Regional Bishops Pay “solidarity, pastoral visit” to Eswatini after Pro-democracy Protests

Some members of the IMBISA Standing Committee. Credit: Manzini Diocese

Some three months after police in the Kingdom of Eswatini violently suppressed pro-democracy protests, a delegation from the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has started on a five-day “solidarity and pastoral visit” to the country.

Led by SACBC President, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of South Africa’s Umtata Diocese, the delegation has also the Secretary General of the three-nation Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Associate Secretary General, Fr. Hugh O’Connor and Sr. Phuthunywa Catherine Siyali, respectively.

The SACBC delegation aims to understand Eswatini’s situation since the protests were violently suppressed in July.

“From Wednesday 06 October until Monday 11 October, our Diocese will host an ‘SACBC solidarity and pastoral visit’”, the Bishop of the Eswatini’s only Catholic Diocese has announced Tuesday, October 5. 

Bishop José Luis Ponce de León of Manzini Diocese adds that the representatives of SACBC will become more familiar with the present situation in the country through meetings with different stakeholders in the Southern African Kingdom.


Unrest in Eswatini began in May when university students took to the streets to call for accountability for the death of their colleague, 25-year-old Thabani Nkomonye, allegedly at the hands of the police.

In late June, the protests grew into daily pro-democracy marches in several locations in Eswatini, with protesters voicing deep-seated political and economic grievances. At least 50 people were reported dead. 

On September 7, Bishop Ponce de León expressed concern about the situation of uncertainty in the country following the pro-democracy protests saying that the “government has not yet given any indications about the way forward and how the issues raised by the unrest would be addressed.”

The Bishop also described the situation in Africa’s only absolute monarchy as “calm with sporadic episodes of violence.”

Media reports have indicated that the pro-democracy demonstrations have continued to take place silently months after security officers violently them.

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In the October 5 statement, the Bishop of Manzini expresses his gratitude to the leadership of SACBC for their closeness with the people of God in Eswatini amid the uncertainties. 

“We are deeply grateful to the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference for being particularly close to us in uncertain times,” says Bishop  Ponce de León of Catholic Church leaders in South Africa, Botswana, and Eswatini, the country previously known as Swaziland.

SACBC delegation, the member of Consolata Missionaries further says, will also be presenting the 2019 Pastoral Plan of the Catholic Church in Southern Africa to the people of God in Eswatini. 

Launched in January 2020, the 2019 Pastoral Plan of the Catholic Church in Southern Africa guides evangelization activities in Eswatini, Botswana and South Africa.

Prior to its launch, Bishop Sipuka explained that the Pastoral Plan was born out of the realization that the Catholic faith was not impactful to the Christians and the society at large in the three Southern African nations.


The 2019 Pastoral Plan also aims at filling a gap that exists in the SACBC region due to “changed cultural and social context which no longer provides an advantageous platform for the propagation of faith as it was done in the past,” Bishop Sipuka said.

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.