Botswana has assured all stakeholders in the eSwatini political crisis that it will be an impartial mediator in the kingdom.
Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi is Chair of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation, and this week he despatched a delegation led by his Foreign Affairs Minister, Lemogang Kwape, to eSwatini to start the process of bringing the disputing parties in that country together.
The kingdom has been rocked by protests over King Mswati III’s alleged autocratic rule and lavish lifestyle in a country with widespread poverty.
There have been claims that SADC in general and Botswana in particular would be unable to be a fair arbiter in the crisis that has seen the military deployed to quell burning and looting of property by protestors.
President Masisi has sought eSwatini’s support for the candidature of Mr Elias Magosi as the next SADC Executive Secretary.
But this week, Minister Kwape told legislators in Gaborone that, “This is a serious matter and we will be objective in trying to find a long lasting solution and stability in the Kingdom of eSwatini. We won’t be biased as some people suggest.”
Minister Kwape said SADC’s fact-finding mission would return to the kingdom soon to meet more stakeholders, including representatives of civil society and the political opposition.
He said this would give the team a comprehensive understanding of the situation to properly inform the SADC Organ on appropriate regional responses that will bring peace and stability to eSwatini.
In a statement Tuesday, President Masisi said of the first mission to eSwatini, “The purpose of the mission was to gather first-hand information on the disturbances, including the state of security in the country and to appeal for calm and restraint from all the stakeholders, as well as to propose consideration of an open national dialogue, as a way forward in the efforts towards finding a lasting solution.
“In that regard, the mission held consultations with the government of eSswatini. The mission also made attempts to meet with a broad spectrum of other stakeholders across the eSwatini nation. Due to the short notice, it was not possible to reach many of the stakeholders. As a result, it was agreed that a second mission will be dispatched urgently to eSwatini to continue the consultation process with the other stakeholders in the country. Therefore, a short meeting was held with a few civil society organisations to assure them of a second mission to the country to hold further consultations with all other key stakeholders.”
Representatives of political parties and civil society in eSwatini who met on Monday, expressed appreciation for SADC’s intervention.
In a letter to the SADC Organ Troika on Tuesday, Mr Thulani Maseko – on behalf of the NGOs and parties – said they wanted an all-inclusive mediated political dialogue/negotiation; total unbanning of political parties; a transitional executive authority; a new democratic constitution; and a multiparty democratic dispensation.
The African Union and United Nations have expressed concern about the situation in eSwatini, and have urged peaceful resolution of the crisis.
Reporting by Mpho Tebele in Gaborone, Silence Charumbira in Maseru & Bright Mpepe in Lilongwe