Police fired stun grenades and rubber bullets at protesters in eSwatini as they marched against poor service delivery, alleged misuse of state pension funds and a proposed law to charge citizens who marry foreigners.
At least one person was hospitalised with injuries after police fired on the crowd of more than 2,000 placard-waving demonstrators walking to government headquarters in Mbabane, a Reuters witness said.
The tiny landlocked southern African country, formerly known as Swaziland and with a population of 1.4 million people, is ruled by the increasingly powerful King Mswati III, the continent’s last remaining absolute monarch.
An official at the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland – one protest organiser – said the demonstration was a success while criticising the police’s reaction.
“We will reap the fruits of our toil,” Muzi Mhlanga told Reuters. “We are worried with the way police behaved. We recorded their brutality.”
The police did not respond to calls for comment.
The king last week said from June 30 parliament would dissolve and he would make all decisions with a council of ministers, including over a finance bill that would require Swazi citizens to pay 30,000 rand (1,672.9 pounds) to marry a foreigner.
Thousands of foreigners, mostly from Asia, apply each year to become Swazi citizens for business purposes. Government wants to crack down on sham marriages aimed at cheating the system.
The king’s cabinet last month ordered an end to a probe into alleged looting of the state pension fund, which contributed $70,000 for his lavish birthday celebrations in April.
Minister for Public Service Owen Nxumalo told parliament all pension funds were handled appropriately.
The king is accused by activists and rights groups of using the public purse to fund his family’s lavish lifestyle while most of his subjects live in poverty, in a country with the world’s highest HIV/AIDS rate.
He denies allegations of corruption.
The king in April renamed the country the Kingdom of eSwatini.