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 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.
Burns Dlamini, a writer for the Times, reported he personally was prevented from nominating. He wrote, ‘In my case I had my hand up for a better part of the two hours while the community battled with nominating MPs and I ended up giving up.’
He added, ‘I mean, when you have a hundred people with their hands up to nominate and you end up with only 11 nominations, how fair and representative is that?’
He went on, ‘For starters, the failure by election officers to give everyone proposing a nomination a chance to nominate was, in my view, fatal and to me that rendered the whole thing a travesty and a farce to say the least. I mean, how fair and transparent is the process after all?’
He said similar problems happened at nomination centres across Swaziland.
He wrote, ‘Again the method used by the election officers to pick nominators at random is testimony that the whole nomination process is a game of chance; and the nominees have to be double-lucky to be nominated, first by having the nominated person lucky to be picked and then have those supporting the nomination.’
Elsewhere, Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) Chairman Chief Gija Dlamini said 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.
There is confusion over the status of nine cabinet ministers who were nominated at the weekend. The Times reported they could be disqualified from taking part in the election because they hold public office and this is not allowed under the Constitution.
The confusion is made worse because it is uncertain whether technically the nine are 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 Times 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.’
Some people boycotted the election nomination completely in protest that venues selected for the nominations were unsuitable. Elsewhere equipment failures delayed the start of nomination.
The nominations are the first stage of the controversial election for members of the House of Assembly. Political parties are barred from taking part in the election 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 election is only to select 55 members of the 65-seat House of Assembly. The other 10 members are appointed by the king. No members of the Senate House are elected by the people. Of its 30 members, 20 are chosen by the king and 10 are elected by members of the House of Assembly.
CHAOS AT ELECTION NOMINATION