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.
Elsewhere, residents from Ngwemphisi reported former MPVeli Shongwe for allegedly campaigning in a community meeting. He is alleged to have promised residents that he would give them free electricity and build boreholes and a massive water tank that would service the area and neighbouring communities.
Police were called at Nhlambeni when a South African organisation donated 100 bags of rice to residents. The donation was suspected by some residents to be a campaign strategy by former Nhlambeni MP Frans Dlamini.
In a separate incident, police stopped a party for Health Minister Benedict Xaba to campaign for election as MP for Shiselweni II Inkhundla. The function at Edwaleni High School had attracted about 2,000 residents who were to enjoy performances by award winning gospel group Ncandweni Christ Ambassadors. Rival candidates complained to police that Xaba was about to launch his election campaign.
A ‘vote for a woman’ campaign that was to be held at Ntondozi had to be cancelled amid fears that those participating in it could be arrested. The meeting was to mobilise women from Ntondozi to vote for those women who had entered the elections race so that they would have a female member of parliament.
It was called off on the advice of the Elections and Boundaries Commission because it infringed election law.
The rash of cases has highlighted an absurdity in the Swaziland elections. Candidates are not allowed to discuss issues with the electorate and cannot be questioned on what they might do if elected to parliament. Campaigning only begins after the primary election is over and before the secondary election on 20 September.
The candidates were nominated at Imiphakatsi (chiefdoms) where they were chosen to compete against one another in ‘primary’ elections. 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.
The elections are widely seen inside and outside Swaziland as irrelevant. Political parties are banned from taking part and the parliament that is elected has no power as this rests with King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
The secondary elections are for 55 members of the 65-seat House of Assembly. The other 10 members are appointed by the king. None of the 30-strong Swaziland Senate is elected by the people: the king appoints 20 members and the other 10 are elected the House of Assembly.
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