Thursday, November 13, 2008


At last the Swazi High Court action to demonstrate that the Swaziland Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) is unconstitutional has started.

And if today’s newspaper accounts are anything to go by we can see that the defenders of the EBC are going to use misinformation to try to make their case.

One of the main matters in dispute is that the members appointed by King Mswati III to the EBC board are not qualified to do the job.

I hope that Swaziland’s journalists will see through the rhetoric and simply concentrate on the facts of the matter.

According to the Swazi Observer today (13 November 2008) the Swazi Attorney General Majahenkhaba Dlamini told the High Court that there was nothing wrong with the qualifications of the board members. The chair, Chief Gija Dlamini is variously described in public as an electrician or an electrical engineer.

The Observer reported that Majahenkhaba Dlamini said Section 90 (6) of the constitution does not require that a member of the EBC should have the qualification of a judge of a superior court.

‘Under that subsection members of the EBC could all have no qualification of a superior court judge,’ he said.

What the attorney general says is not strictly true. What S90 (6) says in full is as follows: The chairperson, deputy chairperson, and other members of the Commission shall possess the qualifications of a Judge of the superior courts or be persons of high moral character, proven integrity, relevant experience and demonstrable competence in the conduct of public affairs.’

The letter of the constitution is that the EBC chair needs to have the experience to do the job. The main experience is as a Judge of the superior courts or of ‘relevant experience’. The other stuff about high moral character, proven integrity and so on should be expected of someone with the experience of a Judge of the superior court.

Whatever you may think about Chief Gija Dlamini’s integrity and such like, the fact is that his experience as an electrician / electrical engineer does not equate with that of a Judge of the superior courts. If it did, then we would have electricians sitting on the bench in every court in Swaziland.

I noticed also that the attorney general tried to say that the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO) could not sue in the High Court because it isn’t a legal body. Of course, we see this argument put forward a lot in Swaziland: any organisation that might be able to offer some expertise is banned from doing so.

In this case they are trying to exclude SCCCO, but in the past every (and I mean every) organisation in Swaziland was barred from contributing to the drafting of what became the Swaziland Constitution (and what the High Court is now asked to rule on).

The way the ruling elites in Swaziland cling to power is by marginalising all opposition. It believes if you only allow individuals to have a voice it is so much easier to silence them. That is why Swaziland’s ‘unique’ democracy has seen political parties banned since 1973 and why the attorney general tried to convince the High Court yesterday that SCCCO is a political party in disguise.

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