Wednesday, July 6, 2016


Swaziland’s Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) has yet to announce the number of votes cast for candidates in the September 2013 national elections, nearly three years after they took place. Nor has the total number of people who voted been given.

This was noted in a report just published by Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA).

In the report called Swaziland’s Downward Spiral ACTSA stated the elections were ‘illegitimate’. It stated, ‘Under the Tinkhundla system, local chiefs who report directly to the King vet candidates who are nominated by a show of hands (candidates require 10 people to support them). 

‘Successfully nominated candidates then compete in popular elections at the chiefdom level, with winners going on to compete at the Inkhundla (an administrative subdivision) level, where the new Members of Parliament (MPs) are selected by popular vote.’

ACTSA stated, ‘This system gives local chiefs undue influence over the electoral process. It is more a selection than a free election process. 

‘In the 2013 elections, some candidates said they were not nominated as they failed to catch their chief’s eye. A former MP, Jennifer Dupont, lost her husband on the eve of the election. The local chief ordered his subjects not to vote for her, as a widow under Swazi law and custom is deemed unclean. 

‘Another chief ordered his subjects not to vote for a woman wearing trousers. Only one woman was elected to parliament.’

ACTSA reported, ‘The 2013 elections were criticised by most international observers. They failed to meet most of the SADC principles for conducting democratic elections. The African Union’s (AU) Election Observation Mission said that Swaziland should change its constitution so that it conforms with international principles for free and fair elections.

‘Furthermore, the Mission urged the Swazi government to “… to respect, protect and fulfil the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of assembly”.

‘In addition, the Commonwealth Observer Mission noted the presence of police at polling stations, compromised privacy in polling booths and identifying factors on ballot papers that prevented anonymity. The Mission recommended that the constitution should be revisited, ideally “through a fully inclusive, consultative process with all Swazi political organisations and civil society to harmonise provisions which are in conflict … to ensure that Swaziland’s commitment to political pluralism is unequivocal’”.

ACTSA reported, ‘The Swaziland Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), which ran the election, has still not announced the total election turnout or the number of votes cast for unsuccessful candidates. Some have questioned the independence of the EBC, which is chaired by Chief Gija Dlamini. 

‘He was appointed to the position by his half-brother, King Mswati III. According to the constitution, the chair of the EBC should be a judge: Chief Gija is an electrical engineer. Following the election, the King re-appointed his half-brother, Barnabas Dlamini, as Prime Minister. Ten of Mswati III’s siblings were among the King’s appointments to the House of Assembly and the Senate.’

Political parties are banned from taking part in elections in Swaziland. The House of Assembly is composed of 65 members; the people select 55 and 10 are appointed by the King. The Senate has 30 members; 20 are appointed by the King and 10 are appointed by the House of Assembly; none are directly elected by the people.

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