Eswatini tightens curfew restrictions and shuts schools

Clampdown comes amid protest action and fears about Covid-19 Delta variant

Acting Eswatini Prime Minister Themba Masuku said the country will be enforce tighter Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
Acting Eswatini Prime Minister Themba Masuku said the country will be enforce tighter Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
Image: Eswatini Government

The Kingdom of Eswatini has warned its residents about potential criminal repercussions from this week’s demonstrations, and expressed deep concern about the potential spreading of the Covid-19 Delta variant. 

The country on Tuesday announced it will be enforcing tighter lockdown restrictions. 

Acting Prime MinisterThemba Masuku said: “Like the rest of the world, the Kingdom of Eswatini is confronted by the deadly Covid-19 pandemic which has gained ground over the past week. Our neighbours SA have already adjusted to level 4 of their response owing to an onslaught of the virus.

“We have received information that the much-dreaded Delta variant has been confirmed to be driving the third wave, especially in Gauteng.”

The country had sent samples for analysis to determine if it also had the Delta variant. Masuku said because of the country’s proximity to SA and high mobility between Eswatini and SA, the probability is high the variant is present in Eswatini .

“To minimise unnecessary movement and ensure the safety and security of emaSwati and residents, government has taken the decision to introduce a curfew between 6pm and 5am with immediate effect. All offices must be closed by 3.30pm to allow workers to get home safely. .

“Essential workers will be required to produce a permit when travelling at night. No-one is expected to be in the streets after 6pm” he said

Schooling was immediately suspended.

This week demonstrators in Eswatini took to the streets to demand reforms to its system of absolute monarchy. Chaotic scenes were seen unfolding with cars torched, shops looted and roads blocked.

Masuku stressed government respected freedom of expression and its banning of delivery of petitions was by no means stifling citizens from raising grievances. Government instead called for citizens to send petitions electronically.

“We are a nation that believes in dialogue and it is with that in mind that we again request all aggrieved emaSwati to use alternative channels to express their grievances. Government has opened an email address where emaSwati can continue to direct their concerns and petitions. The email address is petitions@gov.sz,” Masuku said.

Parliament and concerned stakeholders, he said, were looking into the citizens’ grievances.

Masuku had a warning for protesters: “The events of the past few days have been quite alarming and upsetting. We have witnessed violence in several parts of the country perpetuated by an unruly crowd where people have been attacked, property destroyed, businesses looted and public roads blocked.

“Unfortunately, the protests of late have been hijacked by criminal elements. Such cannot be acceptable under any circumstances. No-one can hide behind a glass wall of grievances to administer harm to others and cause unrest and anarchy.

“The law will be upheld against all those who perpetuate anarchy and threaten the lives and livelihoods of emaSwati. Our security forces are on the ground to maintain law and order.

“May I pass government’s sympathy to all victims of the violence, including those who have been injured or lost their businesses and livelihoods. Government would like to assure all emaSwati, residents of Eswatini, the international community and diplomatic partners that we are working around the clock to ensure the situation is normalised.”

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