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South Africa urges protection of protesters in troubled Eswatini

Regional powerhouse South Africa on Thursday urged security forces in Eswatini to practise “total restraint” and preserve lives following reports of deadly pro-democracy protests.

President Cyril Ramaphosa attends the Marula Festival at the invitation of His Majesty King Mswati III on the conclusion of his working visit to the Kingdom of eSwatini. (GCIS)
President Cyril Ramaphosa attends the Marula Festival at the invitation of His Majesty King Mswati III on the conclusion of his working visit to the Kingdom of eSwatini. (GCIS)

Eswatini, previously called Swaziland, is Africa’s last absolute monarchy.

“The South African government calls on the security forces to exercise total restraint and protect the lives and property of the people,” said foreign ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela.

“We are particularly concerned by reports of loss of life and destruction of properties,” he said in a statement.

The landlocked southern African kingdom has long stifled dissent.

But demonstrations escalated radically this week as protesters took to the streets demanding immediate political reforms.

Unverified videos that have emerged on social media showed police using force to disperse protesters.

Activists say eight people were killed and dozens injured in clashes with police. The authorities have declined to give details.

Internet access has been limited while shops and banks are shuttered, straining communication and limiting access to basic goods under a dawn-to-dusk curfew.

Eswatini relies heavily on neighbouring South Africa for most of the kingdom’s goods.

The United States has also urged authorities in Eswatini to exercise restraint and allow peaceful protests. AFP

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