Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Confusion over Status of Widows as Swaziland Prepares for National Election

Widows will be allowed to nominate candidates at the forthcoming election in Swaziland / Eswatini but it is not clear if they can stand themselves.

The kingdom’s Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) announced this week that widows would not be permitted to attend nomination events to be held this weekend at royal kraals across Swaziland but arrangements could be made to allow them to make their nominations elsewhere.

EBC Chair Chief Gija Dlamini told the Times of Swaziland (25 July 2018) Swaziland had a culture of respecting dead relatives, which was why women underwent the mourning period and wore black gowns.

‘It is just pure respect that when a woman is still in mourning, they do not enter the royal kraal,’ the newspaper quoted him saying. Chief Gija said that the authorities would ensure that all people were involved and not discriminated against by identifying alternative nomination centres which could be a school situated nearby.

Nominations take place on 28 and 29 July 2018. According to the EBC, they take place in the open, people are nominated by a show of hands and the nominee is given a chance to indicate whether he or she accepts the nomination. If he or she accepts they must be supported by at least ten members of that chiefdom. Chief Gija did not say how this would work if a widow was not present at the place where nominations were taking place.

At the last election in 2013 a chief’s headman at Ludzibini, ruled by Chief Magudvulela a former Swazi Senator, threatened that people would be banished from their homes if they nominated a widow for the election. Dumisani Dlamini warned residents that if they voted for Jennifer du Pont they would be evicted from the area. The Times Sunday reported at the time, ‘He 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.’ He said she should still be mourning her husband. 

The newspaper 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.

There is confusion about whether a widow would be permitted to stand for election.

In April 2018, Lusendvo Fakudze, the acting Ludzidzini Governor, who is considered to be the voice of King Mswati, the kingdom’s absolute monarch, on traditional matters told the Swazi Observer, 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 contradicted 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.’

See also

Expect Confusion, Chaos and Rule-breaking at Nominations for Swaziland’s Election, if Last Time is a Guide

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