Mobile operators in Eswatini (Swaziland), including MTN have been ordered to suspend access to Facebook and its messenger app in that country.
Reuters reports that MTN Eswatini officials said the order came after protests against King Mswati III flared up.
MTN Eswatini said it had implemented the directive from the country’s communications commission to suspend Facebook access with immediate effect and until further notice. It did not say what reason the commission gave for its order.
Eswatini government spokesman Sabelo Dlamini referred all questions to the communications ministry, but ministry officials were not immediately available for comment.
The Facebook suspension came as South Africa’s presidency said envoys from Southern African countries were expected to travel to Eswatini this week.
Anger against King Mswati III has been building for years. It broke out into the open during demonstrations in June and July, which the local authorities quashed with teargas and water cannon, and another round of protests erupted in recent weeks.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed the envoys to Eswatini in his capacity as chair of regional bloc SADC’s organ on defence, politics and security cooperation, Ramaphosa’s office said in a statement.
The envoys include South Africa’s deputy foreign minister, a special adviser to Ramaphosa and a former South African cabinet minister, as well as representatives of Botswana and Namibia.
Campaigners say 53-year-old Mswati III has consistently ignored calls for reforms that would nudge Eswatini, which changed its name from Swaziland in 2018, in the direction of democracy.
The king denies accusations of autocratic rule and of using public money to fund a lavish lifestyle in the impoverished nation that borders South Africa. In July he called protests against his rule “satanic”