King Mswati III dodges urgent SADC summit on politics and security

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King Mswati III of Eswatini
King Mswati III of Eswatini
PHOTO: Darren Stewart/Gallo Images
  • Eswatini's King Mswati III will skip the SADC extraordinary summit that will discuss the political and security situation in the region.
  • Civil society in Eswatini hopes the murder of a human rights lawyer will be on the agenda.
  • Zimbabwe, Eswatini, Madagascar and the DRC have elections due this year.

King Mswati III of Eswatini will skip the Southern African Development Community (SADC) extraordinary summit in Windhoek, Namibia.

The gathering is expected to discuss the political and security situation in the region on Tuesday.

In his place will be the kingdom's prime minister, Cleopas Sipho Dlamini, who will deliver a report on the security situation, the government said.

Chaired by Namibia's President Hage Geingob, this will be the first meeting of heads of state and government this year.

Geingob heads the regional bloc's organ on politics, defence and security cooperation.

READ | Maseko was not state’s enemy – King Mswati III’s spokesperson

Civil society in Eswatini hopes the meeting will discuss the political and security situation in the country after the murder of human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko.

The widely held belief is that Maseko's murder was politically motivated. Police are currently investigating the killing.

In a statement, Geingob called on the people of Eswatini to "remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion".

The SADC is expected to push ahead with plans for Eswatini's national dialogue.

Still, King Mswati III's government last week said dialogue could only happen in a peaceful environment.

Geingob said conflict should be avoided in Eswatini.

He said:

SADC reiterates the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country. When dialogue fails, people go to war. Therefore, we propose that national and inclusive multi-stakeholder dialogue takes place.

Last year in April, King Mswati III removed Eswatini from SADC's troika summit agenda. No explanation was given.

Eswatini is due for polls under the tinkhundla system later this year. Civil society called for a boycott of the system.

Another country likely to be on the agenda is Zimbabwe, where arbitrary arrests of opposition activists have taken centre stage ahead of elections later this year.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa will arrive at the summit a few days after the courts granted bail to 26 opposition activists, who were arrested for holding what the authorities said was an illegal gathering.

ALSO READ | Ex-SADF man trains Mswati’s ‘anti-terror’ force

Ahead of the polls, Job Sikhala, a lawyer and opposition stalwart, has become the face of resistance. He has been behind bars for more than 226 days and was allegedly denied bail in a politically motivated wrap. 

Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere said in a statement on Friday that Sikhala was being held "unconstitutionally", and called for his release.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Zimbabwe's deregistering of hundreds of civil society groups under the country's Private Voluntary Organisation Act (PVOA) is a grand move to curtail freedom of expression and association ahead of the polls.

Ashwanee Budoo-Scholtz, the deputy Africa director at HRW said:

Zimbabwe's repression of civil society organisations needs to stop, especially in light of the general election this year.

The PVOA is incompatible with the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which Zimbabwe is a party to when it comes to freedom of association, HRW argues.

Another SADC country that will have elections this year, in December, is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).The DRC's conflict in the eastern part of the country is being dealt with under the East African Community (EAC).

READ | Hundreds pay tribute to slain Eswatini rights activist Thulani Maseko

Angola is the lone SADC country tasked with finding a peaceful solution in the DRC under the Luanda Agreement.

With SADC as a bystander, Angola will be expected to brief the bloc on the process.

Madagascar is also due for polls, but there are reports from the Indian Ocean island nation that the current regime intends to extend its mandate through a new transition, which could result in the election not taking place.

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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