The eSwatini government on Tuesday dismissed reports that King Mswati III had fled the country following the violent, pro-democracy protests that escalated on Monday.
Though admitting the protests had caused a “situation” in the country, acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku told a virtual press conference that the King, Africa’s last total monarch, was in the country.
“His Majesty King Mswati III is in the country and continues to lead in working with the government to advance the Kingdom’s goals,” Masuku told a virtual press conference.
King Mswati III, however, was not present at the briefing.
“The government will update the nation on interventions on the current situation as the day progresses.”
Claims of the King’s fleeing were first reported by South Africa’s national Broadcaster SABC and picked up by various international media.
The Swaziland Solidarity Network, a pro-democracy lobby, later said the King had left the country amid the chaos. Lucky Lukhele, its Coordinator told the Nation that the King had “fled in his private jet to an unknown destination”. Swaziland News also reported that his jet was seen flying from Matsapha Airport.
ESwatini government spokesperson Sabelo Dlamini further said “the reports about the king fleeing are completely untrue and fake”.
The protests, in which leading chain store OK Foods was torched and looted, flared up several days ago after the monarchy and government issued a decree banning the delivery of petitions that called for democratic reforms.
The army was reportedly deployed to areas of unrest on Monday night after trucks – some of them belonging to South African companies – were torched over the weekend and shops were looted in the rural town of Siphofaneni.
The Economic Freedom Fighters [Eswatini] condemned the deployment of the army “to unleash violence towards innocent citizens...”
The party said the pro-democracy protests escalated after dozens of students marched to eSwatini's Parliament to demand justice for a young man believed to have been killed by the police.
Thabani Nkomonye's body was recently found in a field in Nhlambeni, about 10km outside Manzini. Colani Khulekani Maseko, the president of the Swaziland National Students' Union, said they were demanding the end of police brutality and a multi-party democracy "in which the police are accountable to the people and not only to the king".