Eswatini government slams news site, declares journalist 'terrorist' amid 'winter revolution'

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Eswatini Prime Minister Cleopas Sipho Dlamini.
Eswatini Prime Minister Cleopas Sipho Dlamini.
PHOTO: Daniel Leal/Pool, AFP
  • Eswatini Prime Minister Cleopas Dlamini has declared Swaziland News editor Zweli Martin Dlamini a terrorist.
  • Through articles written by Dlamini, the online publication has urged people to protest against the king.
  • Dlamini says he will press on for freedom, despite being declared a terrorist.

The Eswatini government has declared activist and journalist Zweli Martin Dlamini a terrorist and hit out at his online publication, Swaziland News.

The country is experiencing a so-called "winter revolution" that has seen two police officers killed and a European Union (EU) project disrupted. The EU-funded Water Harvesting, Small and Medium Earth Dams Project is being implemented by Inyatsi Construction, which allegedly has links with King Mswati.

READ | We won't sit back and watch, Eswatini government warns 'winter revolution' rioters

"In exercise of the powers conferred on me by Section 28 [2] of the Suppression of Terrorism Act 2008, I, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Eswatini, declare Zweli Martin Dlamini and Swaziland News (Pty Ltd) to be specified entities with immediate effect in that these entities knowingly facilitate the commission of terrorist acts," Eswatini Prime Minister Cleopas Sipho Dlamini said in a government notice made public late on Thursday.

In an interview with News24 from Johannesburg, where he's based, Zweli Martin Dlamini said the decision by the Eswatini government was a sad day for press freedom.

He said:

It's bad for free speech. They want to suppress the voice of the people and continue plundering the country.

He added that he would not be deterred by the terrorist tag.

"To me, that means nothing. It won't stop me from pushing for change and calling for a revolution. I want to return to a free country, and it will happen eventually," he added.

Zweli Martin Dlamini's publication has been exclusively reporting on the "winter revolution", quoting an unnamed "Commander" of the Swaziland International Solidarity Forces (SISF).

For security reasons, the identity of the "Commander" is only known to the editor.

In Dlamini's stories, the SISF has been identified as the force behind the destruction of Inyatsi Construction's operations a fortnight ago. The company allegedly has links with the king.

Two police officers have also been killed in what Swaziland News reported was "in response to the arrest of pro-democracy members of Parliament Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube, and the ongoing killing of dozens of civilians by Mswati's forces, merely for demanding democratic reforms".

After the two incidents, the government said it would not sit back and watch while the country was under siege from terror attacks.

Eswatini's attorney-general, Sifiso Khumalo, said Dlamini was a security threat after further threats to kill police officers and vandalism.

Khumalo said in a letter:

The consistent actions of Mr Dlamini fall within the definition of a terrorist act in the Suppression of Terrorism Act 2008. Your Excellency, in my capacity as Attorney-General, I am, therefore, of the opinion that Zweli Martin Dlamini and Swaziland News be specified entities.

One of the issues raised by the attorney-general was a Facebook Live post on 2 February 2022, in which Dlamini said in SiSwati: "Remember this, we must fix our problems from wherever we are."

"I have said this before, this urgent matter does not call for outside help. We must do it ourselves. I wish I was not a journalist so that I could lead the revolution from the frontline.

"Let us fight the king, who does not understand the language of written statements."

The News24 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 the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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