eSwatini introduces strict Covid-19 curfew after night of protests

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  • Curfew takes place with immediate effect, barring movement after dark.
  • Restrictions come after a night of violent protest in eSwatini after a ban on demonstrations.
  • The government has introduced an email address for citizens' grievances.

Following days of unrest, which culminated in violent protests on Tuesday, the eSwatini government has instituted a strict Covid-19 curfew.

Citing the prevalence of the Delta variant in South Africa and fearing the high mobility between the two countries, acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku said the country will introduce a curfew with immediate effect.

The curfew will be in effect between 18:00 and 05:00. All offices and business must close by 15:30 and essential workers must carry a permit at all times. Schools are also closed with immediate effect.

READ | Lockdown: Ramaphosa places the country under alert Level 4

"No one is expected to be in the streets after 18:00," Masuku said in a statement.

Electronic petitions

The curfew coincides with overnight protests in eSwatini, which saw supermarkets looted and property burned.

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

eSwatini has seen increasing protests in recent months to demand multiparty democracy, economic reform and police accountability.

The protests gained momentum when the government decree banned citizens from demonstrating and delivering petitions to government officials.

In response, Masuku said the government will introduce an email address where petitions can be sent to.

The move ensures the government will deal with citizens' grievances, but also "maintain the rule of law and de-escalate tension that had turned this exercise into violence and disorder".

Masuku said:

May I emphasise that, despite the threat of the virus, the government remains committed to working on the petitions we have received and accommodating any new grievances and concerns raised by emaSwati through electronic means to ensure the safety of all.

Calls for change

Activists, however, accuse the government of heavy-handedness in its response to protesters.

In a statement, the People United Democratic Movement accused the government of using military forces to crack down on civilians. The group claimed at least five people were critically injured, and a dozen were arrested.

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

Tuesday's demonstrations were largely driven by the Kungahlwa Kwenile campaign, led by anonymous activists using social media to mobilise citizens. They called on members of the public to burn property and businesses associated with the king.

Earlier, reports claimed that King Mswati III had fled the country, and was hiding in South Africa, as protests flared. The government rubbished the claim, insisting the king was still in the country.

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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