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Swazi minister downplays planned protests

Published on 05/04/2011

Swaziland's Foreign Minister Lutfo Dlamini on Tuesday downplayed anti-government protests planned for next week by an anonymous Facebook group.

“We are hearing more about an uprising on April 12 outside Swaziland than we are inside,” Dlamini told media in Pretoria.

“We are very much disturbed that there are parties outside the kingdom meeting and planning to disregard the unity and sovereignty of Swaziland.”

Dlamini, who is on a two-day visit to South Africa, held talks with his counterpart Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. He rejected reports that Swaziland had asked South Africa to take action against dissidents based in the country.

“We do not have any political prisoners. People who have chosen self-exile have done so for personal political gains. We have nothing to hide as a nation,” he said.

Modelled on Facebook-organised uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, a Swazi group has called for demonstrations to demand the end of King Mswati III’s rule in Africa’s last absolute monarchy.

Mswati, 42, who has ruled the impoverished kingdom since he was 18, is accused of bankrupting the state coffers with his lavish lifestyle and 13 wives.

The Facebook group claims no political or labour union affiliation, in a country where political parties have been banned since 1973.