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Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Swaziland Police Force Worshippers From Churches to Attend Election Nominations

Police in Swaziland / Eswatini forced worshippers out of churches to attend election nominations because numbers were small.
It happened at about 10 churches around Mathendele in Nhlangano on Sunday (29 July 2018), the Times of Swaziland reported.

It reported police ‘barged’ into churches ‘to “encourage” worshippers to suspend their business of worship over politics’.

It added, ‘This was reportedly after it was realised that the attendance at the polling station wasn’t impressive, way after the scheduled time for the nomination process was set to begin. Worshippers from several churches (close to 10) had to abruptly slash the length of their services after police officers arrived to convince them that the nomination process was also an essential part of their lives. Witnesses said it was shortly after 10 a.m. when the officers embarked on the church door-to-door visitations.’

The Times reported, ‘Several interviewed worshippers said the police officers invaded their church while a service was ongoing and accused those gathered there of not taking important national assignments seriously.’

It added, ‘Sources revealed that in some of the visited churches, the officers were given a tough time by church leaders, who demanded written proof that worshipping was “banned” on the day.’
It is not reported if police elsewhere in Swaziland also invaded churches.

Nominations for forthcoming elections took place on Saturday and Sunday. Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in the election for House of Assembly. No members of the Senate are elected by the people. Under Swaziland’s political system called tinkhundla or monarchical democracy the King chooses the Prime Minister and government members.

Followers of the King say that the people in Swaziland support the political system but there is no independent evidence for this. 

The Election and Boundaries Commission (EBC) that runs the election reported more than 90 percent of the 600,000 people it said were eligible to vote had registered.

In a separate report, monthly magazine the Nation said (July 2018) that people had been forced into registering to vote at the election. It said the huge turnout was ‘attributed to persistent rumours that those who did not register for the elections would be denied services in government institution.’

It added, ‘The large turnout of the youth is an indication of scrambling for government scholarships. The rumours have hit home.’

The Nation reported, ‘There was also voter apathy during the municipality elections [in 2017] such that there are councillors who boasted of only five votes taking them into office.’

See also

Doubts Over Validity of Swaziland Election
New Study Shows Why Swaziland Elections Are Not Democratic
‘Vote Rigging’ as Registration Tops 90 percent

Monday, 30 July 2018

Doubt Over Validity of Swaziland Election

The validity of the House of Assembly election in Swaziland / Eswatini has been called into question with a newspaper report that nominations for candidates went ahead without a final voters’ roll.

Without the list of who had registered to vote it was impossible to check that voters were genuine and names had not been invented or people ‘rented’ to a constituency to support a candidate.

Ackel Zwane, a veteran journalist in Swaziland, wrote in the Swazi Observer on Friday (27 July 2018) this was the first time in the history of Swaziland’s elections that nominations took place without a published voters’ roll. Nominations took place at the weekend (28 and 29 July 2018). 

Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III as one of the world’s last absolute monarchs. In the Tinkhundla system political parties are not allowed to stand in the election and the King appoints the Prime Minister and government. The King also in effect owns the Observer newspaper.

Zwane wrote, ‘We had also expected the list of nomination centres at dates to have been distributed together with the final voters roll in order to allow for voters to scrutinise and detect rented and non-qualifying candidates from being nominated in the said centres.’

He also criticised the fact that the days for nomination were not made public holidays. He said, ‘Since the Tinkhundla system of governance allows for individual status at elections, not group or party representation, all citizens should have been allowed at both the nominations, primary and secondary elections the same level ground, by declaring these days public holidays in order for all citizens to enjoy that same status of being equal just this once.’

The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) has been under intense scrutiny for the way it is running the election. Earlier in July amid claims of corruption and vote rigging it reported more than 90 percent of those it said were eligible had registered to vote. Registration had been extended by 12 days at the end of June 2018.

EBC said 544,310 from 600,000 eligible registered. The figures compare to 414,704 who registered at the last election in 2013. Of those, 251,278 people voted.

Zwane disputed the EBC registration figures. Writing in the Swazi Observer, (6 July 2018) he said there had been ‘blatant breaking of the electoral law’ and the EBC had deliberately ignored this.

He wrote, ‘The law succinctly prescribes that there must be proof of residence at registration, but the EBC has been inflating figures of registered voters in the country’s malls and population centres without requiring proof of residence.’

He added, ‘The figures have now been inflated with non-qualifying elements registering to vote, all because there is no efficient system to prune out the frauds.’

Zwane wrote,  ‘It is at these stages that an election loses its credibility.’

He said election law required people registering to vote in urban areas to produce evidence of their Swazi citizenship or permanent residence. ‘Nothing of this requirement was met at the registration points around the malls and shopping complexes throughout the country.’

He added, ‘Now this has opened floodgates to the elections mafia who are able to manipulate these loopholes by registering as many foreigners as possible, especially impoverished Mozambicans who freely roam Eswatini [Swaziland] without requiring any papers to remain in the country.

Zwane said it would be impossible to verify the electoral roll ahead of voting. ‘The individual citizens do not possess the ability and resources to undertake the cumbersome task of identifying each individual voter in a particular area whether authentic or fraudulent. Even the EBC does not have the resources, skill and time to do this, otherwise they would have prevented the crises at registration.’

During the registration period there were many media reports of incompetence, corruption and nepotism. When registration began equipment was not in place at all centres and trained election personnel were not always available and there were many reports of computer failures. A toll-free line available for people to report grievances and challenges they met at registration centres failed to work on MTN mobile phone numbers. Many people did not receive voter cards after registering, leaving them in doubt that they would be able to cast their vote.

Reports of attempted bribery were rife across the kingdom. At Maphungwane in the Matsanjeni North Constituency football teams rejected a E10,000 (US$790) sponsorship from an aspiring member of parliament. The Swazi Observer reported (18 May 2018) that the sponsorship was in the form of prize money that would be paid at the end of the football season and after the election had been held.

The newspaper reported the clubs’ representatives questioned the timing of the sponsorship and rejected the offer. One club boss told the Observer that aspiring MPs had also tried to manipulate them in the past.

There was a report that police in Swaziland were investigating possible election corruption concerning a former government minister accused of bribing people with promises of food parcels for their votes. 

Poverty-stricken textile workers said they sold their votes for cash and chicken pieces. The Swazi Observer reported sitting members of parliament had sent their agents into factories to buy up votes in the industrial town of Matsapha. People said they were persuaded to register as residents of the surrounding areas as opposed to their chiefdoms of origin. 

Other textile workers in Nhlangano said groups of 50 or 60 of them had been given free lunches by sponsors of people keen to win seats in parliament. They also said transport costs to and from work had been paid. The Swazi Observer reported on Friday (15 June 2018) that some outgoing MPs were involved.

Residents at Mbangweni complained of nepotism when four people selected to assist in the election were from the same family. The Swazi Observer reported Inkhosatana Gelane, the acting KoNtshingila chief, saying they were ‘loyal and respectful residents’. 

Many residents in areas including Engwenyameni, Madadeni, and Lavumisa, said they would boycott the election because they were dissatisfied with how constituency boundaries had been drawn. 
Days before registration closed EBC Chair Chief Gija Dlamini told media that all persons nominated for election would be vetted by police.

See also

New Study Shows Why Swaziland Elections Are Not Democratic

Friday, 27 July 2018

New Study Shows Why Swaziland Elections Are Not Democratic

Swaziland voters go to the polls on 21 September 2018 for the national election but we can already name the winner – it will be the absolute monarch King Mswati III. In the kingdom’s tinkhundla political system political parties are banned from taking part and people are only allowed to elect 59 members of the House of Assembly, the King chooses another ten. No members of the 30-strong Senate are elected by the people. When the election is over King Mswati will choose a Prime Minister and cabinet. He also chooses top judges and civil servants.

As a measure of his power in April 2018 on his fiftieth birthday and in the year that Swaziland marked its fiftieth anniversary of independence from Great Britain the King announced unilaterally that Swaziland would henceforth be named Eswatini. No public debate took place and a legal notice was signed. 

A system of ‘Monarchical Democracy’ invented by King Mswati in 2013 to justify his power exists in Swaziland. He called it a system formed by merging the will of the people with the monarch. He tried to sell this a new idea but he later admitted to Reuters news agency (13 September 2013) that it was just another name for the tinkhundla system that already existed.

European Union Election Experts Mission (EEM), one of a number of international groups that monitored the conduct of Swaziland’s election in 2013, made much of how the kingdom’s absolute monarchy undermined democracy. It reported, ‘The King has absolute power and is considered to be above the law, including the Constitution, enjoying the power to assent laws and immunity from criminal proceedings. A bill shall not become law unless the King has assented to it, meaning that the parliament is unable to pass any law which the King is in disagreement with.’

A new study called Organised Certainty, Why elections in Swaziland are not democratic  examines Swaziland elections and demonstrates that power rests with the King regardless of who the people put into the House of Assembly. It is available free of charge online at Scribd <<>>

People do not elect the government and have no way of influencing its policies. The report follows the last poll in 2013 step by step from the period running up to it and through the long-drawn out election process that includes registration, nominations, a primary election and a final (secondary) vote.

Section one details the political landscape of Swaziland. The Institute for Security Studies called the tinkhundla elections ‘organised certainty’ because they changed nothing and allowed the ruling regime to have an unchallenged monopoly over state resources.

Section two reviews the work of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) that was launched in 2008 under great controversy. Chief Gija Dlamini, an engineer and one of King Mswati’s half-brothers, was appointed chair although the Constitution stated the position should go to a judge. The EBC has been under constant criticism since because of its inability to competently run elections. The section also details the election process from registration through to the final (secondary) election.

Section three covers the period running up to the 2013 election which was characterised by increasingly violent and abusive behaviour of police and state forces. International observers such as the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa reported that the state was unable to accept that peaceful political and social dissent was a vital element of a healthy democratic process. The Swaziland United Democratic Front and the Swaziland Democracy Campaign said police in Swaziland had become a private militia. The section using contemporary sources details a number of cases of meetings and prayers being disrupted and prodemocracy campaigners arrested.

Section four looks at registration and nominations in the 2013 election. Registration was characterised by blunders by the EBC and corruption. Nominations descended into chaos across Swaziland as equipment failed and some candidates who wanted to be nominated were prevented because electoral officers would not allow it. Women were banned from nomination because they wore trousers to nomination centres.

Section five examines the primary election. This takes place at chiefdoms and at the end of the process one candidate is selected to go forward to the secondary election at tinkhundla / constituency level. Bribery and corruption allegations were widely reported and the primary elections were riddled with problems including incorrect ballot papers issued, alleged tampering of ballot boxes, wrong results announced, campaign laws broken and residents threatening to boycott the poll. In at least one case riot police had to escort ballot boxes from the polling station.

Section six reviews the secondary election, the stage of voting where the member of the House of Assembly is finally elected. Election observers reported it went more smoothly than the primary election but the vote was marred by instances of violence. Police brutally stopped a peaceful march after voters at one constituency protested the result and there were fears of election rigging elsewhere. Nine people including an 85-year-old woman were taken to hospital when voters at a Lomahasha polling station reported stampeded.

Section seven reports the election results and the aftermath. Although the names of winning candidates were promptly announced it took the EBC more than three years to formally release the results. Only four in ten people entitled to vote did so at the secondary election. Shortly after the election, King Mswati named two princes, a princess and three members of his own Dlamini clan among his 10 appointees to the House of Assembly. He also appointed six members of his family to the Senate, where he picks 20 members. He then appointed another 16 members of his Royal Family to top political jobs; effectively carving up public life in the kingdom in his favour. There were nine princess and princesses and a further seven from the family Dlamini in the 24-strong Liqoqo (the Swaziland National Council), the most powerful of the committees that nominally advises the King. There were four princes and princesses and four Dlaminis in the Ludzidzimi Council, which advises the Queen Mother. The Border Restoration Committee which exists to try to get South Africa to give some of its territory to King Mswati had three princes and princesses and five Dlaminis among its 14 members. King Mswati also reappointed Barnabas Dlamini as Prime Minister.

Section eight explores media coverage of the elections. Nearly all broadcast media are state controlled and censored. One of only two daily newspapers in the kingdom is in effect owned by King Mswati. The media told their audiences and readers that it was their duty to support the King by voting. Often media reported that people were electing a government when they were not. International media were more revealing, often reporting the opposition view that the election was a fraud. 

Section nine looks at disputes and court procedures. The 2013 election did not end with the announcement of the winners. The Swaziland High Court was kept busy with a number of claims of malpractice. A total of 31 election cases were brought before the High Court for determination by prospective and actual candidates for election and 23 cases were dismissed.

Section ten offers some final words by reprising human rights reports from international organisations for the year 2017 (the most recent available). Among a long list violations are arbitrary interference with privacy and home; restrictions on freedoms of speech, assembly, and association; denial of citizens’ ability to choose their government in free and fair elections; institutional lack of accountability in cases involving rape and violence against women and criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct.

Appendix one is an extract from the Commonwealth Observer Mission Report on the 2013 election. The EBC accredited more than 400 international and local observers to witness the poll. In its report, the EBC listed good practices and areas for improvement highlighted by observers but it ignored the fact that many groups declared the election was not free and fair because Swaziland was not a democracy. The extract from the Commonwealth Observer Mission offers a more complete picture. It concludes, ‘that the entire process could not be deemed credible, due to major democratic deficits’.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

UK Unions to Call for Swaziland’s Suspension From Commonwealth Over Workers’ Rights Abuses

The UK Trades Union Congress (TUC) is to call for Swaziland / Eswatini to be suspended from the Commonwealth because of its poor record on workers’ rights.

It said international institutions should take the lead in condemning workers’ rights abuses in the kingdom where King Mswati III rules as one of the world’s last absolute monarchs.

Swaziland was ranked four out of five in a 2018 survey of the worst nations in the world for workers’ rights published by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), indicating a ‘systematic violation’ of rights.

In the most recent example of abuse, on 29 June 2018 police in Swaziland fired stun grenades, teargas and water cannon at workers trying to deliver a petition to the Swazi Government against poor service delivery, misuse of state pension funds and other issues. 

Tanya Warlock, TUC Policy and campaigns support officer, writing on the TUC website, said, ‘In the aftermath of that shocking violence, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady wrote to the High Commissioner of Swaziland to condemn the Swazi government’s actions.

‘Now we’re calling on the Commonwealth to suspend Swaziland until the Swazi government stops breaching fundamental human rights and ends the repression of workers.’

She added, ‘Swazi trade unions continue to suffer from brutal repression just for standing up for workers’ rights.’

The TUC will call for the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (the disciplinary committee of the Commonwealth) to suspend Swaziland, ‘until the government stops breaching the fundamental principles and values that Commonwealth members have a duty to respect’ she said.

Human rights are severely curtailed in Swaziland where political parties are banned from taking part in elections and opponents are charged under a number of laws, including the Suppression of Terrorism Act. 
See also

UK Solidarity With Swazi Workers

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Confusion over Status of Widows as Swaziland Prepares for National Election

Widows will be allowed to nominate candidates at the forthcoming election in Swaziland / Eswatini but it is not clear if they can stand themselves.

The kingdom’s Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) announced this week that widows would not be permitted to attend nomination events to be held this weekend at royal kraals across Swaziland but arrangements could be made to allow them to make their nominations elsewhere.

EBC Chair Chief Gija Dlamini told the Times of Swaziland (25 July 2018) Swaziland had a culture of respecting dead relatives, which was why women underwent the mourning period and wore black gowns.

‘It is just pure respect that when a woman is still in mourning, they do not enter the royal kraal,’ the newspaper quoted him saying. Chief Gija said that the authorities would ensure that all people were involved and not discriminated against by identifying alternative nomination centres which could be a school situated nearby.

Nominations take place on 28 and 29 July 2018. According to the EBC, they take place in the open, people are nominated by a show of hands and the nominee is given a chance to indicate whether he or she accepts the nomination. If he or she accepts they must be supported by at least ten members of that chiefdom. Chief Gija did not say how this would work if a widow was not present at the place where nominations were taking place.

At the last election in 2013 a chief’s headman at Ludzibini, ruled by Chief Magudvulela a former Swazi Senator, threatened that people would be banished from their homes if they nominated a widow for the election. Dumisani Dlamini warned residents that if they voted for Jennifer du Pont they would be evicted from the area. The Times Sunday reported at the time, ‘He warned that those who would nominate her should be prepared to relocate to areas as distant as five chiefdoms away. Her sin was that she attended the nominations only a few months after her husband died.’ He said she should still be mourning her husband. 

The newspaper reported du Pont did not wear standard black mourning gowns and was dressed in a blue wrap-around dress known as sidvwashi. Enough people in the chiefdom defied Dlamini and du Pont was duly nominated.

There is confusion about whether a widow would be permitted to stand for election.

In April 2018, Lusendvo Fakudze, the acting Ludzidzini Governor, who is considered to be the voice of King Mswati, the kingdom’s absolute monarch, on traditional matters told the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, that widows would not be allowed to contest the election until they had been in mourning for two years and gone through a cleansing ceremony.  

The newspaper reported, ‘EBC Chairperson Chief Gija Dlamini also confirmed that women who lost their husbands could register for elections only after the two-year mourning period and cleansing ceremony.’

The announcement contradicted what the EBC said in April 2017. EBC commissioner Ncumbi Maziya told a voter education meeting at Bulandzeni Chiefdom that women in mourning had a constitutional right to stand for election, but he added that there might be problems for a widow if she were elected.

The Swazi Observer reported at the time,  ‘He said a person wearing a mourning gown was not allowed to be near His Majesty the King. If a certain constituency elected a person in such a situation, it was highly possible that the woman could not attend the Parliament opening event, where the King would also be in attendance. Maziya said that was when a woman would have to exercise conscience by at least standing by the gate of Parliament, to avoid being near the King.’

See also

Expect Confusion, Chaos and Rule-breaking at Nominations for Swaziland’s Election, if Last Time is a Guide

Monday, 23 July 2018

Swaziland’s King Mswati Named as Offender in Global Report on Modern Slavery

King Mswati III the absolute monarch of Swaziland / Eswatini has been named in a global report on modern slavery for forcing his subjects to weed his fields.

His supporters say the work is done in the name of culture but others say if they do not work for the King they are punished.

The Global Slavery Index 2018, just published, said there was evidence that the practice of kuhlehla continued, ‘where the community is forced to render services or work for the King or local chiefs’.

The report estimated there were 12,000 people in Swaziland in modern slavery. This number has increased from 1,302 people in 2013 and 6,700 people in 2014. The numbers for 2018 may have been distorted by changes in the way victims are counted.

The report stated modern slavery, ‘refers to situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, deception and / or abuse of power’.

This is not the first time King Mswati has been named in a report on modern slavery or human trafficking. The annual Trafficking in Persons Report for 2017 from the United States State Department said it had been reporting conditions in Swaziland for the previous five years. It said, ‘Swazis are culturally expected to participate in the seasonal weeding and harvesting of the King’s fields and those who may refuse are subject to coercion through threats and intimidation by their chiefs.’

A report Child Labor and Forced Labor from the US Department of Labor looking at 2016 stated penalties imposed by chiefs included ‘evicting families from their village and confiscating livestock’. 

Separately, the 2014 Trafficking in Persons report revealed, ‘Swazi chiefs may coerce children and adults—through threats and intimidation—to work for the King. Swazi boys and foreign children are forced to labor in commercial agriculture, including cattle herding, and market vending within the country.’

King Mswati was at the centre of an international controversy in January 2015 when Swazi Media Commentary revealed that schools in Swaziland were forced to stay closed after Christmas so children could weed the King’s fields. As many as 30,000 children were thought to have missed schooling as a result. 

The Global Slavery Index for 2016 reported that the Swazi Government ‘attempted to backtrack on its intentions when its use of unpaid child labour was reported by international media’.

Seven in ten people in Swaziland live in abject poverty earning less than the equivalent of $US2 per day. They can be forced to work under the Swazi Administration Order, No. 6 of 1998 which makes it a duty of Swazis to obey orders and participate in compulsory works; participation is enforceable with severe penalties for those who refuse.

This is allowed even though the Swaziland Constitution that was enacted in 2006 prohibits forced or compulsory labour. 

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in a 2009 report said the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions called the administration order a form of forced labour which reinforced the traditional powers of chiefs to demand uncompensated labour from citizens and apply punishment in case of refusal.

See also


Sunday, 22 July 2018

Court Confirms Political Parties Cannot Compete in Swaziland’s Election

The High Court in Swaziland / Eswatini has confirmed that political parties will not be allowed to contest the national election.

It said the kingdom’s Supreme Court had ruled on the matter in 2009 and nothing had changed since.

The Swaziland Democratic Party (SWADEPA) had asked that it be allowed to contest the election that is presently taking place in Swaziland where King Mswati III rules as one of the world’s last absolute monarchs. The case was heard on Friday (20 July 2018).

According to the Swaziland Constitution that came into effect in 2006 under the tinkhundla system of government people may only stand for election as individuals However, the constitution also allows for freedom of association which can be interpreted as permission to form political parties.

In 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that excluding political parties from the electoral process did not constitute a violation of freedom of association as guaranteed by article 25 of the Swaziland constitution. 

The judges said people could be members of a political party and they could stand as individuals and then once elected link up as a group. Justice Thomas Masuku in a dissenting judgement said the idea that it was possible to get elected as an individual basis and then link up with others who share similar views was a bit like a boy who intends to enrol in a school which is exclusively a girls’ school. 

‘To avoid being detected at admission, and in violation of the school requirements, he titivates himself, paints his hair and does all necessary preparations to be regarded and perceived as a girl, with hope that once inside, he will show his true colours and identity.’

At the time the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said the Swaziland Supreme Court failed to uphold fundamental rights which were constitutionally guaranteed. 

ICJ in a statement said the Swazi Supreme Court’s ‘restrictive approach seriously violates the freedom of association and restrains the scope of freedom of expression and the right to participate in public affairs. 

‘As an essential component of the right protected under article 25 of the Swaziland Bill of Rights, the freedom to form and join political parties is protected by article 10 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Swaziland is a State Party.’

In that respect, ‘Swaziland courts have an obligation to give full effect to the rights and freedoms guaranteed in those instruments.’

The ICJ is not the only internationally-respected organisation to call for political parties to be made legal. For years observers have said that Swaziland elections which are held every five years are not free and fair because political parties cannot take part.

After the last election in 2013 the official report of the Commonwealth Observer Mission called for a review of the kingdom’s constitution. It said members of parliament ‘continue to have severely limited powers’ and political parties are banned. 

The Commonwealth observers said there was ‘considerable room for improving the democratic system’.

They called for King Mswati’s powers to be reduced. ‘The presence of the monarch in everyday political life inevitably associates the institution of monarchy with politics, a situation that runs counter to the development that the re-establishment of the Parliament and the devolution of executive authority into the hands of elected officials.’

The report said the constitution needed to be revisited with an open debate on what changes were necessary.

It added, ‘This should ideally be carried out through a fully inclusive, consultative process with all Swazi political organisations and civil society (if needed, with the help of constitutional experts.’

The African Union (AU) also urged Swaziland to review the Constitution, especially in the areas of ‘freedoms of conscience, expression, peaceful assembly, association and movement as well as international principles for free and fair elections and participation in electoral process.’ 

The AU called on Swaziland to implement the African Commission’s Resolution on Swaziland in 2012 that called on the Government, ‘to respect, protect and fulfil the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of assembly.’

The Swazi people have no say in who their leaders are. In the past they were only allowed to select 55 of the 65 members of the House of Assembly, the other 10 are appointed by the King. From this year they can choose an additional four members. None of the 30 members of the Swaziland Senate are elected by the people; the King appoints 20 members and the other 10 are appointed by the House of Assembly.

The King choses the Prime Minister and cabinet members. Only a man with the surname Dlamini can, by tradition, be appointed as Prime Minister. The King is a Dlamini.  

See also


Saturday, 21 July 2018

Expect Chaos and Rule-breaking at Nominations for Swaziland’s Election, if Last Time is a Guide

As nominations for elections in Swaziland / Eswatini take place next weekend, we might expect confusion, chaos and rule breaking if the experience of last time is a guide.

The credibility of the nomination process in 2013 was severely damaged when it became clear that many people who wanted to nominate candidates were prevented from doing so and some were nominated against the election rules. Many boycotted the nominations altogether.

Swaziland’s election process is long drawn out. King Mswati III rules as one of the world’s last absolute monarchs and political parties are banned from taking part. People must stand as individuals with no affiliations. The nominations will take place on 28 and 29 July 2018 at chiefdoms. 

According to guidelines from the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), the name of the nominee is raised by a show of hand and the nominee is given an opportunity to indicate whether he or she accepts the nomination. If he or she accepts it, he or she must be supported by at least ten members of that chiefdom. The nominations are for the position of Member of the House of Assembly (Parliament), Constituency Headman (Indvuna) and the Constituency Executive Committee (Bucopho).

The minimum number of nominees is three and the maximum is twenty. The nomination process takes place in the open, persons are nominated by a show of hand and the nomination is done by the community. Those nominated then contest elections at primary level.

Once the nominations are finished a primary election will take place on 25 August 2018. These are by secret ballot at chieftaincies. At the end of the primary elections, there should be one candidate for the position of the Member of Parliament and one for the position of the Constituency Headman who are going to contest at the secondary election at constituencies (known as tinkhundla) on 21 September 2018.

The credibility of the nomination process in 2013 was severely damaged when it became clear that many people who wanted to nominate candidates were prevented from doing so; some people were nominated against the election rules and cabinet ministers in the outgoing government who were nominated might not have been eligible to stand. EBC Chair Chief Gija Dlamini said some nominated candidates who did not have consent letters from their employers should have been disqualified. Speaking on state-controlled radio, he said it was expected that public servants should have brought with them the letters, which in turn should have been read in front of all the voters. Some people boycotted in protest that venues selected for the nominations were unsuitable. 

Elsewhere equipment failures delayed the start of nomination. There was reported corruption with the EBC saying some people were offered bribes of E100 (US$10 at the then exchange rate) or E200 to register twice.

About 400 residents of Ebutfongweni in the Manzini region under Kukhanyeni Inkhundla said they would not participate in the nominations process because it was being conducted at Nkiliji under Chief Mkhumbi Dlamini. They said they did not pay allegiance to Chief Mkhumbi as their area was at Mbekelweni, under Chief Nkhosini.The Times Sunday (4 August 2013)  reported that the residents, all of whom were registered voters, insisted that they would not participate in the process under Nkiliji after EBC officials did not show up at Ebutfongweni. They expected officers from the commission to conduct the nominations in the area as they had done so in the past. The Times Sunday reported they were the same residents who had previously taken Chief Mkhumbi to court during the elections registration process saying they had a constitutional right to register at a place of their choice.

Meanwhile, a change of a nomination centre at the last moment resulted in more than 50 residents of Siweni, a tiny village near Mbadlane which falls under the Malindza chiefdom, boycotting the nominations process. The Times Sunday (4 August 2013) reported voters were angry after being told by election officers that nominations had been moved to Othandweni Primary School and not Siweni Care Point, as earlier announced.

In Mzimnene, residents were unable to make nominations because they had not been told by the EBC where they should go. The same thing had happened in June when people were unable to register to vote. Elsewhere, equipment failures were blamed for the late opening of nomination centres across the Lubombo region. 

Missing church keys marred the nomination process at Moneni as officials from the EBC were forced to remain in their vehicles with the voting kit, as the Free Evangelical Assemblies Church remained closed. Church leaders said they were notified at very short notice that the church was to be used as a nomination centre. 

The Times of Swaziland (7 August 2013) reported some people who wanted to nominate candidates were prevented from doing so because electoral officers would not allow it, while some names of those who were nominated were then left off the EBC’s official list of candidates. It reported that some people who wanted to nominate candidates could not so because they failed to get the attention of the electoral officer. The process used required people to gather at a meeting place, often a kraal, and wait to be called by an electoral officer to make their nomination. At many places crowds were large and not everyone who wanted to make a nomination was spotted by the electoral officer.

Women were banned from being nominated to stand as a member of parliament because they wore trousers at the nomination centre. Mana Mavimbela, aged 18, was disqualified from putting her name forward at Lubulini Royal Kraal. The Times of Swaziland, (7 August 2013) reported the presiding officer Lindiwe Sukati refused to allow her to stand because Mavimbela was wearing a pair of black jean trousers and a golf T- shirt. Mavimbela later said police forced her to lie in her statement that she did not intend to stand for nomination. The police officers ordered her to say that she had been joking. Eventually, Mavimbela won a case at the High Court and the EBC was compelled to postpone the election in her chiefdom at Lubulini to allow her to stand.

Meanwhile, Fakazile Luhlanga of Ndvwabangeni in the Mhlangatane constituency was also not allowed permission to nominate a candidate as she was wearing cargo pants. The Times of Swaziland (6 August 2013) reported Luhlanga saying she was told that she was dressed like a man and would be a bad influence to the community members as they would want to emulate her. Some chiefs across Swaziland imposed the ban on women wearing trousers, shorts or mini-skirts at nomination centres. Chief Petros Dvuba of Mpolonjeni in Mbabane, the kingdom’s capital, said people who would be going to the nominations should dress properly and show respect as it was King Mswati III’s exercise. He told the Times of Swaziland (2 August 2013), ‘Even those who have relaxed hair should cover their heads when going to that place.’

A chief’s headman at Ludzibini, ruled by Chief Magudvulela a former Swazi Senator, threatened that people would be banished from their homes if they nominated a widow for the election. Dumisani Dlamini warned residents that if they voted for Jennifer du Pont they would be evicted from the area. The Times Sunday (4 August 2013) reported, ‘He warned that those who would nominate her should be prepared to relocate to areas as distant as five chiefdoms away. Her sin was that she attended the nominations only a few months after her husband died.’ He said she should still be mourning her husband. The newspaper reported du Pont did not wear standard black mourning gowns and was dressed in a blue wrap-around dress known as sidvwashi. Enough people in the chiefdom defied Dlamini and du Pont was duly nominated.

There was confusion over the status of nine cabinet ministers who were nominated. The Times of Swaziland (8 August 2013) reported they could be disqualified from taking part in the election because they held public office and this was not allowed under the Constitution. The confusion was made worse because it was uncertain whether technically the nine were still cabinet ministers. Attorney General Majahenkhaba Dlamini told the newspaper that ministers were not supposed to stand for nomination if they were still in office – as the nine maintained.

‘Their nomination was irregular because a Cabinet office is a public office. If anyone can challenge their nomination in court they (challenger) can be successful,’ the newspaper reported him saying. He added, ‘That is why even police officers and other members of the security forces as well as any government employee have to resign or apply for leave of absence in order to stand for the elections because they are in public office. They (ministers) ought to have also resigned from office so as to be eligible to stand.’

In a major blunder some people had to nominate candidates for a second time after the EBC erroneously combined two election districts. When the mistake was discovered the EBC ordered the people of Njabulweni, near Lubhuku, in the Dvokodvweni Constituency, to nominate again. The Times of Swaziland (14 August 2013) reported that Njabulweni and Malindza were combined for the nominations, although they should have been separate.

Richard Rooney

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Friday, 20 July 2018

Swaziland’s Claim to be Close to Reaching ‘First World’ Status Far From Reality

There is no stopping the media in Swaziland / Eswatini as they continue to mislead their audiences on how close the kingdom is to achieving King Mswati III’s aspiration to be the ruler of a ‘First World’ nation by 2022.

One cannot be entirely surprised by this since the King rules Swaziland as an absolute monarch and in effect owns the Swazi Observer, one of only two newspaper groups in the kingdom. Nearly all radio and television in the kingdom is state-controlled and censored.

The King can and will close down media houses if it suits him and there are plenty of reasons for journalists and owners to be afraid of him.

But that should not stop independent observers from discussing the King’s claim that his kingdom is on track to be a ‘First World’ nation. 

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Swaziland issued a report in 2014 that received no publicity in the kingdom at the time, that said if Swaziland were to achieve ‘First World’ status it would have to be ‘among high human development countries like Norway, Australia, United States, Netherlands and Germany to name a few’.

UNDP went on to give these statistics comparing present-day Swaziland with Norway, the United States and Germany.

Life expectancy: Swaziland (48.9 years); Norway (81.3); United States (78.7); Germany (80.6).

Mean average years of schooling: Swaziland (7.1); Norway (12.6); United States (13.3); Germany (12.2).

Percentage of population with at least secondary school education: Swaziland (48); Norway (95.2); United States (94.5); Germany (96.6).

The UNDP in Swaziland did not comment on the likelihood of Swaziland reaching ‘First World’ status by 2022; it did not have to. Any independent observer can see from these statistics that Swaziland is not even close to reaching the King’s target.

The UNDP is not alone in this. In 2012 a report published by 24/7 Wall St in the United States, and based on data from the World Bank, identified Swaziland as the fifth poorest country in the entire world.

It said 69 percent of King Mswati’s 1.3 million subjects lived in poverty.

Its report stated, ‘[T]he country’s workforce is largely concentrated in subsistence agriculture, even though the country faces serious concerns about overgrazing and soil depletion. While these factors harm the nation’s economy, health concerns are likely one of the major factors preventing Swaziland’s population from escaping poverty.’

In 2017, the global charity Oxfam named Swaziland as the most unequal country in the world in a report called Starting With People, a human economy approach to inclusive growth in Africa that detailed the differences in countries between the top most earners and those at the bottom. The Oxfam report stated the government, which is handpicked by King Mswati, ‘failed to put measures in place to tackle inequality, with poor scores for social spending and progressive taxation, and a poor record on labour rights’.

Despite these obvious facts the media in Swaziland will continue to claim that the kingdom is on-track to 2022 and any alternative view will be suppressed. This is because it was King Mswati himself who decreed that the kingdom should achieve ‘First World’ status and the media are terrified of contradicting him.

Here’s an example of how far the media will go in its sycophancy to the King. In October 2013, the Observer on Saturday, part of a newspaper group described by the Media Institute of Southern Africa in a report on press freedom in the kingdom, as ‘a pure propaganda machine for the royal family’ reported that King Mswati told an admiring audience in Swaziland that Americans ‘have travelled to the moon and stayed there for about six to eight months’ and he hoped Swazi people would one day do the same. 

Richard Rooney

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