Police in Swaziland / Eswatini forced worshippers out of churches to attend election nominations because numbers were small.
It happened at about 10 churches around Mathendele in Nhlangano on Sunday (29 July 2018), the Times of Swaziland reported.
It reported police ‘barged’ into churches ‘to “encourage” worshippers to suspend their business of worship over politics’.
It added, ‘This was reportedly after it was realised that the attendance at the polling station wasn’t impressive, way after the scheduled time for the nomination process was set to begin. Worshippers from several churches (close to 10) had to abruptly slash the length of their services after police officers arrived to convince them that the nomination process was also an essential part of their lives. Witnesses said it was shortly after 10 a.m. when the officers embarked on the church door-to-door visitations.’
The Times reported, ‘Several interviewed worshippers said the police officers invaded their church while a service was ongoing and accused those gathered there of not taking important national assignments seriously.’
It added, ‘Sources revealed that in some of the visited churches, the officers were given a tough time by church leaders, who demanded written proof that worshipping was “banned” on the day.’
It is not reported if police elsewhere in Swaziland also invaded churches.
Nominations for forthcoming elections took place on Saturday and Sunday. 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 for House of Assembly. No members of the Senate are elected by the people. Under Swaziland’s political system called tinkhundla or monarchical democracy the King chooses the Prime Minister and government members.
Followers of the King say that the people in Swaziland support the political system but there is no independent evidence for this.
The Election and Boundaries Commission (EBC) that runs the election reported more than 90 percent of the 600,000 people it said were eligible to vote had registered.
In a separate report monthly magazine the Nation said (July 2018) that people had been forced into registering to vote at the election. It said the huge turnout was ‘attributed to persistent rumours that those who did not register for the elections would be denied services in government institution.’
It added, ‘The large turnout of the youth is an indication of scrambling for government scholarships. The rumours have hit home.’
The Nation reported, ‘There was also voter apathy during the municipality elections [in 2017] such that there are councillors who boasted of only five votes taking them into office.’
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