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We are gravely concerned by recent disclosures regarding the acquisition of highly advanced surveillance technology by the authorities in eSwatini. The revelations, emerging from the Swazi Secrets investigation, illuminate a troubling shift towards a "big brother" state, wherein the privacy and freedom of expression of eSwatini's citizens are imperiled.

The procurement of the Verint Engage PI2 Tactical Location System, commonly dubbed as a "spying machine on steroids," prompts profound apprehensions about the government's motives and its adherence to democratic principles.

The capabilities inherent in this technology, encompassing the interception of phone communications, cloning of devices, and covert tracking, signify a significant intrusion into individuals' private spheres and a potential instrument for suppressing dissent and curtailing political engagement.

Furthermore, the purported involvement of Minister of Finance Neil Rijkenberg's enterprises in suspicious transactions related to the acquisition of this technology is deeply disconcerting. The designation of these transactions as suspicious by financial institutions underscores the imperative for a comprehensive inquiry into potential corruption and misappropriation of public funds.

As conscientious citizens and proponents of democracy and human rights, we vehemently denounce the acquisition of surveillance technology that undermines the foundational tenets of democracy and violates citizens' rights to privacy and freedom of expression. Such actions not only corrode trust in governmental institutions but also pose an existential threat to eSwatini's democratic framework.

We implore the government of eSwatini to:

1. Immediately cease the utilization of the Verint Engage PI2 Tactical Location System and any other surveillance technology encroaching upon citizens' rights.

2. Undertake a transparent and independent investigation into the procurement process of surveillance technology, including the purported involvement of Minister Neil Rijkenberg's entities.

3. Ensure accountability for any malfeasance or misappropriation of public funds associated with the acquisition of surveillance technology.

4. Uphold and safeguard citizens' rights to privacy, freedom of expression, and political engagement as enshrined in international human rights standards.

We call upon the international community, encompassing governments, civil society organizations, and human rights advocates, to stand in solidarity with the people of eSwatini and champion the preservation of their fundamental rights amidst escalating surveillance and repression. NB: Sivumelwano is the spokesperson of the Multi Stake Holder Forum (MSF)