The next time Swaziland government ministers tell us that democracy is alive and well in the kingdom and the present government was chosen as the will of the people, refer them to the report on corruption at the 2008 elections, just published.
The report from Swaziland’s Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), details allegations of widespread bribery, ‘treating’, threats of violence and cases of candidates unlawfully holding voter cards.
The 2008 elections were controversial because, despite reservations from many international observers, the ruling regime in Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, claims the elections were free and fair: even though all political parties are banned in Swaziland.
The ECB report highlights treating, bribery, undue influence and unlawful possession of voter cards by candidates as key issues of corruption at the elections.
According to the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom's only independent daily newspaper, ‘treating was characterised as, “entertaining voters for the purpose of influencing their decision.”
‘This described the cases in which candidates gave food, money and drinks to the electorate.
‘Under bribery, candidates are said to have made voters, “offers of money, favours, lucrative promises, gifts, loans.”
‘It is also alleged that some candidates used undue influence on potential voters by, “threatening, using force and violence”.
The EBC now wants an independent body to be established to resolve electoral disputes, irregularities and malpractices.
Since the 2008 election there have been numerous cases of malpractice heard by the Swazi courts, including people posing as polling officers when they were actually not, alleged bribery of voters and polling officers being biased.
The report states that six election cases are pending. ‘Certain people acted as polling officers yet they were not legally entitled to do so; some polling officers were not neutral at the polling stations and were advocating for particular candidates to be voted for; and it was alleged that some voters who did not belong to the affected polling station were registered and illegally allowed to vote,’ the report states.