Southern African bloc says king of Eswatini open to dialogue after protests

King Mswati III of Swaziland addresses the United Nations General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York, USA, September 2018. REUTERS / Eduardo Munoz / File Photo / File Photo

MBABANE, October 23 (Reuters) – The southern African regional bloc, SADC, said on Saturday that King of Eswatini, Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarch, had accepted the need for a national dialogue after the pro-democracy protests intensified this month.

Envoys from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and the regional group visited Eswatini on Thursday and Friday and met with the king, the prime minister, civil society organizations, unions and others, a SADC said in a press release.

“King Mswati III accepted the need for a national dialogue … I call for calm, restraint, respect for the rule of law and human rights on all sides to enable the process of start, “South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a statement. statement in his capacity as chairman of the political body of SADC.

The monarch plans to call a meeting where people can voice their grievances, a representative of the king told state broadcaster.

“Let the people continue the noble struggle for a new free and democratic country,” Wandile Dludlu, secretary general of the United People’s Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), told Reuters.

Anger against Mswati III, 53, has been mounting for years.

Activists say he has consistently ignored calls for reforms that would move Eswatini, known as Swaziland until 2018, towards democracy.

The king denies accusations of autocratic rule and using public funds to finance a lavish lifestyle in the impoverished nation that borders South Africa. In July, he called the protests against his regime “satanic.” Read more

Recent protests have included protests in schools by students, bus drivers blocking roads and union marches.

A police report of the protests by officials on Wednesday said security forces shot a protester with a rubber bullet, but police recorded no deaths during the unrest.

The government has ordered mobile network operators to suspend access to Facebook (FB.O) and its messaging app, the local unit of telecommunications company MTN Group (MTNJ.J) said this week. Read more

Reporting by Lunga Masuku; Writing by Alexander Winning; Editing by Mike Harrison

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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