Eight killed, dozens injured and detained as protests continue in eSwatini, say activists

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  • Activists say the police and army were used to crack down on protesters.
  • The internet was reportedly shut down in eSwatini, while protesters blocked the borders.
  • Protesters are calling for multiparty democracy and the removal of the king.

Protesters in eSwatini defied a curfew on Wednesday, taking to the streets in what activists say is a tipping point in Africa's last absolute monarchy.

Activists say eight people were killed in Manzini alone, with 28 critically injured.

The internet has also reportedly been shut down.

News24 could not reach the government of eSwatini for comment.

WATCH | Protests rock eSwatini, govt denies reports that King Mswati fled

Protesters say the eSwatini government is using Covid-19 regulations to crack down on public demonstrations. Soldiers and military are patrolling the streets to enforce the regulations, and enforcing roadblocks.

Unverified mobile phone footage shows soldiers harassing people out on the streets during the day.

In the country's townships and rural areas, soldiers have reportedly been going from house to house, dragging young people out of their homes and beating them.

READ | Violent protests in eSwatini after government bans demonstrations amid calls for King's removal

"It looks like the army has been given a separate command," said Lucky Lukhele, spokesperson for the Swaziland Solidarity Network.

Pro-democracy opposition movement Pudemo said 47 protesters were detained by security officers.

The president of the EFF Swaziland, Nombulelo Motsa, was also detained, the EFF in South Africa said in a statement.

Strategic demonstrations

Defying the curfew, protesters have burned state-owned businesses linked to King Mswati III, such as eSwatini Beverages and the Southern Star trucking company.

"The anger now is well-channelled toward one person," said Lukhele.

On Tuesday, after some of the most violent protests the country has seen in recent years, Prime Minister Themba Masuku announced a curfew between 18:00 and 05:00.

READ | eSwatini introduced strict Covid-19 curfew after night of protests

The protesters also demonstrated near border posts, preventing food and goods from entering the country, in a bid to bring the economy to a standstill.

In the town of Piggs Peak, popular with tourists, angry young people reportedly set fire to the local police station. News24 has been unable to independently confirm this.  

The protests in eSwatini are rooted in the "Kungahlwa Kwenile" campaign, started online and via WhatsApp, by leaders who want to remain anonymous. They called on citizens, particularly unemployed youth, to target infrastructure linked to the king.

PICS | eSwatini student's death sparks protests over alleged police brutality

The protests have been building over several weeks, with demonstrations at local government offices.

The demonstrations reached a climax when the government last week banned such petitions and demonstrations.

While an informal group, the "Kungahlwa Kwenile" campaign's demands are in line with pro-democracy groups, who have for years been suppressed in eSwatini.

The group is calling for the unbanning of opposition movements, the release of political prisoners, the safe return of political exiles and a multiparty democracy.

The News 24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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