Eswatini government shuts down internet

Eswatini protests

A burning barricade in Mbabane, Eswatini on June 29, 2021 during anti-King Mswati protest.

Photo credit: File | AFP

The Eswatini government on Friday shut down the internet for two hours as pro-democracy protests intensified.

A new wave of unrest has hit Africa’s last absolute monarchy, three months after government forces quashed earlier rioting. There was also an internet outage during the June and July unrest.

Following the fatal shooting of a protester in Malkerns, 20km west of the country's largest city Manzini on Wednesday, the protests flared up.

Images and video footage depicting alleged police and army brutality were circulating on social media, also showing injured school children who had joined the demonstrations against the rule of King Mswati III among other grievances.

But the government moved in to enforce an internet blackout which blocked social media.

Swaziland Solidarity Network spokesperson Lucky Lukhele slammed the government’s action while describing King Mswati III as “barbaric.”

“As the Swaziland Solidarity Network, we wish to condemn the network shutdown by the king of course led by his first born daughter as the Communication and ICT in Swaziland,” Mr Lukhele told Nation.Africa.

Network disrupted

“This is not the first time. During the June and July unrest, the network was disrupted for weeks and today it has happened again. We want to indicate to the king that no amount of intimidation or disruption of the network will deter the people of Swaziland.

“The people of Swaziland have reached a point of no return and we wish to indicate that they must render the country ungovernable. Many people have died, the king has committed crimes against humanity and he is supposed to be in the holding cells of the International Criminal Court.

“He should be charged for the massacre of more than 200 Swazis. The United Nations should have arrested this barbaric king for killing these innocent children.”

The latest wave of unrest in Eswatini has already seen transport operators ground their vehicles.

Reports suggest that the capital city Mbabane was deserted and resembled a ghost town on Friday.

The Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland (ATUS) described the government as having the “ostrich mentality.”

“It is a pity that we have a government that chooses to suppress the people's voices, or shut down all communications lines, instead of addressing the demands that are being raised by our people,” Wonder Mkhonza, general secretary of ATUS, told AFP.

“The ostrich mentality by the dictatorship is shameful to say the least. The ruling elites are hell-bent on taking the whole country down with them and they will pay for their actions.”

Protesters want King Mswati’s monarchical rule to be abolished.

They accuse the king of corruption and extravagance while the majority of people are wallowing in poverty. He is also accused of being a dictator and human rights violator.

MTN is the biggest network service provider in Eswatini and King Mswati is alleged to have shares in the company.

“What we also want to indicate to the internet providers in Swaziland, in particular MTN, which is a subsidiary of MTN South Africa to say we will mobilise the people of Africa from Cape to Cairo, wherever MTN is to be boycotted,” Mr Lukhele said.

Switch off the internet

“We can’t have a king who has shares in Swaziland and when the monarchy wishes they switch off the internet for the people of Swaziland. They should just pack and go from Swaziland because when the democratisation of the country comes, we will make it a point that we kick out MTN South Africa from Swaziland.”

At least 28 people were reported dead during the June/July rioting which also led to an internet blackout.

The UN has condemned the involvement of school children in the violent protests. But SSN has hit back at the UN for reacting to the Eswatini crisis now that children are involved while they were silent when citizens were being killed by government forces.