Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) leader McHenry Venaani has called on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and international relations minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah to intervene in Eswatini.
Venaani said in a statement that Nandi-Ndaitwah and the regional body should intervene by initiating a process of mediation between the monarchy and the leaders of the protest, as well as to commit themselves to strengthening human rights promotion and protection, and guaranteeing the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly. International news organisations said 27 people died last week during pro-democracy protests in the region’s last absolute monarchy.
King Mswati III, Eswatini’s longtime ruler known for his extravagant lifestyle, is facing some of the biggest protests of his 35-year reign. The tiny nation is currently facing a shortage of fuel, food and the largest protests the country has seen in its 50 years of independence. Amnesty International reported that state security forces have killed protesters, and dozens of others have been tortured, detained or abducted. There have also been reports of the military and police firing live rounds at protesters, as well as internet blackouts.
Protests in Eswatini were sparked by the death of alleged police brutality victim Thabani Nkomonye earlier in June. The 25-year-old was a final-year law student at the University of Eswatini, and was allegedly killed by police who also tried to hide his death and tamper with evidence.
Last week, demonstrators in Eswatini took to the streets to demand reforms. Chaotic scenes unfolded, with cars torched, shops looted and roads blocked. Activists have
reported several fatalities and scores of injuries as law-enforcement personnel pushed back against protesters.
“It is in the best interest of not only the Emaswati people, but also the southern African regional bloc as a whole that democratic consolidation is ensured,” Venaani said on Friday.
Furthermore, while he welcomes the recent efforts of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security to embark on a fact-finding mission to the Kingdom of Eswatini, the opposition leader said it is undeniably clear that there exists an urgent need for the organ to return to the country as the situation is extremely delicate, and tension continues to grow. “Although it has now been reported to be calmer, we remain concerned at the potential for further unrest,” he stated.
Venaani then appealed to the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security chairperson Mokgweetsi Masisi to ensure that all stakeholders address their differences through inclusive and meaningful engagement.
Masisi was also urged to ensure that human rights are upheld. Moreover, he reminded the government of Eswatini of their obligation that bound them to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which speaks to the protection of peaceful protests. Thus, the authorities ought to comply with human rights principles in restoring order and the rule of law in the country.
“They are particularly obligated to minimise any use of force in the policing of protests,” Venaani noted.
“The authorities are encouraged to act within the bounds of the law and to desist
from the arbitrary use of force, as stipulated
by the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law-Enforcement Officials,” he added.