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MTN Eswatini says ordered to suspend access to Facebook, messenger app

After anti-monarchy protests flared up in the southern African kingdom.
Image: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

Mobile operators in the southern African kingdom of Eswatini have been told to suspend access to Facebook and its messenger app, the local unit of telecoms group MTN said, after protests against the king flared up.

MTN Eswatini said it had implemented the directive from the country’s communications commission to suspend Facebook access with immediate effect and until further notice. It did not say what reason the commission gave for its order.

Eswatini government spokesman Sabelo Dlamini referred all questions to the communications ministry. A senior official there was not immediately available when called by Reuters seeking comment.

The Facebook suspension came as South Africa’s presidency said envoys from Southern African countries were expected to travel to Eswatini this week.

Anger against King Mswati III has been building for years. It broke out into the open during demonstrations in June and July which the local authorities quashed with tear gas and water cannon, and another round of protests erupted in recent weeks.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed the envoys to Eswatini in his capacity as chair of regional bloc SADC’s organ on defence, politics and security cooperation, Ramaphosa’s office said in a statement.

The envoys include South Africa’s deputy foreign minister, a special adviser to Ramaphosa and a former South African cabinet minister, as well as representatives of Botswana and Namibia.

Campaigners say 53-year-old Mswati III has consistently ignored calls for reforms that would nudge Eswatini, which changed its name from Swaziland in 2018, in the direction of democracy.

The king denies accusations of autocratic rule and of using public money to fund a lavish lifestyle in the impoverished nation that borders South Africa. In July he called protests against his rule “satanic”.

“The Special Envoys will be accompanied by SADC Executive Secretary Mr Elias Magosi, senior officials of the SADC Secretariat and senior officials of the South African Government,” the statement from Ramaphosa’s office read. “The envoys are expected to travel to the Kingdom this week.”

In protests in Eswatini schools Pro-democracy protests flare up in Eswatini last week students chanted “Mswati must fall” and “Release our MPs,” a reference to two lawmakers arrested during earlier protests. Bus drivers blocked some main roads in the city of Manzini.

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Basically MTN you are now complicit in aiding a violent dictator monarch in oppressing the people who want freedoms and democratic reforms, good to know where you stand in this matter.

This is actually quite shocking…I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised with this level of political censorship given what we have seen recently on the international stage from Facebook, Twitter etc. The difference here seems to be the silence of dissent and the unabashed acknowledgement by MTN that “we have been told” to do it.

ANC and AU approved Africa democracy in action.

Money speaks louder than ethics,democracy,freedom of speech……these big organizations just loooove sucking up!

MTN could be liable for international crimes at some stage as a result of not refusing to comply.

End of comments.

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