The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario stands in solidarity with students and workers in Eswatini — formerly known as Swaziland — that have been mobilizing against severe police and military brutality and calling for accessible and quality education. Since 1986, the only absolute monarchy in Africa has been under King Mswati III’s rule. In the last few months, peaceful protests led by the Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS) against the police killing of student Thabani Nkomonye have turned into a country-wide movement for democracy. Students from over 50 schools across the country participated in a boycott of their exams — police responded to the boycott by occupying campuses and throwing tear gas. Police have been attacking unarmed protesters with live ammunition leaving many injured and some killed.
The SNUS has been at the forefront of these protests calling for accessible quality education, a refund of hostel fees for the 2020/21 academic year, and distribution of promised government-mandated monthly allowances. The students have now been joined by public transport workers demanding safer working conditions and an end to police harassment, and civil servants demanding better wages. All have been calling for an end to the absolute monarchy and the right to an elected government.
Mass protests have been met with violent militarized suppression, police brutality and government restrictions. In the first wave of protests, 27 people were killed in clashes with police. In the newest wave of protests, 80 people have been wounded, and one person killed. Police and soldiers have been deployed into schools across the country, followed by an executive order to shut down schools indefinitely. In addition, the internet was shut down to quell organizing. The country remains in a state of violence and unrest.
The Swazi government and King Mswati III have shown not only a blatant disregard for public safety, but also a disregard for the rights of students and workers. Swazi citizens have endured poverty and lack of resources for decades, while the monarchy spends at their expense. The peaceful calls for change have been answered with brutality, exposing once again the monarchy’s intention to restrict freedom and maintain total control at the cost of human life.
In the spirit of internationalism, the Federation stands with Swazi students, workers, and all sectors of society as they struggle for free education, higher wages, better working conditions, improved health care, and an end to police brutality. The Federation maintains that everyone, everywhere, ought to be free from violence and have the right to free, accessible, democratic high-quality education.
The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario is the oldest and largest student organization in Ontario, representing over 350,000 college and university students in every region of the province.