The national elections have started in Swaziland amid chaos. As it sets out to register voters, the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) is unsure how many people are eligible to vote in the kingdom and has almost certainly under estimated the number substantially.
The month of May has been dominated by the election as people trying to register have been turned away: the EBC blamed malfunctioning computers. The campaign to boycott the election because political parties are banned and the parliament that is selected is a stooge for King Mswati III is gaining momentum.
Sitting ministers have been found out bribing would-be voters with food and other goods. So many Swazi people are so poor they are unable to eat and some have admitted they would willingly sell their vote to the person who feeds them. Meanwhile, a scandal is emerging about food donated to feed the hungry by the international community deliberately being left by the government to rot – allegedly as punishment for an attempt to pass a vote of no confidence against the Prime Minister last year.
Elsewhere, police and security forces continue to clamp down on legitimate protest. The month began with a muted May Day celebration as police made house arrests of union and political leaders to stop them appearing at rallies. The month ended with police banning women protesting against gender violence from marching. Police reportedly told the women they did not want any noise ahead of the election.
King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has yet to set the date of the election.
Swazi Media Commentary has published free of charge on scribd dot com Swaziland: Striving For Freedom, the fifth volume of information, commentary and analysis on human rights in the kingdom taken from articles first published on its blogsite in May 2013. Each month throughout this year a digest of articles will be published bringing together in one place material that is rarely found elsewhere.
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