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Eswatini’s political and civil society opposition has firmly rejected King Mswati’s offer — which followed his meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s special envoy on Thursday — to hold a national dialogue to discuss the troubled country’s political future.

Eswatini’s main political party, the banned Pudemo, vowed this weekend to continue with protests and strikes to force Mswati into real democratic negotiations. Activists have claimed that security forces have killed more than 80 protesters, mostly with live ammunition, since pro-democracy demonstrations began in June and resumed over the past few weeks, mainly through protests at schools and strikes by transport workers.

Daily Maverick reports that Pudemo and the Swaziland Multi-Stakeholders Forum (MSF) — representing a broad range of political and civil society organisations — rejected Mswati’s offer of dialogue and vowed they would not attend his meeting.

The MSF, chaired by human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko, said after meeting in Manzini on Saturday that Mswati’s call “was a ploy to mislead the SADC troika into believing we are a dialogue-driven nation and to create the impression that the national authorities do engage the people on issues of national importance, which is not the case”.

The forum noted that the king was calling for calm, but said there could be no calm or peaceful dialogue “as long as the security forces continue to kill and maim the people”.

One of the demands is for the release of two pro-democracy MPs who were recently arrested and charged under the Suppression of Terrorism Act for allegedly stoking the June protests and violence.

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