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LET’S NOT FORGET JUNE 2021

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Three years ago this kingdom as we knew it, changed in just a matter of hours. The decade-long accusing slogans and chants from the mass democratic movement pointing to a brutal regime that will stop at nothing to clutch on to the levers of power, even it means murdering innocent citizens, proved true beyond any reasonable doubt.

Totally unhinged, the government, under the leadership of then Acting Prime Minister Themba Nhlanganiso Masuku, opened fire on scores of unarmed emaSwati;  some of them protesters, some innocent bystanders and many others who found themselves at the wrong place at wrong time, while going about their usual business. The government of the day, out of sheer cowardice, gave the security apparatus carte blanche to restore its version of peace and order.

Resembled

For the next couple of days, the country’s quiet mountains and streets resembled a warzone and reverberated with the sound of gunfire. Menacing military choppers hovered above our roofs, bringing fear to children and adults alike.  Our loved ones went missing. The internet was shut and we had no idea what was happening. Information on the brutality of soldiers and police started trickling in. We remember hearing on radio what was more than a thinly veiled apology from the minister of Information and Technology, ostensibly on behalf of her family, appealing for calm and yes, forgiveness. We also remember hearing from her first, that there were mercenaries in the country who were responsible for the shootings.

Health practitioners in mainly public hospitals had to deal with something they’ve never had to deal with before in this country. Scores of wounded and killed emaSwati; children, young people and adults. Those nurses and doctors have those images deeply etched in their minds. Unofficially, over 100 people died during those two or so days.  The government is comfortable to place that figure officially under 50, makes them sleep better at night, I guess. For days we heard nothing from the authorities at a time when their leadership and guidance was most needed.

Refused

When the opportunity availed itself, we heard nothing comforting or reassuring, save for name-calling and, if you will, pouring fuel into an open flame. To this day, government has refused to take responsibility for this. It chose, instead, to find scapegoats in former Members of Parliament Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube and weaponised the courts against them to distract the public and send a warning to all detractors of the regime. Seeing the intentions of the regime, then MP Mduduzi ‘Gawuzela’ Simelane skipped the country and, as we know, remains in exile, far from his family and land of birth, much against his will.

This former government is convinced that it has gotten away with the atrocities of June 2021 and the many that continue to take place. It is used to impunity anyway. My prayer is that emaSwati do not suffer amnesia and forget how brutal this regime is.  May they never forget that as we speak, some among us will never see their brothers and sisters ever again. May they remember the orphans that were created as a result of the actions sanctioned by the government. May they remember the scores who lost their limbs and those who, up to this day, are going about with bullets in their bodies. Unsurprisingly, there is zero support from government, even for those who are still receiving treatment. No sense of remorse and humanity whatsoever. The story of these victims has not been told well.

Privileged

Many of us cannot quite relate. I have been privileged to interact with some of the victims and their stories are harrowing, to say the least. Most are of innocent people who were shot by uniformed trigger-happy police and soldiers who, on the days in question, went on a sadistic escapade to shoot anything they could lay their eyes on. The victims speak of the rage of the security personnel and how unforgiving they were, even after realising that they had injured the victims.

There are also many stories of how some of the victims were literally shot while within their home premises. Fast-forward to today, not a single police officer or soldier has so much as appeared before an inquiry to answer on the horrendous crimes committed on the those days. Government only moved swiftly when police officers starting becoming targets of shootings. With the speed of lightning, it prioritised their safety, resourced them to track and fight their attackers and put behind bars many who were suspected of having a hand in their attacks.
By doing so, making it very clear where the ordinary liSwati stands in the pecking order and whose lives matter the most in this country. EmaSwati have a reputation of letting things go and forgetting. Not this time around my countrymen and women. Let us demand justice for the unrest victims until we froth from our mouths. It could be you and me and you sooner than we know.

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