"Thabo Mbeki help me," cries King Mswati

Forget the boisterous bravado, King Mswati is unsettled. A few weeks ago he called on former South African President Thabo Mbeki to help him reign in on what the monarch believed was a foreign instigated riot.

The Bridge understands that the Thabo Mbeki Foundation has already sent its own fact finding mission in order to determine their area of intervention. The Foundation’s concerns at first was that the king was not seeking their help to facilitate dialogue towards democracy but to blame the EFF. Worth noting though is the fact the Thabo Mbeki Foundation fact finding mission in Swaziland was at the behest of many civic organizations in the region including the Church and Lawyers For Human Rights, and not because of government's initiative.

The King wanted the former South African President to help reign in on South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) because the government believes they actively instigating the uprising.

Apparently the king had already gotten wind of the fact there are several civic organizations contemplating to engage the Thabo Mbeki Foundation with the view to solicit the assistance of mediation. The king had been advised that on the face of it, he looked to be on the wrong.

The King reached out to Mbeki believing that he will be able to have the ear of Julius Malema in order to get him to stop supporting the democratic movement in the country. Mbeki subsequently convened a meeting with the EFF where the national leadership of the party were alerted of the concerns of the king.

The EFF’s Goodrich Gardee confirmed this meeting and that it was Mbeki himself with whom they met. For Mbeki to convene the meeting with leadership of the EFF is seen by many as sign of his masterly tactic and an acknowledgement of the party's influence both in South Africa and the region.

Gardee is former Secrtary General of the EFF and now heads the International Relations portfolio of the party.

We told him straight that we won’t stop supporting the people of Swaziland on their quest for freedom. We told him we are here because people are not decisive on Swaziland,” Gardee said. Gardee added that they are not to back down from assisting fellow Africans who are in distress and crying for assistance, especially because SADC and the Southern African countries are not doing anything to assist or find a long lasting solutions on the issue of eSwatini.

He said they dismissed as laughable the king’s concerns that they had sent soldiers inside the country in order to instigate the uprising.

While the king's plea to Mbeki was not necessarily about any facilitation, but rather a call for the president to castigate the EFF which the king and his government believe is behind the unrest in the country, Mbeki did not castigate the party instead opting to share with them what the king thinks of them and their role in the unrest. 

It is in this meeting that the EFF indicated that they are not apologetic about fraternal assistance to the progressives in the country. A senior Thabo Mbeki Foundation official says so unapologetic were the EFF that they came short of apportioning blame to Mbeki for having played a part in fermenting the crisis in Swaziland by turning a blind eye for prolonged periods.

The Bridge understands that the Mbeki Foundation has little regard for the monarch and Mbeki himself has always considered the king as some tin pot dictatorship. However, the approach the foundation is taking is not to lose the confidence of the king and his government hence convening the meeting with the EFF against their own better judgement.

It is understood that King Mswati III spoke to Mbeki through then Premier Themba Masuku but Mbeki told them he would only agree if the process is led by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a source close to the process said.

King Mswati III

Mbeki emphasized the fact that the Foundation does not want to be seen to be undermining SADC as a regional body. It is common course that South Africa is of the view that the SADC mission in Swaziland was only a charade to save Mswati. 

South Africa's Minister of International Relations came short of openly indicting Botswana president for the shoddy job done by SADC under his watch in Swaziland. As things stand, there are two separate reports waiting for presentations on the issue of Swaziland, one by the Thabo Mbeki Foundation and the other by SADC.

Again, the Thabo Mbeki Foundation maintains that they cannot release their report before SADC commissions them to. This has its base from their assertion that even though they are willing and stand ready to assist in the issue eSwatini, they prefer doing so with the blessing of SADC. 

There are expectations that given the recent new waves of state security brutality and the king's refusal to engage in any form of dialogue, there will more calls for the reports to be released. An insider of the Thabo Mbeki foundation indicated that there's already apprehension in some quarters emanating from SADC's 'kids gloves' treatment of the Swazi question. The insider infers that this is one issue which has the potential to worsen the already not so cordial relationships between South Africa and Botswana. 

Some observers are of the view that Botswana's President's lackadaisical approach  seems to mirror that of United States of America. Even more interesting is the fact that South Africa has since replaced Botswana as the Chair of the Troika of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence, and Security Cooperation. Cyril Ramaphosa is said to be among those convinced that Mswati is a beneficiary of ill-gotten monies from late Libya President Muammar Gaddafi used for nefarious ends in South Africa.

Pressed for comments on the contents of their report, or who they interacted with in Swaziland, the Thabo Mbeki Foundation officially declined to comment saying it would be highly unethical to do so. He did add, though, that it is important that the reports don't get overtaken by events.