns shares in all of the country's telecoms.

He is criticised for living a lavish lifestyle in one of the world's poorest countries and is also accused of stifling political parties.

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