The government of Eswatini has denied reports that King Mswati III fled the country amid pro-democracy protests. SABC reported on Monday that the last-standing absolute monarch in Africa, King Mswati III, had been flown out of his country as protests against the political establishment and for democracy swelled up over the weekend in the landlocked nation.
The public broadcaster in Eswatini’s neighboring country South Africa said the king’s whereabouts were unknown. However, the Eswatini government issued a press release on Tuesday to deny reports that the king has left the country. A letter undersigned by Acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku said the news that the king had fled constituted “false media reports”.
According to the letter, Mswati is “in the country and continues to work with Government to advance the Kingdom’s goals”.
Pro-democracy agitation has been ongoing for decades in the country of a little over one million inhabitants. After independence from Britain in 1968, Eswatini was a constitutional monarchy but in 1973, King Sobhuza II suspended the constitution having ruled the land for 83 years.
Mswati took over the rulership of the nearly-homogenous country in 1986. It was he who changed the colonial christening Swaziland to Eswatini in 2018.
There are a few reports claiming that the current protests have resulted in the destruction of shops in one town, as well as a number of injuries. Authorities are also struggling to quell the frustrations of a population that has also been hit by economic hardships over several years.
Candidates that contest parliamentary elections in Eswatini are still subject to the discretions of the king and have no real legislative powers. Observers over the years have also struggled to understand the nature of partisanship in the country as electoral ballots do not show any parties even if factions exist in the two-tier legislature.