Swaziland is so short of resources that police are unable to secure voter registration centres and do their routine work at the same time, according to media reports in the kingdom.
Police were unable to respond when a five-year-old was abducted and raped because they were on election duty. Police officers have also been left stranded at registration centres in the evenings because there are no vehicles available to take them home.
The abduction and rape was on 24 May 2018. It said a toddler was with her mother at Mahlalini, an area in the outskirts of Nhlangano, when a man grabbed her and disappeared into a thicket where he raped her.
Police were not available. The Observer reported, ‘The mother said police were alerted but the excuse they gave was that there was no vehicle at the police station as they were all assigned to the ongoing elections registration process.’
It added, ‘Police spokesperson Superintendent Khulani Mamba confirmed the incident and further stated that there has been no arrest as the suspect managed to escape when means were made to apprehend him.’
There have been reports that police officers guarding registration centres in rural areas have been stranded in the evenings because of lack of transport. The Swazi Observer on Thursday (31 May 2018) quoted one officer saying, ‘We are mandated to secure the many voter registration stations around the country, but ever since the registration process began a few weeks ago, many police officers in remote areas have struggled to get transport back to their homes in the evenings. This is due to a shortage of police cars, so sometimes we are forced to use public transportation or hitch hike for lifts in the evening.’
It added, police spokesman Mamba, ‘said the service would ask government to provide more vehicles as the current number of police cars do not support the demand for a strong police presence that is required countrywide.’
The newspaper quoted Mamba saying, ‘Also, it is important to mention that while other police are at the voter registration stations, other police are still doing daily police work, this means that we are stretched and scattered.’
Swaziland’s National Police Commissioner Isaac Magagula said the reports of vehicle shortages were not true because police had been supplied with vehicles by the Elections and Boundaries Commission. The Swazi Observer on Thursday (31 May 2018) reported he said police needed to be at registration centres because of a fear that ‘progressives’ would disrupt the election process by ‘defacing ballot papers’ and distributing pamphlets ‘demeaning the elections to scare voters away’.
Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in the election.
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