King Mswati, wives, ‘flee’ after political chaos in Eswatini
King Mswati III of Eswatini, who’s known to have 15 wives and 23 children, is reported to have fled the kingdom on Tuesday in the wake of pro-democracy protests that turned into chaos.
“Details are still sketchy,” SABC News reported.
His whereabouts or that of his immediate family were yet to be known by midday Tuesday.
On Monday evening, the kingdom’s leading chain store, OK Foods, situated in Matsapha, and other outlets, were set on fire as pro-democracy protests turned into chaos, bringing the first threat on a monarch who has ruled the landlocked southern Africa country with a free hand.
The country has been facing protests for several days in at least 10 different places, forcing the police to disperse protestors with tear gas and live ammunition, leading to injuries.
The Eswatini leader rules the country as an absolute monarch and he is the one who chooses the prime minister, ministers, judges, and civil servants.
The protesters are calling for political reforms and want to elect their own prime minister.
Political parties have been banned in the country since 1973.
“We demand multi-party democracy now,” protester Melusi Dlamini told News24.
“The time for the royal system characterised by dictatorship is over.”
The latest protests were sparked by a decree banning the delivery of petitions.
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.
The Solidarity Network called on the international community to step in and play a pro-active role in minimising casualties.
For many years, King Mswati III has been criticised for his lavish lifestyle and alleged human rights violations.
The polygamist was selected to be the next King at the age of 14 and he was crowned King shortly after his 18th birthday in 1986. He has been in power since then.