from SAMBULO DLAMINI in Mbabane, Eswatini
MBABANE, (CAJ News) – AS the situation in Eswatini deepens, so does the whereabouts of King Mswati III.
On Wednesday, the standoff between security forces and civilians worsened as the armed forces opened fire on protesters, especially in the second town of Manzini where the demonstrators ran riot.
Protesters went amok destroying property and targeted some companies – including Swaziland Breweries – linked to the king, who is under pressure to cede power he has held since 1986, aged 18.
Critics demand that the king paves way for the establishment of a democratically-elected president.
Demonstrators were back on the streets on Wednesday. Swaziland Breweries was partly set alight.
Amid the escalating clashes that have drawn international criticism, Mswati III has been conspicuous in his silence.
This glaring silence seems to give credence to the rumours swelling around Eswatini that the king has “fled” the county.
Earlier this week, the largest opposition, People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), claimed he was in South Africa, where he has relations to the Zulu Kingdom, which coincidentally has also been having some infighting after the recent deaths of King Goodwill Zwelithini and Queen Mantfombi Dlamini-Zulu.
The queen was the sister to Mswati III.
The Eswatini government denied the reports the king was out of the country.
The rumour mill took another turn on Wednesday after it was reported the king had in fact been “hiding” in Mozambique.
Further rumours alleged Mswati III was in Zimbabwe.
According to unconfirmed reports, the king had been in Harare over the past few days.
He was said to be residing at a upmarket in the capital city.
Calls mounted for Mswati III to emerge and address the restive nation, but to no avail.
“The king must speak and concede to the demands of the people. EmaSwati have suffered for too long under his dictatorship. The violence seen today is due to years of oppression,” said activist Kiki Dlamini.
The shutting down of the internet further infuriated activists.
It had been down since Tuesday, was partially restored but off again on Wednesday.
“Why did you shut down the Internet in the country? What’s next? Phone lines, so people can’t communicate with the outside world to seek help?” asked Zandi Thabethe.
The internet shutdown came despite calls by government for citizens to use it to channel their grievances officially to government.
Amid the king’s silence and alleged absence, Acting Prime Minister, Themba Masuku, attempted to quell the conflict.
“Government would like to assure all emaSwati, residents of Eswatini, the international community and diplomatic partners that we are working around the clock to ensure that the situation is normalised,” the premier said.
– CAJ News