MTN’s operations in Eswatini have suffered disruption from the ongoing violent protests in the country, which have spread to the capital, Mbabane. Amid the crisis, the telecoms major has also closed all of its outlets for now, according to a notice sent to customers.

The kingdom has seen waves of pro-democracy protests break out over the past few days amid calls for political reform and the removal of King Mswati III. Eswatini is the only absolute monarchy in Africa and one of the few that remain across the world.

Several videos of the protests have been circulating on the internet, showing protesters burning tyres and barricading roads as government security forces fired gunshots and tear gas to disperse the large crowds. On Wednesday, pro-democracy activists said overnight clashes with police resulted in multiple casualties

The demonstrations have also led to looting overnight, reports say, and caused intermittent disruptions to communication services. 

The local unit of MTN Group in the country said it had been “experiencing disruption to services and connectivity as of 29 June 2021” in a statement issued on Wednesday.

“Meeting our customers’ needs remains a key priority for us. We are committed to restoring our services and connectivity as soon as possible; we encourage all our customers to make use of the various self-service offerings through our digital platforms,” MTN Eswatini CEO Wandile Mtshali said.

“As a precaution, we are exploring all necessary measures to ensure the safety of our customers, staff, and partners. We will monitor the situation and keep our customers updated on all relevant developments,” he added.

The notice comes amid social media reports alleging that King Mswati’s government had ordered network operators in the country to block access to the internet, as the army terrorises protesters in towns and rural areas.

MTN Eswatini added that it will continue to engage with all relevant stakeholders and authorities to minimise and limit the duration of the disruption.

Road freight logistics between Eswatini and South Africa have also been disrupted. Trucks carrying goods from the latter were reportedly looted and damaged and supermarkets set on fire.

Meanwhile, the government has imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew and closed schools while banks remain shut amid the crisis.

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Michael Ajifowoke Author

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