President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed special envoys to “engage” with eSwatini’s King Mswati III following weeks of pro-democracy protests in that country.
In a statement on Thursday (21 October), the Presidency said Ramaphosa had made the appointments in his capacity as Chairperson of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Organ on Defence, Politics and Security Cooperation.
Jeff Radebe leads special envoys to eSwatini
The envoys include former Minister Jeff Radebe, International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister Candith Mashego-Dlamini, and Ramaphosa’s international relations special advisor Maropene Ramokgopa.
A representative from Botswana, the former Chair of the SADC Organ, and another one from Namibia, the incoming Chair, also form part of the delegation.
“The Special Envoys will be accompanied by SADC Executive Secretary Mr Elias Magosi, senior officials of the SADC Secretariat and senior officials of the South African government. The envoys are expected to travel to the Kingdom this week,” the Presidency said.
Protests in eSwatini
Protests in eSwatini, formerly known as Swaziland, have escalated in recent weeks after starting in May this year. Unconfirmed reports indicate that several people have lost their lives in running battles with the police.
Reports further indicate that properties, including government buildings, have been burnt by protesters calling for democracy in eSwatini, which has banned political parties since 1973.
Last week, the country’s Prime Minister Cleopas Dlamini announced an indefinite closure of schools, citing “a spate of riots and violence.” He also invited stakeholders to participate in talks with the government.
“Government remains open to engagements with all stakeholders to finding lasting solutions to the challenges that continue to confront us. However, this has to be done in a peaceful manner and not under incitement and violence,” he said.
South African political parties and civil society groups have backed calls for democratic reforms in the monarchy. The SACP’s Alex Mashilo expressed solidarity with the Communist Party of Swaziland and other groups.
“We call upon intensified international solidarity with the people of Swaziland, the overwhelming majority of whom are working-class and poor. The Swazi people’s struggle for democracy and social emancipation is a just struggle and must be supported in every peaceful way possible,” he said.
The EFF has also indicated that it will “shut down” South Africa-eSwatini border posts after the local government elections scheduled for 1 November 2021.