King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland (eSwatini), made his first public appearance on Thursday (7 May 2020) since the start of the coronavirus crisis with a television address from the Ludzidzini Royal Residence.
King Mswati III makes his first public appearance since the coronavirus crisis began. Picture: Govt. of eSwatini
In late March a key ally of the King, Lusendvo Fakudze, the Ludzidzini Palace Governor, confirmed to the Swaziland News, an online newspaper, that the King was in social isolation because of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
The News reported at the time that Fakudze said, ‘Currently, no visitors are allowed to see the King, our only focus now is to educate the public about this epidemic as per the command of the King.’
He gave no further details about the King’s health which led to speculation about his condition.
In April, the Swazi Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini made reference to reports on social media and in international media that King Mswati was ‘critically ill’. He said, ‘His Majesty is well and healthy. Those misleading the nation about his health will be dealt with in line with the law.’
This was a indirect reference to Zweli Martin Dlamini, the editor of the Swaziland News, an online newspaper, who had been vigorously reporting the King’s absence. The eSwatini Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported that police were searching for him.
Police raided Dlamini’s home but he was not there. Police reportedly harassed his wife and two small children. The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN), a pro-democracy group banned in Swaziland, reported, ‘Dlamini was first subjected to police torture two months ago and told to stop reporting about the king and the royal family. The editor has now been declared a wanted person by the police.’
In his address to the kingdom, King Mswati made a passing reference to his absence from public life but gave no details as to whether he had been ill.
He called on all people to respect the seriousness of coronavirus and follow his government’s health guidelines to always wash their hands with soap and water, use hand sanitisers, keep social distance, avoid shaking of hands and stay at home if there was no pressing need to be outside.
But, answering questions from reporters after the address he supported the use of herbal drinks in the fight against the virus.
The Independent News, eSwatini, reported, the King said, ‘COVID-19 is a novel disease, anything, could it be natural (herbs), can be used to treat the disease.’ It added, ‘He encouraged researchers in the country to put their minds together in a move to come with a natural or herbal remedy for COVID-19.’
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