Former South African president Thabo Mbeki has been approached to help facilitate talks between government and civil society in Eswatini, following four days of violent protests in the absolute monarchy.
It is understood that Eswatini’s King Mswati III and prime minister Themba Masuku approached the former statesman; but Mbeki told them he would only agree if the process is led by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a source close to the process said.
Eswatini Has Had Enough of Its Despotic King
Many years ago, an acquaintance told me a story from her childhood in the country then known as Swaziland that sounded like something from out of the distant past.
One day, she said, officials from the king’s palace came to her high school and left with one of her friends, a beautiful girl, in tow. The country’s king, Mswati III, had caught sight of the girl and decided he wanted her as one of his many wives, who now number 15.
The protests, which escalated on June 28, 2021, took over the streets of the two biggest cities, Manzini and the country’s capital, Mbabane, in a demonstration against the monarchy’s rule over the country.
Human Rights Watch made a statement in response to reported police violence, calling for authorities to follow the law and not use force against citizens.
“The Eswatini government should ensure that security forces act within the law, and avoid arbitrary use of force,” said Southern African director at Human Rights Watch, Dewa Mavhinga. “They should put in place a range of measures to safeguard citizens against violence and to prosecute all unlawful use of force.”
The protests began as a response to alleged police negligence and lack of accountability following the death of law student, Thabani Nkomonye, who died under mysterious circumstances in May 2021. The family of Nkomonye and the youth of Eswatini believe that the 25-year-old died at the hands of police brutality, meeting an alleged similar fate to many young people in the country.
More than half of the country lives below the poverty line
King Mswati III, who has led the country for 35 years, has been criticized for leading a lavish lifestyle, despite more than half the country (58.6%) living below the poverty line, and just over 20% of people considered extremely poor.
Food Insecurity is Worsening
Over 100,000 people in the kingdom depend on feeding schemes such as the World Food Program, and more than 330,000 people are experiencing acute levels of food insecurity.
Eswatini has the highest prevalence of HIV in the world
Although the country has made considerable improvements in treatment uptake and HIV diagnosis, the small kingdom remains the country with the highest HIV prevalence in the world, with 26% of the adult population living with HIV.
One in three girls experience GBV
According to a report by the International Commission of Jurists and SWAGAA, an estimated 48.2% of women and girls in Eswatini will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. This is based on the current statistic, also calculated in the report, that one in three girls experience GBV in the Kingdom.
More than a third of people do not have access to basic sanitation
The country has been experiencing a water and sanitation crisis that has most recently been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.