Tuesday, June 19, 2018


People in Swaziland / Eswatini have been misled into believing they are about to elect a government at the forthcoming national election. They are not.

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 and King Mswati chooses the Prime Minister and senior government ministers.

The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) made the false claim that Swazi people were about to elect a government as it announced that 526,073 people had registered to vote for the election in September. The Swazi Observer a newspaper in effect owned by the King reported on Tuesday (19 June 2018) the number was ‘unprecedented’. It said the number represented 87 percent of those entitled to vote. At the last election in 2013 411,084 people registered to vote.

The Observer quoted Mbonisi Bhembe spokesperson for the EBC saying, ‘This is true democracy at play and it is quite fascinating to realise that Emaswati [Swazis] really want to participate in the election of the government.’

The elections are held every five years. At past elections people only got to select 55 of 65 members of the House of Assembly. The King chose the other 10. At the forthcoming election there will be an additional four seats for people to vote for. It has not been announced how many members the King will choose but the Swaziland Constitution allows him to pick up to ten.

As in previous years, none of the 30 members of the Swazi Senate will be elected by the people; the King will choose 20 and the other 10 will be chosen by members of the House of Assembly. 

The Institute for Security Studies in 2012 said elections in Swaziland could be defined as ‘organised certainty’, since they changed nothing. It went on to say, ‘The ruling regime enjoys an unchallenged monopoly over state resources, and elections have increasingly become arenas for competition over patronage and not policy. 

This view is not confined to the ISS. The 2013 election observation report of the Commonwealth Expert Team questioned the elections’ credibility because they resulted in ‘a Parliament which does not have power’, because of the ban on political parties. 

The United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office in a report on Swaziland in 2013 said there was no effective democracy in Swaziland. ‘The King has the power summarily to appoint and dismiss ministers, all parliamentary candidates require the approval of their chief (who is dependent on the monarch for wealth and power) and while political parties are not forbidden, they are banned from participating in elections. All candidates must run as independents.’

The European Union Election Experts Mission (EEM) in its report on the 2013 election made much of how the kingdom’s absolute monarchy undermined democracy.

In its report it stated, ‘The King has absolute power and is considered to be above the law, including the Constitution, enjoying the power to assent laws and immunity from criminal proceedings. A bill shall not become law unless the King has assented to it, meaning that the parliament is unable to pass any law which the King is in disagreement with. 

‘The King will refer back the provisions he is not in agreement with, which makes the parliament and its elected chamber, the House of Assembly, ineffective, unable to achieve the objective a parliament is created for: to be the legislative branch of the state and maintain the government under scrutiny.’

The EEM went on to say the ‘main principles for a democratic state are not in place’ in Swaziland.

Richard Rooney

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