Business people in Eswatini have called on the pro-democracy groups and the government of Africa’s last remaining absolute monarchy, to engage in dialogue to end the violent protest action.

Last week, residents of Eswatini embarked on protests, calling for democracy. Protestors have reportedly vandalised property and looted shops leading to the disruption of business operations across the country.

Eswatini’s Acting Prime Minister, Themba Masuku has called on business people to resume their operations and for workers to return to work. He says they are working hard to ensure that the situation remains calm. The Minister for Commerce, Industry and Trade, Manqoba Khumalo says some business people have started to heed the Prime Minister’s call. He also says the internet has been restored after it was shut down by the government.

“Normal operations have resumed at Eswatini after a very difficult week where businesses were looted and vandalised. But our security forces have been able to restore order. It is true that several infrastructures was targeted and was damaged including telecoms infrastructure, but it’s also true that security intelligence was telling us that the foreign agents, some of them from neighbouring countries and some of them from beyond to orchestrate, raise funds and mobiles for violence against this country,” says Masuku.

Video: Unpacking eSwatini democracy challenges with Neal Rijkenberg

Video: Eswatini Unrest I PUDEMO leader Mlungisi Makhanya updates on the situation

Business loss during protests

According to the government of Eswatini, the damage is estimated at R3 billion. It also reported that about 1 000 small businesses were affected by looting.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Business Eswatini, Nathi Dlamini is calling on the affected people to engage and find a lasting solution as soon as possible.

“It’s been a scary situation and there’s been a lot of vandalism and looting. Burning of buildings and something that is scaring us even more. We are still making calculations but it is safe to say it is extremely hard,” says Dlamini.

Video: Human Rights Watch’s warning against the arbitrary use of force in eSwatini: Dewa Mavhinga

‘Situation still tense’

President of the People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo), Mlungisi Makhanya, says they are against the call by the Acting Prime Minister for residents to return to work.

“We reject that irresponsible call for people to go back to work. I think asking for our people to go back to work while there are soldiers in the streets, just to show the international community that you are in control of the situation is irresponsible. The situation here is still tense, volatile and dangerous. If you have groceries, people are assaulted because it is said those groceries were looted items. There is no one who can go to work under these conditions, and our people are not interested in going to work but our people are interested in getting lasting solutions to the problems in Swaziland,” says Makhanya.

Meanwhile,  several South African political parties and trade unions are protesting in solidarity at some ports of entry between Eswatini and South Africa.

Video: SADC’s intervention in the unrest in Eswatini: Mduduzi Simelane