By Alec Lushaba
Terrorists! Prime Minister Cleopas Sipho Dlamini has labelled those behind the spate of arson attacks terrorists and has vowed to hunt them down to restore peace and order in the kingdom. The Premier made the statement following the brutal murder of two police officers from Manzini and Matsapha police stations on different dates and venues. This also came after Inyatsi Construction had decided to suspend its operations following a third arson attack on its property within five months.
A group aligned with the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM), which is calling for political reforms, known as the Swaziland International Solidarity Forces, has claimed responsibility for the arson attacks and murder cases.
In fact, on Tuesday, the group through its politburo issued a statement claiming to have been behind all the incidents of arson and murder, not just the two but even others before them. The PM said it was clear that these attacks are not just on the government or any individual company, but on all emaSwati.
“Those behind these evil acts are terrorists hell-bent on condemning our people to a state of fear and a never-ending cycle of poverty. There can be no justification for such attacks, particularly when we already have a laid down pathway towards reconciling our differences and building a better Eswatini together.
“It is clear to all of us now that the people behind these attacks are not for the betterment of emaSwati or a better Eswatini, but selfishly pushing their terrorist agendas,” he stated.
Dlamini then revealed that as a government they cannot sit back and watch the terrorists intimidate emaSwati.
“We will do everything to protect the lives of emaSwati, and to restore peace and order in our beautiful Kingdom. These criminals and their enablers will face the full might of the law. We are already out in full force conducting investigations and gathering the necessary information that will help us decisively deal with the criminals behind these acts,” the Premier said.
The Prime Minister’s statement was a 360-degree shift from its previous position on how it deals with the position of those calling for political changes, who seem to have recently employed violent tactics to achieve their goal.
Between June 29 and June 27, 2022, the government had not made a pronouncement that it views such acts of arson to be considered terrorism.
This shift now means very soon, the government may proscribe some of these entities and individuals just like it did in 2009 when it banned four groups and labelled them terrorists. The groups were PUDEMO, Swaziland Solidarity Network, Swayoco, and Inhlava.
These groups have never been delisted as terrorist groups, but the government took a lenient position to be accommodative and pursue peaceful processes.
Recently, the SADC region firmed up its position towards terrorist activities and aligned its position to that of the African Union when it comes to terrorism and the unconstitutional removal of governments.
SADC considers terrorism a threat to international peace and security.
In its position paper to the AU Summit on the threat of terrorism in the SADC region and unconstitutional change of government, it states: “Terrorism poses the most dangerous existential threat to any country’s national security due to its sophistication and unpredictable nature. No country is immune to the threat of terrorism and violent extremism. Widespread terrorist activities can weaken systems of a government and create opportunities for unconstitutional change of the government.”
It further stated that terrorism poses fundamental challenges to the international community and risks undermining the core values of countries’ constitutions, the rule of law, respect for human rights, protection of civilians, tolerance among people and nations, and the peaceful resolution of conflict.