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The future of this country remains on a precipice under a cloud of uncertainty partly owing to a culture of political intolerance by the obtaining government apropos the accommodation of divergent political viewpoints, which recently boiled over when the State crossed the red line by martyring dozens of the youth who constitute the vanguard of the democratic winds of change blowing across the kingdom.

Yet in spite of indicators to the contrary there is still some hope that dialogue remains a realistic solution to the political challenges notwithstanding government’s somewhat recalcitrancy to lead. The naked truth, as I see it, is that the door to dialogue has firmly and unequivocally been shut in the face of the pro-democracy proponents ostensibly because the subject matter is irrelevant as is redundant since Eswatini is already democratic, is the denialist posture of the leadership. Perhaps this posture is meant to provoke another wave of mass protests to create the perfect excuse to exterminate, once and for all, what they consider a troublesome youth threatening their political monopoly that guarantees them a hedonistic lifestyle.


That the number of alleged casualties in the hands of its security apparatus during the protests is downplayed is indicative of how cheap the lives of emaSwati are to them. For while government claims only 35 lives were lost, an alleged untruth repeated by Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Themba Masuku last week to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, political activists have put the figure at over 70. However, recently resigned police sergeant Cebile ‘Cece’ Shongwe put the figure at over 100 dead in Manzini alone. Against a mountain-sized body of evidence – part of which is on video – government has an insurmountable task of disproving this while proving why the world should believe its version of facts. Even more revealing is the fact that the dead hardly get a mention in official speeches as if authorities are in a hurry to make this go away. Yet the fact is there are bereaved families out there who are crying for justice and explanations why their children were allegedly murdered by their supposed protectors.  

While the leadership would have the world believe that dialogue enjoys a premium second to culture and tradition in the lives of emaSwati, this stated position has not found practical support in reality. On the contrary, two poignant speeches by His Majesty in the aftermath of the epoch-making massive pro-democracy protests came short of mustering confidence on what will be done to resolve the political impasse. Both appear to suggest a denial of the existence of a political problem.


In his first post-protests speech to the nation during Sibaya, the King was not enthusiastic about dialogue, muttering in passing that if there ever was a need for national discourse, Sibaya would be convened for that purpose, but certainly not while the country was faced with the threat of COVID-19. The tone being that there was no crisis or emergency that required immediate resolution. If the Sibaya speech lacked coherency on practical efforts government was taking in response to the calls for political reforms, then the speech launching the Reconstruction Fund at the opulent Mandvulo Grand Hall left nothing to doubt. Instead of charting a way forward, chuckling and wearing a broad smile throughout, the Sovereign merely mocked and ridiculed proponents of democracy while pronouncing that Eswatini was already cradled in a democratic nirvana. The long and short of it being that while the leadership claimed to subscribe to a culture of dialoguing in the settlement of disputes, but none was desirous at this moment in time.

Elsewhere, government has demonstrated unwillingness to engage in any form of dialogue. Poignant in this respect were the arrests of and refusal to release on bail two serving legislators, Members of Parliament (MPs) Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube who were in the forefront in calling for political reforms along with their Siphofaneni colleague Mduduzi ‘Magawugawu’ Simelane who thus far has refused to surrender himself to the justice system. Although government, through PM Cleopas Dlamini, is denying the arrests and prosecution of the serving lawmakers was political, empirical evidence, such as denial of bail when same is routinely extended to suspected murderers and lately to senior police officer Vusi Enock Zulu on a similar charge to those faced by the MPs, on the contrary is overwhelming.


In addition to the arrests of the MPs, government has unleashed the police to terrorise residents in what has been identified as political hotspots, such as Hosea constituency. This has taken the form of night raids during which people, including the elderly, are routinely assaulted and their personal properly, including furniture, destroyed. This, to the extent of driving people to flee and hide in mountains. These wanton acts of aggression against unarmed residents have not been condemned by authorities, but justified as raids against dagga farmers and criminal elements.

There are many stories being told elsewhere of how the police have become law unto themselves, shooting suspects anyhow. Torture and ill-treatment of civilians have become their modus operandi thus further alienating the populace that could easily create a culture of hate and resistance to cooperating and working with, particularly, the police to arrest criminals. This could lead down a slippery road in which the people would feel justified to arm and defend themselves against the police and army. As pointed out by former US President Barack Obama, it is easy to start a war than end one. The clock is ticking! In the meantime, we await the findings of an investigation into victims and casualties of the political protests by the Commission on Human Rights and Public Administration whose report is slated for release tomorrow. But the question is can it find differently to the 35 dead claimed by government; your guess is as good as mine.

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