King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland (eSwatini), fled the kingdom after prodemocracy campaigners defied his order to stop protest marches, according to unconfirmed reports.
The South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) reported on Tuesday (29 June 2021) that he had left but details were ‘still sketchy’. It said thousands of people had taken to social media after reports that he had fled the kingdom ‘after pro-democracy protests turned into chaos’.
The Swaziland News, an online newspaper, reported the King ‘fled’ on Monday evening.
It said he had also ordered the arrest of two members of parliament who supported the protestors.
Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati as an absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King chooses the Prime Minister and government cabinet ministers as well as top judges and civil servants. Groups advocating for democracy are outlawed under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.
Protestors have marched across the kingdom – mostly in rural areas – to deliver petitions at local government centres calling for widespread reforms. Among them is a demand they be allowed to elect the prime minister.
Themba Masuku, the Swazi Acting Prime Minister on Thursday speaking on behalf of the King, issued a ban on all protest marches but many went ahead over the weekend in defiance.
The Swaziland News reported on Tuesday, ‘It has been disclosed that the army was deployed to control the situation at Matsapha on Monday evening a few minutes after the King fled using his private jet. The soldiers immediately started opening fire and the exact number of causalities could not be ascertained at the time of compiling this report, protests are expected to intensify on Tuesday night with protestors targeting King Mswati and Government properties.’
It added, ‘An effort was made to contact King Mswati directly on his mobile phone for a comment after his Spokesperson Sabelo Dlamini avoided questions several times, however, both numbers of the King not available on the network at the time of compiling this report and his whereabouts remain unknown.’
Later on Tuesday, Acting Prime Minister Masuku issued a satement saying the King ‘is in the country’. He promised updates on the situation in the kingdom ‘as the day progresses.’
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