Three official observer groups said eSwatini’s recent elections, although peaceful, were neither free nor fair. Political parties were banned from taking part in last Friday’s elections in the kingdom formerly known as Swaziland. Voters are only allowed to elect 59 members of the House of Assembly, while the king appoints a further 10. None of the 30 members of the eSwatini Senate are elected by the people, Swazimedia.blogspot reported on Tuesday. The king chooses the prime minister and government ministers as well as top public servants and judges, Swazimedia.blogspot reported further.
African Union election observers urged eSwatini on Saturday to lift a ban on political parties and allow candidates to campaign freely in the tiny country, which went to the polls this week. The AU statement came a day after parliamentary elections in landlocked eSwatini, which is ruled by an absolute monarch and was known as Swaziland until earlier this year. Candidates cannot be affiliated to any political group under the constitution which emphasises “individual merit” as the basis for selecting members of parliament and public officials.
Political parties cannot be involved, there are no campaign rallies and the king wields absolute power, choosing the prime minister and cabinet: a parliamentary election in eSwatini is a vote like no other. The country, landlocked between SA and Mozambique, suffers the highest HIV adult prevalence rate in the world at 27.2%. Opposition activists in the tiny Southern African country formerly known as Swaziland say Friday’s election is a mockery of democracy and reveals how its 1.3-million citizens have lived under a repressive regime. In addition to curbs on opposition parties, anti-government protests are all but banned. Undercurrents of dissent surfaced this week with trade union protests over low wages being broken up by riot police. At least 11 people were hurt on Tuesday, a trade union official told AFP.
THE SADC Lawyers Association (SADC-LA) has questioned the legal framework governing the elections in the country. One of the issues highlighted was the promulgation of the six electoral laws, which received Royal assent just weeks before the elections. The mission has since released its preliminary statement on its observation, and a full report is to be released at the end of the month. In its summary of findings, the mission questioned the legal framework governing or related to the elections, including the Constitution. The SADC LA noted that enactment of the six electoral laws weeks before the start of the primary elections may have had an adverse effect on voter education and in the capacity of the election officers to discharge their responsibilities in accordance with the newly-enacted legislation, because they may not have been aware of the new legislation. The observers also stated that the promulgation of the Acts did not provide enough time for the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) and civil society groups to conduct civic education on the elections.
Voters in the tiny mountain kingdom of Swaziland are voting to elect a new parliament in an election dismissed by critics as a rubber stamp for King Mswati III’s absolute rule. About 415,000 of the country’s 1.2 million citizens are registered to cast their ballots for 55 parliamentarians on Friday. However, of the 65 seats in the parliament, 10 are allocated by the king when he selects his cabinet and prime minister. Political parties are not formally banned, but are restricted, and the country remains sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarchy. Election candidates are hand-picked locally by traditional chiefs, who are loyal to the king. Mswati holds ultimate sway over the government: he can veto new laws, dissolve parliament and may not be sued or charged. Opposition groups including the banned Pudemo party and South Africa-based Swaziland Solidarity Network have called for a boycott of the poll. The king recently described the system as a “monarchical democracy”.
Musa Dube, deputy general secretary of the Communist Party of Swaziland, has been remanded in custody on sedition charges for allegedly distributing leaflets calling for a boycott of the kingdom’s election. He is charged with two counts of possessing and distributing leaflets published by the CPS at Kakhoza in Manzini. He appeared in Manzini Magistrates’ Court on Monday and was remanded to Zakhele Remand Centre and is due to reappear on 25 September 2013, pending committal to the High Court. An application for bail is expected to be lodged.
The law banning candidates from campaigning in the forthcoming primary election is being broken across Swaziland. And, police are trying to clamp down on public gatherings, social parties and food distributions. A meeting aimed at sensitising people to the need to elect more women to parliament was abandoned after a warning from the Swazi Elections and Boundaries Commission. Candidates for the primary election to be held on 24 August 2013 were chosen nearly two weeks ago, but they are forbidden by law from campaigning for votes. Allegedly illegal activities reported over the past few days include the distribution of water, clothes and food at a church gathering at Nhlambeni.
Nominations have been received for the primary elections in Swaziland, but candidates are banned by law from campaigning for votes. This is the bizarre situation in the kingdom, which King Mswati III, who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, says has a ‘unique democracy’. The nominations took place at Imiphakatsi (chiefdoms) where candidates were chosen to compete against one another in ‘primary’ elections to take place on 24 August 2013. The winners become their chiefdom’s candidate in the ‘secondary’ elections on 20 September, where they compete against each other at the Inkhundla (constituency) level to be elected to the House of Assembly. Political parties are banned from taking part in the election: they are also in effect banned completely in Swaziland and no discussion on political policy is encouraged. All groups critical of the present political system in Swaziland have been branded ‘terrorists’ under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. According to the Swazi Constitution campaigning can only begin once the primary elections are over.
The credibility of the election nomination process in Swaziland has been damaged as it emerged that many people who wanted to nominate candidates were prevented from doing so. And, separately it has been reported that some people were nominated against the election rules. Also, cabinet ministers in the outgoing government who were nominated may not be eligible to stand, according to the Swazi Constitution. Nominations took place across Swaziland at the weekend (3-4 August 2013) to choose candidates for the ‘primary’ elections that will take place in chiefdoms on 24 August. But, the Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported that people who wanted to nominate candidates could not so because they failed to get the attention of the electoral officer.
The nominations process to select candidates for the forthcoming parliamentary election in Swaziland descended into chaos in parts of the kingdom. Some people boycotted the process in protest that venues selected for the nominations were unsuitable. Elsewhere equipment failures delayed the start of nomination. 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. Local media reported that the residents, all of whom are registered voters, insisted that they would not participate in the process under Nkiliji after Elections and Boundaries Commission (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.
It will not be long before Swaziland is a democratic country, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) said on Thursday. “This is not a promise but a fact, and none can deny it in the face of evidence as the regime daily demonstrates signs of collapse,” Cosatu deputy president Zingiswa Losi told reporters in Johannesburg. “The global working class has made it clear and loud, we shall be with you [Swaziland] however long it takes, wherever you are and however painful it feels.”
The newly formed Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) has demanded the registration and participation of political parties in next year’s parliamentary election, despite strong government opposition. “Now is the time for the country to allow political parties in terms of the elections,” said TUCOSWA president Barnes Dlamini. “There should be democratic processes in terms of electing parliamentarians and allowing political parties, first, to register and, secondly, to be given enough time to garner support from the various citizens of the country, in terms of their political ideology.”
Swaziland’s constitution bars the formation and participation of all political parties in the tiny, southern African kingdom.
More than 1 000 people marched on Tuesday through Swaziland’s main city Manzini in one of the largest protests yet against Africa’s last absolute monarch, King Mswati III.
Scores of riot police stood by as the protesters marched to the city centre, in the biggest demonstration since April 12, when about 1 000 teachers and students were dispersed with batons, teargas and water canons.
Swaziland’s banned opposition criticised on Thursday South Africa’s decision to grant the monarchy a $355m bailout before first requiring democratic reform, including allowing political parties. South Africa announced on Wednesday a R2.4bn ($355m) loan to neighbouring Swaziland on condition that King Mswati III opens talks on reforms in Africa’s last absolute monarchy.
The People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo) said it was disappointed South Africa had not heeded calls from Swazi activists to withhold the loan until Mswati agreed to allow political parties, banned in 1973. Activists including Pudemo have also called for a transitional government to pave the way for elections within four years.
Civil organisations and pro-democracy organisations in Swaziland have resolved to form a transitional government ahead of the 2013 National Government elections. This is after a three day convention aimed at finding possible ways to engage government on political discussions, held at Ezulwini in Mababane.
Civil organisations met to discuss solutions on the political situation in Swaziland. They want the state to consider a multi-party democracy. “It has always been our desire to achieve full democracy and human rights in accordance with the United Nations declaration on human rights,” said Civil Society Organisations Bishop Meshack Mabuza.