Security forces fired at protesters in eSwatini, while the king held a dialogue at his royal residence on Friday.
Demonstrators who gathering in Manzini for a march calling for, “… change and justice”, were dispersed by armed forces from police and the military, activists said.
Unverified mobile phone footage from the march showed protesters scattering as shots rang out. In one video they tried to duck near shopfronts, while in another they ran for cover at a bus and taxi rank in eSwatini’s largest city.
It’s not clear whether police were using live rounds.
Government spokesperson Sabelo Dlamini said while he was aware that police had dispersed protesters, none had been shot.
“No soldiers are shooting people in the streets of Manzini,” he said via text message, but referred News24 to the police for further comment. The police did not respond to a request for comment.
The march was to be held at the same time that King Mswati III called a sibaya, a national dialogue.
A letter bearing the police seal and signature of the national police commissioner, “advised” organisers to call the march off.
“We find it disturbing that you and your colleagues as Emaswati citizens, could blatantly go against instead of heeding the royal summon by calling a march and/or event much against norms, values, public safety and interests,” the letter said.
“Further, be informed that we shall not hesitate to stop the intended march if you persist in it,” the letter, dated 15 July, read.
In his first public comments over the deadly unrest that has gripped eSwatini, King Mswati III mocked reports that he had fled the country, and dismissed demands that he should have “called for calm”, as though it were the ‘fashionable’ thing to do during a crisis.
Instead, he said the sibaya was the correct way to address the crisis, as per the country’s constitution and traditions. Dozens gathered in the Ludzidzini Royal Residence to hear King Mswati III speak, in a speech that was also livestreamed.
The king also told those gathered that he and the government welcomed the Southern African Democratic Community’s ministerial mission that visited the country on 4 July, and the subsequent technical fact-finding mission. The latter is currently in the country and will meeting with the government, civil society, and citizens over the next week.