MTN Eswatini says ordered to suspend access to Facebook, messenger app

Reading Time: 3 minutes

MTN Eswatini and other mobile network operators have been told to suspend access to Facebook and its messenger app until further notice, the Eswatini unit of MTN Group said in a statement, after anti-monarchy protests flared up in the southern African kingdom.

“The business has implemented the directive and access to Facebook and Facebook Messenger has been suspended. … We will continue engaging with the relevant stakeholders to minimise the impact and duration of the service disruption,” MTN Eswatini said, without saying why it had been told to suspend access to Facebook.

Envoys from Southern African countries are expected to travel to Eswatini this week, South Africa said on Thursday, after protests against the kingdom’s absolute monarch flared up again.

Anger against King Mswati III has been building for years.

‘Hope for change’ 

People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) in Eswatini hopes the envoys sent by President Cyril Rampahosa would bring about change in that country.

The deployment comes as violence and allegations of human rights violations continue in the midst of pro-democracy protests.

PUDEMO says King Mswati III should be forced to relinquish power as the people of Eswatini are determined to reform the country. PUDEMO President, Mlungisi Makhanya says South Africa should impose sanctions on the monarch.

“If Swaziland is to change, we are the ones who must do it and we are determined and committed to doing it. He owns a significant investment in a lot of areas in South Africa. His children his relatives are studying in South Africa. If South Africa were to agree to say it will consider imposing sanctions on the king and those who are responsible for the killings of people in Swaziland. Swaziland will change tomorrow. So we think South Africa can assist us.”

Senior Researcher at the Institute for Global Dialogue Faith Mabera has warned that the SADC deployment to Eswatini is unlikely to succeed because of the monarchy’s determination to undermine all intervention efforts.

In his capacity as chairperson of the SADC Organ on Defence, Politics and Security, President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed envoys who will travel to Eswatini on Friday. They include former cabinet minister Jeff Radebe and International Relations Deputy Minister Candith Mashego-Dlamini.

The appointments come as the situation is reported to have deteriorated in Eswatini with the Swaziland Solidarity Network saying seven people have been confirmed dead and 80 others wounded. The protesters in the kingdom are calling for the release of two members of parliament who were arrested in July.

Mabera says the SADC envoys have an extremely difficult task at hand. -Additional reporting by SABC News