Widows in mourning in Swaziland will not be allowed to contest this year’s national election, the kingdom’s top traditionalist has ruled.
He contradicts a message sent by the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) last year.
Lusendvo Fakudze, the acting Ludzidzini Governor, is considered to be the voice of King Mswati III on traditional matters. The Ludzidzini Governor is sometimes called ‘the traditional prime minister’ and has more authority than Barnabas Dlamini, the man the King appointed Prime Minister in the House of Assembly.
King Mswati rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in the election and the King chooses the Prime Minister and top government ministers.
Fakudze told the Swazi Observer (12 April 2018), a newspaper in effect owned by the King, that widows would not be allowed to contest the election until they had been in mourning for two years and gone through a cleansing ceremony.
The newspaper reported, ‘EBC Chairperson Chief Gija Dlamini also confirmed that women who lost their husbands could register for elections only after the two-year mourning period and cleansing ceremony.’
The announcement contradicts what the EBC said in April 2017. EBC commissioner Ncumbi Maziya told a voter education meeting at Bulandzeni Chiefdom that women in mourning had a constitutional right to stand for election, but he added that there might be problems for a widow if she were elected.
The Swazi Observer reported at the time, ‘He said a person wearing a mourning gown was not allowed to be near His Majesty the King. If a certain constituency elected a person in such a situation, it was highly possible that the woman could not attend the Parliament opening event, where the King would also be in attendance. Maziya said that was when a woman would have to exercise conscience by at least standing by the gate of Parliament, to avoid being near the King.’
There was a major row at the election in 2013 when Dumisani Dlamini a chief’s headman in Ludzibini, an area ruled by Chief Magudvulela a former Swazi Senator, threatened people would be banished from their homes if they nominated Jennifer du Pont, a widow, for the upcoming election.
The Times Sunday reported at the time, ‘[Dlamini] warned that those who would nominate her should be prepared to relocate to areas as distant as five chiefdoms away. Her sin was that she attended the nominations only a few months after her husband died.’
The newspaper reported, ‘He said she should still be mourning her husband.’
The Times reported Du Pont did not wear standard black mourning gowns and was dressed in a blue wrap-around dress known as sidvwashi.
Enough people in the chiefdom defied Dlamini and du Pont was duly nominated.
Elsewhere, during the primary elections nomination held in August 2013, an 18-year-old woman was denied the chance to be nominated to stand for parliament because she attended the nomination centre dressed in jeans and a t-shirt.
In another case a woman was not allowed to nominate a candidate because she was wearing cargo pants.
In February 2018 it was reported Swaziland’s Senate President Gelane Zwane had been ‘banned’ from attending parliament for up to two years because she is a widow in mourning. Minister of Labour and Social Security Winnie Magagula had met a similar fate.
PRESIDENT ‘BANNED’ FROM SWAZI SENATE
‘VOTE FOR WIDOW, GET EVICTED’