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MBABANE – The Deputy Prime Minister (DPM), Themba Masuku, has related how and why police asked for an army backup during the June 2021 civil unrest.

In an interview with Eswatini Broadcasting and Information Services (EBIS), the deputy prime minister said there was a plot hatched by some people to burn the Matsapha Industrial Site.Masuku said there was also a plot to burn the fuel and gas depots in Matsapha and some firms there. He said the country’s laws dictated that the national commissioner (NATCOM) of police should ask for backup from other security clusters in case they lacked full capacity to respond to an emergency. Masuku said there was also a threat to burn the Eswatini Breweries.


The DPM said some people were looting shops, setting them on fire, thus sending a signal that the country as a whole was under siege. He said trucks and tractor loader backhoes (TLB) were burnt at Siphofaneni. He disputed assertions and long-held beliefs and analysis that government overreacted to the arson attacks and lootings. Masuku said government did not use an iron hand to deal with the people who were burning property. He said it was a pity that social disorder coincided with an audio which circulated on Facebook whereby a certain former Member of Parliament (MP) alleged that some armed foreigners were already in the country to cause mayhem.He did not reveal the name of the former MP.


However, it is common knowledge that an audio featuring former Siphofaneni MP Mduduzi ‘Gawuzela’ Simelane and Masuku himself circulated on social media. Simelane pleaded with the deputy prime minister to use the national radio to ask for calm. The DPM told the EBIS that it was difficult during the thick of the night to identify people who were ‘throwing stones’ - not wanting to be specific on whether ‘stone-throwing’ could be equated to shooting.

He pointed out that it was easy to shift blame for the calamity of June 2021 to the government yet there were so many people walking at night.
He said it puzzled them to see a determined and brave group of people walking at night. He said their bravery prompted questions on what could have been their motivating factor for walking during the thick of the night when security was all over the country. He alluded to the fact that June 2021 was the hardest time in the history of the country, refuting allegations that he added fuel to the fire when he banned people from petitioning government to improve services.


The DPM said there was no way they could have petitioned government at night. He said most of the calamities of June 2021 occurred during the night. “We saw on social media that property was in flames. We were also made to understand that a group from Mbhuleni was marching to Matsapha to burn the Eswatini Beverages and also destroy firms there. They did all of these things during the night,” explained the deputy prime minister.
He said there was chaos in the country as some people manned their own roadblocks, something which was illegal as they blocked the road by placing stones. A report published by the Eswatini Commission on Human Rights and Public Administration stated that at least 46 people died during the June protests.

It stated that 245 people had gunshot injuries –22 people with multiple gunshot injuries and 118 people had unspecified injuries.
Victims told the commission that they were shot by members of the Eswatini armed forces. The commission recommended to government to initiate an independent, thorough, credible, transparent and impartial investigation by experts with relevant skills and knowledge into allegations of human rights violations and abuse and to bring those responsible to justice.


In 2021, a similar or almost similar unrest occurred in South Africa, where about 300 people died. The Government of South Africa said 5 500 people were arrested by August 12, 2022. Widespread looting and burning of businesses broke out a day after former President Jacob Zuma began serving a 15-month jail term for ignoring a corruption inquiry. The violence escalated into the worst unrest since the end of apartheid, prompting President Cyril Ramaphosa to label it an attempted ‘insurrection’. Violence spread through Zuma’s home province, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng – the two most populous provinces, which together account for half of South Africa’s economic output. Meanwhile, the Government of Eswatini said the country lost E3 billion as a result of arson and looting in 2021. It set up a fund to compensate the affected businesses.

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