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Friday, 26 September 2008


The elections in Swaziland last Friday (19 September 2008) were riddled with bribery and other malpractices.

No less a figure than Swaziland’s Attorney General (AG) Majahenkhaba Dlamini has said that candidates bribed voters to win parliamentary seats.

Dlamini said there were a lot of mischievous deeds done by the candidates, according to the Swazi Observer yesterday (25 September 208).

Dlamini was coy giving details saying, ‘There are a lot of things that happened but I can not be specific since that would seem I am attacking people.’

Dlamini said people declared publicly that they were given money to vote.

He said that was not the way to win in an election and added the candidates knew what was expected of them but they continued to break the law.

‘Giving people money is against the law and the candidates know that but they continue defying the law', the Observer quoted him saying.

Despite his own evidence to the contrary, Dlamini said that, all in all, the elections were free and fair.

I notice that the ‘official’ election observers the African Union and the Pan-African Parliament also both declared the election ‘free and fair’ even though they decried the lack of democracy in Swaziland where political parties are banned, the parliament has little power, and King Mswati III makes all the important decisions.

This makes me wonder what it would take for them to declare an election ‘unfair’. As I wrote on 17 September 2008 there was a lot of confusion among the observers themselves as to what it was they were meant to be observing and what rules governed election conduct in Swaziland.

The AG is not the only one calling foul on these elections. Former cabinet minister Mfomfo Nkambule has said it was an ‘open secret’ that some of the MPs paid voters to vote for them. He said the danger in this was that a government of people who buy favours was being created, according to the Observer on Wednesday (24 September 2008).

The Observer reported, ‘His assertion is supported by several court applications in which candidates complained that their competitors had paid voters.

‘In one case, an election winner was said to have distributed E50 [more than a week’s income for more than 70 percent of the population] to each voter whilst in another incident one was alleged to have distributed E10 to voters.’

The Observer also reported one commentator, who declined to be named, who said the bulk of the elected MPs were people who had been associated with crime. ‘One was convicted for theft of drugs, two were impeached for fraud, whilst a few others had a brush with the law in this way or the other,’ he said.

I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry over one report in the Observer on Tuesday (23 September 2008) that said candidate Celucolo Dino Dlamini in Kukhanyeni has told voters they won’t be getting the kombi (small bus) he promised them, because they failed to elect him.

Apart from bribery there are other suspected malpractices emerging.

More than 50 residents of Dlangeni chiefdom marched to the royal kraal in protest of the newly- elected Member of Parliament. According to the Times of Swaziland on Wednesday (24 September 2008) they are angry about the election process that allowed a candidate to win the election even though he did not have a home in the area.

In another case, the minister of health Njabulo Mabuza who lost his seat has blamed chiefs in the area for instructing their subjects who to vote for.

The Times (23 September 2008) reported, ‘Mabuza alleged that the three traditional leaders interfered with the voting process in that they allegedly instructed their subjects on who to vote for. He said his ultimate downfall was the decision to conduct the elections at the chiefdom level because that is where the voters received the orders.’

The Times went on, ‘He alleged that even his campaign team was intimidated and threatened by some people.’

In another case, 400 residents at Emampondweni and Ebulekeni under Zombodze Emuva resolved to march to the Elections and Boundaries Commission to protest that one of the candidates had won the primary election fraudulently, the Observer reported (22 September 2008).

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