King Mswati III of eSwatini has called for a sibaya – an open forum discussion unique to that country’s brand of “monarchical democracy”.
The sibaya was scheduled for July 16 at the Ludzidzini Royal Residence, and all citizens were invited to speak their minds in the first such engagement hosted by the king since protests rocked the kingdom three weeks ago.
Reports say at least 30 people have died in the protests, and property worth hundreds of millions of dollars has been destroyed as opponents of the absolute monarchy – the last in Africa – demand socio-political and economic reforms.
The meeting takes place as a delegation from the SADC Organ on Politics, Defemce and Security Co-operation meets stakeholders in the country as part of the bloc’s efforts to broker a peaceful settlement.
Chair of the SADC Organ, President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana said, “Following the disturbances in the Kingdom of eSwatini, on 4th July 2021, in my capacity as the Chairperson of the SADC Organ Troika on Politics, Defence and Security, I deployed a SADC Organ Troika Ministerial Fact Finding Mission to the Kingdom of Eswatini.
“As a follow-up, a Technical Fact-Finding Mission will be deployed to the Kingdom to consult extensively with stakeholders, from 15th to 22nd July 2021. The Mission will analyse the political and security situation in the country, with a view to support the people of eSwatini towards finding a durable solution.”
He said SADC continued to appeal for calm and restraint from all the stakeholders, and encouraged national dialogue to resolve the country’s challenges.
“SADC wishes to reassure the people of eSwatini and the Kingdom of eSwatini of its continued commitment and support. It is our hope that all concerned parties will continue to uphold and embrace peaceful means in addressing their differences and challenges,” President Masisi added.
According to the eSwatini Constitution, “the people, through sibaya, constitute the highest policy and advisory council (Libandla) of the nation”. Any adult in eSwatini can participate and all participants sit on the ground as a show of equality.
But some activists said they would boycott the July 16 meeting and instead mobilise a march against the monarchy.
Meanwhile, citizens of eSwatini citizens have raised concerns over a shortage of fuel in the country following protests that disrupted many business activities.Former Senator Walter Bennet said the situation had also been made worse by the ongoing unrest in South Africa. – Agencies