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MIXED REACTIONS ON KING’S SADC ADDRESS

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MBABANE –Mixed reactions characterise the address by His Majesty King Mswati III during the SADC Troika Summit held in Angola recently.

  His Majesty told the Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders in no uncertain terms that the government of Eswatini should not be expected to dialogue with terrorists. He said SADC should, instead, condemn all forms of terrorist activities wherever they existed because they caused untold suffering and resulted in the loss of lives. The King is said to have made these remarks during a closed session of the SADC Troika Summit on Thursday, where he raised concerns about what appeared to be a predetermined approach to dealing with political and security issues in Eswatini.

He said any assistance given to any member State must be based on the facts as they obtained on the ground, rather than a dogmatic adherence to a predetermined approach. Mangololo Eswatini, in a statement, concurred with the King’s remarks, saying it is painful that the country lost a number of officers from the security forces. “It is painful to see our neighbours aligning themselves and taking pictures with the very people who are involved in the killing of the officers from the security forces. On one hand, they are saying there must be peace but on the other hand, they are encouraging violence. We will address challenges on our own as emaSwati using our own way,” stated Secretary General (SG) Mphathiswa Masuku.

The King addressed several African leaders, including South Africa’s (SA) President Cyril Ramaphosa and Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema, who is the incoming SADC Troika Chairperson, taking over from his Namibian counterpart Dr Haig Geingob. He urged the leaders not to allow subjective intent to interfere with the pursuit of peace.

Surprise

He recalled that when the country attended the SADC Summit in August last year in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the request was made that SADC assist Emaswati with curtailing the terrorist outbreak that had befallen the country. “It was with great surprise that instead of assistance being given to Eswatini to curb these activities, we were effectively told that we should negotiate with the perpetrators of violence. The question that arose in our minds was, where else in Africa has a government been told to negotiate with terrorist entities?”

The King said emaSwati were always happy to dialogue with those they disagreed with, within the provisions of the constitution, but not with terrorists. He further assured the SADC leaders that the national dialogue will take place after the national elections in conformity with the constitutional and legal dictates. The King said Eswatini made her position on the national dialogue explicitly clear, stating that any issue that may have risen regarding the date of the dialogue, the form of the dialogue or the substance of that dialogue, will be properly elaborated once the elections have been completed. His Majesty further raised concern that the extracts from the SEAC Pre-Election Assessment Mission appeared to have been selectively chosen to fit a narrative that the kingdom was still in need of a particular form of intervention.

He said it was clear from the report itself that the mission observed a general calm, people going about their daily lives, voter registration going about in an orderly manner, yet they reported negatively about the general security environment. “This has led us to observe that the report has become convoluted to try and get them to fit particular narratives, even though the observed facts on the ground tell a different story.” He said he was pleased to report to the Troika that Eswatini had since been able to restore peace ‘on our own’. He also mentioned that over and above the positive reports from the SEAC team, the country had, in recent months, hosted a number of international festivals, summits and meetings, some attended by the heads of States and governments.

Puzzling

“We said there was a full programme of events and activities planned out for the upcoming months. Life has returned to normalcy in the Kingdom of Eswatini. It is puzzling, therefore, to note that SADC would continue acting based on an alternative narrative contrary to what prevails on the ground. We wish that this be placed on record. We must be wary of reigniting tensions through misaligned approaches,” the King warned. Meanwhile, the Swaziland Liberation Movement (SWALIMO) is adamant that the call for democratic and economic reforms was old and has never been about terrorism or violence.

In a statement yesterday, SWALIMO’s Spokesperson Thantaza Silolo insisted that there have been issues of disgruntlement, wherein some elements of the Eswatini population decided to employ violence as a deterrent to the continued violence perpetrated by the state security apparatus. “No society, no matter how docile, can continually accept violence and repression without seeking to defend itself,” Silolo said.

He made a reminder that dialogue or negotiation is the only tool at the disposal of a nation that seeks to entrench peace, tranquillity among itself. The spokesperson said Eswatini needed to sit and discuss her challenges peacefully and find lasting solutions. “If we are unable to seek and talk truthfully as people, then solutions of violence will always rear its ugly head, as frustration in the population increases. Namibian President Hage Geingob once said when dialogue is denied a chance, people go to war,” he said.

On the other hand, Swazi’s First Democratic Movement’s Leader Busi Mayisela stated categorically that if there was any blood thirsty group in the country, it is government and security forces. He said it was no surprise that political parties were referred to as terrorists. Mayisela said it was important that people are capacitated so that they differentiate between freedom fighters and terrorists.  “Government always unleashes the armed forces, who do not think twice about shooting to kill. “We have seen political parties organising peaceful marches to voice their concerns about socio-political issues that affect the people of Eswatini. They have never at any time resorted to violence but the said groups want a democratic dispensation in the country,” she said.

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