In October 2021 eSwatini's mass democratic movement, under the banner of the country’s Multi Stakeholder Forum (MSF), organized a march to the heavily fortressed American Embassy at eZulwini in eSwatini. The successful march was remarkable for a number of reasons, not least of which was the demonstrable tolerance and unity of purpose among the often warring partners in the struggle for liberation.

The reasons for the adversity have never been clearly explicable, if at all necessary. The march was one of many joint rolling mass actions forming part of a protracted program by eSwatini’s progressive movement to push for democratic reforms. The cohesion, in spite of the spontaneity of some of the mass actions, only served to emphasize a highly welcome and desired exhibition of oneness and maturity among the motive forces and leaders of the Swaziland democratic revolution. Necessarily, this act was a source of worry for the regime that has long been a beneficiary of a divided progressives' camp. The resultant convoluted messaging was effective in inducing apathy and disillusionment to many Swazis.

Something had changed in 2021, or so it seemed.

By mid July, an otherwise sleepy and out-of-sorts SADC had completed its fact-finding mission in eSwatini. Considering that the protests only began in May 2021, this was a record time by the indecisive regional body. To further highlight that something different was happening in eSwatini, then Chairperson of SADC's Organ Troika, President Cyril Ramaphosa, sneaked into the country to hear for himself from King Mswati. It is widely reported that this was after Ramaphosa found the report by his special envoys in the SADC team somewhat incoherent and the responses attributed to the king to be gravely at odds and incongruent with what was happening on the ground. For its part, the American Embassy had brought additional security in the form of marines to bolster and beef up security in the embassy. Left, right, and centre something different was happening. The progressives had found a long-lasting and effective formula whose pinnacle was compulsory unity in spite of whatever ideological differences.

The royal family got into a panic mode as the king bizarrely disappeared from action, prompting Princess Sikhanyiso and others to attempt to fill the void. The king’s eldest daughter recorded and circulated a voice note in which she profusely apologized to the nation and accepted responsibility on behalf of her siblings and the entire royal family. This action was to earn her the wrath of her father who accused her of cowardice and misrepresenting the monarchy. As if Sikhanyiso’s unmandated intervention wasn’t enough, another 'royal blood' addressed the most senior prince, Masitsela, on a widely circulated WhatsApp audio pleading with him to talk some sense to the king. In his response, the ailing and aging prince appeared  disillusioned with the king. Refusing to be delusional this time around, Masitsela admitted the country was burning in the midst of a leadership vacuum. He had never seen such bravery and resilience by the Swazi people.

Meanwhile, the newly found unity within the progressives was working wonders for the nation and the mass democratic movement. The line had been crossed and there was no turning back, many observers and analysts concluded. The security apparatus was overstretched. Clearly, they were caught off guard and flat-footed. The less said about the country’s intelligence agency, the better. In fact, by the time Army General Gubhuzumlambo Jeffrey Shabalala was dismissed because of an exposè by former police officer 'Cece' Shongwe, it was a foregone conclusion that the revolution had more capacity to collect, process and analyze intelligence than the state.

As all this was playing out, the silence and inaction of the international society were conspicuous and screaming. Other than some South African civic organizations and some political formations, most noticeably the Economic Freedom Fighters, Swazis were for all intents and purposes on their own. But they held on, surpassing a lot of expectations and even forcing a casual acknowledgment of the necessity of ‘A National Dialogue’, to put it mildly. The country was on tenterhooks. And through the resilience of citizens and the stellar works of the progressives’ leaders, hope was beckoning.

But something changed.

So drastic was the change that during the celebrations of the Workers’ Day on 1st May 2022 not only had the intra-progressive camp and inter-party disunity escalated to physical confrontation, but it was almost a free for all fight with the regime rubbing its collective hands in glee. The May Day melee was not unexpected, considering the insults and counter-accusations in the run-up to the big Workers’ Day. The regime’s arrogance had almost reached a never seen before proportion. They had reconsolidated, almost overnight. But how did they achieve this feat?

In trying to look for answers and at the risk of being over-analytical, we need to go back to the march to the American Embassy. Known as global defenders of everything democratic the American officials’ response and overall attitude during the protests ranged from between lackadaisical and ambivalent. On the day of the march and during a report-back by the leaders, former Senator Ngomuyayona Gamedze representing Sibahle Sinje indicated that the Americans wanted to know from the progressives what they thought the remedy to the misrule was.

To the naked eye, this sounds like a negligible comment not worthy of analyzing. Others thought it may have been necessary. To the most radical, it was just typical paternalistic America. An International Relations consultant in South Africa differs with all the above observations. Said the former diplomat: “it was unlike America to want to be seen to be throwing the gauntlet to the oppressed. Their usual modus operandi is to stand with the oppressed to the end. Of course, they would do it in subtle ways try to influence and/or shape the outlook of the end product. We need to note that super powers' response and attitudes depend on many complex factors. They tend to, not without good reason, look at the entire region and counter-pose with their own interests before formulating their response. I can tell you now, for instance, that they are not happy with the EFF politics presence in eSwatini. That could just be another perspective. The other possibility could be their strong resolve and penchant to avoid another 'Somalia situation' where because of a lack of clear direction and leadership, a country becomes a haven of terrorists whose targets are often American interest. You must recall that while the Americans were, and probably still are, interested in regime change in Zimbabwe, they decided to abandon their mission because of the same conclusion that the opposition is weak in Zimbabwe and having them at the helm of the country might establish another Somalia. I know the different views about the ‘super American embassy’ in eSwatini, but my take is that that alone is an indication of their vested interest in the country and the region”.

Granted, the Americans or anyone for that matter is guilty of inaction which accounts for the muted international society, what about our own subjective limitation: the infantile squabbles and poorly managed ideological differences? A source from the Institute of Security Studies (ISS) reckons that "every donor-driven entity is, by default, vulnerable to desires of some global intelligence services. The other thing a lot of people ignore is that eSwatini is a potential or prospective retirement haven for many affluent white South Africans, a lot of whom are Jews. That alone almost imposes a responsibility on Mossad (Israeli Intelligence Agency). You must read between the lines. The growth of EFF in South Africa is of course a serious concern for some global powers involved in the battle to control the world. Their support for the Swazi struggle is seen by some in the West (and the States) as a preamble to their goal of removing borders which will be a threat both politically and economically in the battle between the US and China given the latter’s penchant and presence in Africa."

The ISS insider reckons that, in fact, our society has all the characteristics that make it an easy target for division. He pointed out the fact that the questions of traditions and the Monarchy as an institution can be used to widen the societal fissures. He reasons that there are so much varying opinions on the two issues. He also mentions that the lack of ‘institutional intelligence and cohesion’ in the respective progressive parties makes them highly vulnerable to infiltration and ‘hijacking’. He continues: “looking at the state’s lack of capacity in the state security front should have been an easy chance for progressives to capitalize on. The state relies on remnants of its once functioning crime intelligence that is clearly dwindling into oblivion. The military intelligence is as good as non existent. Basically the country survives through foreign intelligence players.”