King Mswati has not fled eSwatini, says government after protests

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The eSwatini government has denied that King Mswati III fled the country, issuing a statement saying: "He continues to lead in working with the government," after earlier reports that the monarch had fled the country due to protests.

Troops were deployed on the streets of Matsapha, the industrial hub on the outskirts of eSwatini’s capital on Monday night to deal with protesters calling for end of absolute monarchy in the country.

According to unconfirmed social media posts on Tuesday, people appeared to be fleeing the area, and petrol queues reportedly stretched farther than usual as panicked residents filled their cars.

Unconfirmed reports indicate the internet has been shut down.

"Yesterday was the worst night ever where a young man was shot point-blank by the army, and some are in hospital as we speak," Lucky Lukhele, spokesman for umbrella democracy organisation Swaziland Solidarity Network, told AFP newswire.

Shops were reportedly looted in Matsapha overnight, according to AFP sources.

Protests erupted in Mbabane, the capital, and around the country over the weekend as residents called for democracy. eSwatini is the last absolute monarchy on the African continent.

The government had banned protests last week, as National Police Commissioner William Dlamini warned that any protests would be dealt with zero tolerance.

There were reports that King Mswati III had left the country, but the claims could not be confirmed.

The king was crowned in 1986, aged 18. His expensive taste, from cars and planes to houses, has angered eSwatini citizens, many who live below the poverty line.

This is not the first time the people have protested against the king — in 2019, civil servants when on strike, accusing Mswati of taking money from public coffers for his own use.

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