The leader of Swaziland’s banned opposition People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) said the people’s demand for democratic change and the rule of law will not be silenced by government threats.
Mario Masuku, who is currently under house arrest, said, despite several attempts, the administration, has repeatedly refused to try to resolve concerns expressed by Swazis seeking political change.
“This is the second utterance by the leaders of Swaziland. The King (Mswati III) also said the same thing in 2008 and again early this year. But, you cannot withhold people wanting change. We say the struggle continues,” he said.
This came after local media quoted Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini as saying that his government will consider punishing political dissidents by beating their feet with spikes.
Prime Minister Dlamini also warned that foreigners who interfere in the country’s internal politics will face the same punishment.
Swazi police reportedly arrested at least 50 pro-democracy demonstrators who demanded a change in the country’s political leadership.
Analysts said that, although a constitution was reintroduced in Swaziland, the level of power invested in King Mswati III is so significant that the country can be considered an absolute monarchy.
Swaziland’s constitution was ratified in 2006, but the king holds executive, legislative and judicial power.
Critics say the government has successfully stifled political opposition by putting pressure on human rights organizations, trade unions, and civil society groups and banning all political parties.
Opposition leader Masuku said the struggle for change will continue until Africa’s last absolute monarch embraces democracy.
“When we are on the streets, we are demanding our fundamental rights, rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association. These are fundamental freedoms. And, moving in the streets, we are showing the anger that has gripped the people of Swaziland. I believe that the government must allow people to express themselves,” Masuku said.
He also encouraged the government to open negotiations with opponents with the aim of embracing the tenets of democracy.