Police in Swaziland (eSwatini) are hunting for the people who were involved in carrying a banner during a protest that said absolute monarch King Mswati III ‘must fall.’
It happened during a demonstration organised by the recently-formed Political Party Assembly (PPA) when a banner reading ‘#MSWATI MUST FALL’ was carried.
Dissent is stamped on in Swaziland where political parties cannot contest elections and groups advocating for democracy are outlawed by the Suppression of Terrorism Act.
Royal Eswatini Police Service National Commissioner William Dlamini told a media conference that police had not given permission for the banner to be used and it would not be allowed to be seen at any future march.
The Observer on Saturday, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported he said, ‘The truth is that we’re investigating the matter. The banner was carried by individuals on the day and the law will take its course. It shows that those people carrying the banner had planned for an opportunity to raise it such that when the police realise the damage the message would have already been disseminated.’
The newspaper said a man who was carrying a banner had been taken in by police.
The Observer added, ‘He [Dlamini] said, however, this is not the end as they would continue with their investigations and get to the bottom of such acts.’
The slogan ‘#MSWATI MUST FALL’ is being used by the PPA as part of its campaign for reforms in the kingdom.
Three of the group’s leaders were detained by police on 12 December 2019 when they tried to lead a march through the industrial town of Matsapha aimed at drumming up support for the PPA.
Protest marches are routinely banned in Swaziland where freedom of assembly is severely curtailed.
The PPA consists of political parties including the Ngwane National Liberation Congress (NNLC), the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS), the Swazi Democratic Party (SDP) and the People’s United Democratic Party (PUDEMO).
In a statement the PPA said it wanted to end the kingdom’s form of government, known as Tinkhundla, or monarchical democracy. They wanted power returned to the people.
PPA stated, ‘We unanimously observed that the royal project Tinkhundla has reached a point of no return in dragging down our dignity and stretching beyond limits our patience as a people.’
The announcement came days after it was revealed the King had taken delivery of at least 15 Rolls-Royce cars for his wives and family and 79 luxury BMW cars worth US$6 million for ‘escort duties’.
PPA said, ‘Brazen looting and plunder of national resources by the monarchy have reached levels unmatched in history, plunging our people into unbearable conditions as witnessed through escalating cost of living, crisis in education and health, high unemployment as well as poor general service delivery.’
The banner the police have banned
Democracy leaders detained by Swaziland police as illegal march halted
Swaziland political parties unite in bid to end absolute king’s power