Voter registration for the national election in Swaziland started this week, even though the date of the election has yet to be set.
Nor have issues about who is to make the decision on the date been resolved. The Swazi Constitution says it’s the business of the Election and Boundaries Commission (EBC), but the advisory committee of King Mswati III, Liqoqo, says only the king can decide the date.
Then there is the legality of the EBC itself. Democrats in Swaziland believe the members of the EBC were selected illegally and members do not have the correct qualifications for the job. A court appeal on the matter is presently pending.
The Times of Swaziland reported yesterday (Tuesday 20 May 2008) that on the first day of registration, registration points were ‘either ill prepared, ill equipped or the people ill informed about what was expected of them’.
In addition, the Times reported, ‘Some constituencies such as Nkilongo are in protest over the registration of the election officers in their area.’
This prompted the Times to ask in an editorial comment whether the elections will be ‘free and fair’ as King Mswati III has promised.
The Times also criticises the EBC for ‘trotting around the country painting multi-parties black and blaming them for wars’. This, the newspaper says, is not ‘civic education’. It accuses the EBC of ‘dictating not educating people freely and fairly’.
The EBC also comes in for a blistering attack from the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO).
In a media statement released yesterday (20 May 2008), SCCCO coordinator Musa Hlophe says that widows have been illegally excluded from registering to vote for traditional reasons. They have been turned away ‘for the sole reason that they are widows in mourning dress’. Hlophe says that this is illegal because there is no law preventing widows from registering.
‘It has been obvious from the outset that this Commission’s appointment, qualifications, competence and experience are all outside the letter and the spirit of the Constitution. This illegal exclusion of the widows is just the latest in a series of gaffes where the Commission has ignored and flouted the law, the constitution, common sense and good practice. How many more blunders does it take before the Commission realises how far out of its depth it is and does the honourable thing and resign.
‘The Election and Boundaries Commission and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Affairs’ disregard for the rule of law and parliamentary independence have shown the true colours of the Commission. It is just as obvious that in recent closed meetings with traditional authorities that its appearance of independence is fatally compromised. This is not an independent rigorous, well organised and technically capable commission but a toothless rubberstamp for labadzala – nothing more, nothing less.’
This is only the first day of the voter registration for elections that are widely expected to take place in November 2008. EBC Chairman Chief Gija Dlamini is quoted in the Times (20 May 2008) saying that people who put the registration process into disarray should be sent to jail.
If Day One is anything to go by, registration is already in disarray and the EBC must take much of the blame for this
Chief Gija is meant to be in charge and must take the responsibility. I hope he has his toothbrush packed ….
SWAZI ELECTION PARTY DOUBLE TALK