King Mswati faces uprising

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The winds of change that swept across North Africa and are currently blowing through the Middle East have now spread to the Southern African country of Swaziland where protesters are demanding political reforms.

The mass protests are against King Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarchy. But authorities have vowed to crackdown on the protesters.

Heavily armed police and military were on Tuesday occupying the capital Mbabane and other key centres, teargas was being used against protesters, and there were reports that security forces were firing live ammunition.

Police Commissioner Isaac Magagula said the police, the army and prison services were ready to face down “evil” protesters.

“Such evil will not be tolerated,” the Times newspaper, a privately owned publication, quoted him as saying.
Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini declared the demonstrations illegal and warned that anyone who took part did so at their own risk.

The king, who has 14 wives, has been accused of living a lavish lifestyle, while hundreds of thousands wallow in poverty.

Swaziland has a population of only 1,4 million, but 40% of them are unemployed, and 70% is living on less than $1 a day.

The demonstrations have been supported by Zimbabwe’s National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) and South Africa’s African National Congress Youth League.

“On this day, the 12th of April (the fateful day 12 April 1973 when the Swazi monarchy outlawed the independence constitution and free political activity) for the people of Swaziland the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) Zimbabwe expresses it support and solidarity to the people of Swaziland who are protesting against the authoritarian rule of King Mswati III,” the NCA said in a statement.

The ANC Youth League said it supported the “youth of Swaziland to fearlessly confront the Swaziland monarchy and fight until it has been brought down to its knees on the uprising that starts on Tuesday. The youth of Swaziland should be inspired by the youth of Tunisia and Egypt, who brought down regimes sympathetic to imperialists.”

Mass protests led to the ousting of long-time rulers Ali Ben and Hosni Mubarak in Tunisia and Egypt respectively.

Mubarak has fallen ill and was taken to hospital. The ousted strongman has been reported to be in bad health, but aides denied this.

He has been summoned by the State prosecutor for questioning over alleged corruption and killings of protesters.

Mubarak, his sons and their wives have been banned from leaving the country and their assets have been frozen.

A revolt in Libya has degenerated into a civil war. In most part of the Middle East, long- time rulers are battling to subdue mass protests.

In Swaziland, protests have been called by a coalition of civil society and trade unions marching under the banner of the Labour Coordinating Council.

Unions have taken the place of banned parties and are at the forefront of the protest calls – similar to those in North Africa that have toppled presidents in Tunisia and Egypt.

Authorities have vowed to crack down on the protesters.

Police have been raiding activists’ homes since last week, with four key protest organisers getting arrested on Monday.