The Swazi Observer newspaper has misled its readers by reporting that Swaziland has the same political structure as England.
The Observer, which is in effect owned by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, did this in an attempt to legitimise the undemocratic system in Swaziland.
Political parties are not allowed to contest elections and groups that advocate for democracy in the kingdom are banned under The Suppression of ‘Terrorism Act.
The Swazi people are only allowed to select 55 of the 65 members of the House of Assembly, the other 10 are appointed by the King. None of the 30 members of the Swaziland Senate are elected by the people; the King appoints 20 members and the other 10 are appointed by the House of Assembly. Swaziland is divided into 55 ‘tinkhundla’ or administrative districts. One member of parliament represents each district.
The Swazi Observer reported on Tuesday (7 February 2017) that Mbonisi Bhembe, the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) Communications Officer, had told a group of invited guests that Swazi people living outside the kingdom had failed ‘to explain the tinkhundla system of governance properly’.
Bhembe reportedly said, ‘Swaziland is not the only country that is using the tinkhundla system of governance.’ He went on list a number of countries, he said, had tinkhundla. He said England had 650 tinkhundla.
‘All this proves that the system works very well because if it did. not, then all these countries would have not adopted it,’ the Observer reported Bhembe saying.
But it is simply not true. The 650 figure for England stated by Bhembe presumably refers to the number of parliamentary constituencies in the United Kingdom, which is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. They have nothing in common with Swaziland’s undemocratic tinkhundla.
Political parties contest the UK constituencies and the political party that gains most seats in parliament forms the government with the party leader as prime minister. In Swaziland, the King choses the prime minister, forms the government and choses senior civil servants and judges.
This is not the first time the Observer, described by the Media Institute of Southern Africa in a report on press freedom in Swaziland, as a ‘pure propaganda machine for the royal family’ has misled readers about international support for its undemocratic tinkhundla political system.
In August 2015, The Observer on Sunday, reported that neighbouring South Africa was considering adopting the kingdom’s political system. The Observer reported that civil rights groups in South Africa were advocating for a change in the republic’s electoral system, ‘to incorporate a constituency-based method’.
The Observer added, ‘This is the same system of government practised in Swaziland and described in the kingdom’s constitution.’
But it was not true. Nobody in South Africa was calling for political parties to be banned from contesting elections.
Unlike in Swaziland, where people who wish to discuss the kingdom’s electoral system are harassed and arrested, in South Africa political debate is allowed.
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