King Mswati III of Eswatini, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, has allegedly fled his country as pro-democracy protests turned violent, according to the South African Broadcasting Corp.
Demonstrators set fire to several shops in Matsapha town in central Eswatini, according to neighboring South Africa’s state-owned broadcaster. Police fired tear gas and water cannons at the protesters demanding democracy in the country that has banned political parties since the early 1970s.
The Communist Party of Swaziland has confirmed on its Facebook account the monarch boarded his private jet out of the country after protesters clashed violently with the army on Monday.
The organisation also claimed that several people were shot with live bullets in a crackdown by the army and Swazi police. It’s understood that several government buildings, businesses and trucks have been set ablaze by demonstrators during ongoing clashes that started about a week ago in the Manzini district.
The Communist Party of Swaziland’s Thokozane Kunene told EWN that King Mswati’s special jet apparently left the country on Monday night. He said the king was “hiding in Johannesburg, in the Sandton area”.
Last week, hundreds of young Swazi protesters clashed violently with police at a demonstration against the ruling authorities in Africa’s last absolute monarchy. Shops were looted and one was set ablaze during the clashes in the township of Msunduza, near the capital Mbabane, with the unrest continuing into the night.
“We have witnessed the anger of the Swazi youth against the autocratic system,” said Wandile Dludlu, secretary-general of Swaziland United Democratic Front, an alliance of pro-democracy groups.
The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) on Monday said the King had fled in his private jet to an unknown destination. These allegations started after his jet was seen flying from Matsapha airport in the evening.
“Whatever the truth about the King’s whereabouts is, the situation on the ground in the country is extremely volatile as supermarkets and industrial plants have been set alight by unknown people while the army has already been deployed to control the situation. There are allegations that more than one bystander or protestor has already been killed by the army or the police,” SSN spokesperson Lucky Lukhele said in a statement.
Eswatini, which was previously known as Swaziland until 2018, has been led by King Mswati III since 1986. The king in the nation of about 1.3 million people controls parliament and appoints ministers in the landlocked country surrounded by South Africa and Mozambique.
Eswatini exports sugar, soft-drink concentrates and cotton. Despite being the smallest landlocked country in the Southern hemisphere, and the second smallest country in Africa, it has a hugely diverse range of attractions. It’s major overseas trading partners are the United States and the European Union. Eswatini is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union.