Officials in Eswatini, Africa’s lone absolute monarchy, have denied the King has fled following a series of pro-democracy protests in the tiny southern African country. King Mswati III has ruled the country for 35 years.King of Swaziland Mswati III.
This is despite South Africa’s public broadcaster, SABC, reporting Monday that Mswati, 53, fled the Southern African country as demonstrations took a violent turn, with protesters clashing with security forces. Opposition figures continued to insist on Tuesday that he had left, without providing proof.
Acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku said in a statement Tuesday: “His Majesty the King is still in the country and continues to lead in working with Government to advance the Kingdom’s goals.”
Protests started one week ago in the kingdom as young people took to the streets to demand rights to vote and constitutional reforms.
However, they escalated following the death of one of the protesters amid accusations of brutality from security forces, according to the Economic Freedom Fighters of Swaziland group.
Political parties remain banned in the country of around 1.2 million people, which was formerly known as Swaziland, until 2018.
Retail outlets and other buildings have been set ablaze in Matsapha, a town in central Swaziland, according to local media reports, and videos posted on social media.
As Africa’s last remaining monarch, Mswati exerts power over the country’s parliament and other tiers of government.
The King is renowned for his polygamous and largely extravagant lifestyle despite Eswatini’s struggling economy and high poverty rate.
In 2019, the monarch was reported to have purchased 15 Rolls-Royces and other luxury vehicles for his 15 wives. In 2008, Mswati was rated by Forbes to be worth around $200 million.
In February, Mswati announced that he had recovered from Covid-19 after undergoing treatment “for a couple of days” with an undisclosed antiviral medication from Taiwan. Eswatini enjoys a blossoming diplomatic tie with Taiwan — currently the East Asian country’s only ally in Africa.