The Jasmine Revolution that has spread its discontent from North Africa has taken fire in Swaziland, and Swazi King Mswati III has declared war on his own people, an NGO warned this weekend.
In the wake of Friday’s mass protests in Mbabane, the Swazi capital, Lucky Lukhele, spokesman for the Swaziland Solidarity Network, said the protests, which also took place outside the Swazi consulate in Johannesburg, were “a trial run” for an uprising that is to take place all over Swaziland on April 12.
On Friday students, workers and trade unionists handed a petition to the Swazi government demanding an end to pay cuts, including plans to freeze civil service salaries, and the mismanagement of public funds, in the face of the deepening economic crisis.
Also on Friday, Mswati III, southern Africa’s last remaining absolute monarch, told soldiers at a pass-out parade of army recruits to be vigilant. He was reportedly referring to the Swazi people, who had caught the spirit of open defiance currently engulfing North Africa.
Mswati III told his soldiers he was shocked to learn there was no food for them in the army bases.
According to Lukhele, Swazi protesters came out in their numbers – he says 10 000 and the Swazi government mouthpiece the Swaziland Observer said 8 000 – to demand regime change in the presence of armed riot police.
“Their most urgent demands also include an end to job cuts, an end to the non-payment of wages and the immediate revival of the country’s ailing health system,” said Lukhele.
He said that April 12 marked 38 years since the beginning of the state of emergency. It marked the date in 1973 when King Sobuza repealed the constitution and banned all political parties.
Mswati has perpetuated the indulgences of the monarchy. He owns a fleet of luxury cars, including a Rolls Royce, and houses his 14 wives in opulent palaces.
On Friday, April 1, there will be a picket outside the Swazi Consulate in Johannesburg in solidarity with incarcerated terrorism suspects Swaziland Youth Congress president Bheki Dlamini, Zonke Dlamini and Amos Mbendzi.
Maxwell Dlamini, president of the Swaziland National Union of Students (Snus), said: “The time for the seizure of power has arrived in Swaziland.”