Mbabane: There is no longer any doubt that the government is engaged in an ongoing confrontation with the so-called pro-democracy forces. This is evident from the activities that the country has witnessed over the past week during the Eswatini Global Week of Action organized by the Peoples United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), the Ngwane National Liberation Congress (NNLC), and the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA).
The confrontation was characterized by the heavy deployment of security forces especially in the towns and urban areas. Whose intention is to suppress any protest action, violent conduct, and to maintain law and order.
The Global Week of Action was billed to start on the 6th of September with a series of seminars touching on people’s demands, human rights violations, police brutality, and civil disobedience. It culminated with border blockades at Oshoek, Golela/Lavumisa, and Matsamo. The blockades were announced by the Confederation of South African Trade Union’s (COSATU) Deputy International Secretary Zanele Mathebula who stated that they were acting in solidarity with Eswatini’s pro-democracy forces.
Mathebula said “We are concerned about the people that died during the recent unrest and those who are languishing in jail because of their political beliefs such as the Members of Parliament Mduduzi “Bacede” Mabuza of Hosea and Mthandeni Dube of Ngwempisi. There is also the matter of the South African prisoner Amos Mbedzi who is medically unfit to remain in jail.”
The government has not been silent during these developments with the Minister of Commerce, Industry, and Trade, Manqoba Khumalo declaring that “the blockades are an act of terrorism against the economy and jobs. In the event of any such lawless activity, the law will take its course.” He did mention however that they had no control over what happens on the South African side of the ports of entry.
On the 5th of September however, as a precursor to the announced start of the Global Week of Action, police in Nhlangano shot and killed a young man, Siphesihle Dludlu who they allege was a wanted gang member.
Outraged members of the mass pro-democracy protest vociferously disputed this allegation claiming that the man was merely an illegal cannabis farmer. They claim that he was executed while trying to earn a living in the face of extreme poverty resulting from unemployment. The mother of the slain man Sindi Dludlu said” my son had gone to town to buy some groceries as he was the breadwinner and he was shot and killed like a dog”
On Monday 6th September, in keeping with the ongoing arson attacks that have rocked the country since June, a Southern Star logistics truck was torched at the company depot in Matsapha. Meanwhile, at the other end of the country in Mdukwini under the Lubulini constituency, the home of a top police detective Senior Superintendent Clement Sihlongonyane was petrol bombed. The incident happened between 8 and 9 PM and so far no one has been arrested. It is believed that the burning of Sihlongonyane’s homestead was in retaliation for his involvement in the arrest of Ngwempisi Member of Parliament, Mthandeni Dube, and Hosea Member of Parliament Mduduzi “Bacede” Mabuza.
Subsequent to the arson attack at the Sihlongonyane home the Royal Eswatini Police Services (REPS) issued a strong-worded statement on what it termed the ongoing sabotage. The National Commissioner of Police, William Dlamini said “we condemn the barbaric and irresponsible acts of violence. While efforts are underway to rebuild properties damaged during the onset of the unrest that engulfed our country in June, there are elements that are still hell-bent on sowing the seeds of anarchy. Lately, we are also witnessing the bombing of police camps and homesteads.” The National Commissioner also announced an unstipulated amount of cash as a reward for information leading to the arrest and subsequent prosecution of the ongoing sabotage.
In response, however, the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland’s (TUSOSWA) Mduduzi Gina said “we want to send a clear message that dialogue is needed in the country in order to resolve the tension. It cannot be business as usual when people are complaining and calling for reforms.
By 11:00 am on the 9th of September, members of COSATU had already assembled in their numbers on the South African side of the three ports of entry earmarked for the blockade. However, there was a heavy security presence on the Eswatini side. Roadblocks were manned at key intersections leading to each of the three borders but no skirmishes were reported. Although it cannot be said that it was business as usual, traffic through the border gates did eventually resume.
COSATU Deputy International Secretary, Zanele Mathebula stated that the blockades would not be the end of the activities. “We will do everything in our power to force Eswatini authorities to facilitate dialogue. We are awaiting a mandate from the people of Eswatini on how they want us to move forward in assisting them. If it means we conduct a boycott we will do it and if it means we continue with border blockades we will do just that. Should it require that we call our government and others within the African Union in terms of sanctions then it shall be done. ”
As if on que, the pro-democracy forces assembled at the headquarters of the United Nations (UN) Country Offices in Mbabane to deliver a petition on Friday the 10th of September. They demanded that the UN investigate the deaths of the 70 people shot and killed by the security forces during the political protest action in June. This after government officials including the Minister of Foreign, Thuli Dladla said the people were not killed by the local security forces but by mercenaries who entered the country dressed in military fatigue. The petition was received by the UN Resident Coordinator, Nathalie Ndongo Seh.