Voters held police and polling officials hostage as violence broke out across Swaziland during the first round of the national election on Saturday (25 August 2018).
There were scenes of ‘total chaos’ in some polling stations, according to media reports coming from the tiny kingdom recently renamed Eswatini by absolute monarch King Mswati III.
The Sunday Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported what it called a hostage situation happened at the polling station at Lobamba National High School. It said election official and police officers ‘were held hostage by angry voters who were outside the polling station’.
The newspaper reported the problem started when the lights suddenly went out during the counting of votes. Officials wanted to remove ballot boxes elsewhere. ‘However, the voters would hear none of that as they shouted at the top of their voices that such could not happen.’
The Observer added, ‘Police back-up had to be sought as some voters outside the polling station started kicking the door to the polling station and threatening to force it down.
‘The polling station became a danger zone as the angry voters kept trying to force the door open.’
‘It was the arrival of two police vans that helped calm down the situation, but the police themselves could not entirely help the situation as the voters insisted that the counting of the votes continue in the semi-dark polling station.’
Counting continued at the school.
In a separate report the Observer said voters clashed at the Siphumelele polling station at the Logoba Chiefdom in the Kwaluseni constituency. It reported whips and knives were used. It said people had been drinking beer supplied by aspiring candidates.
It reported, ‘Spurts of violence were witnessed as over sensitive voters fought over one thing or the other.’
It added, ‘The youthful crowd was noted drinking from as early as the morning hours with the occasional crate of beers being replenished whenever the previous one was depleted. These were brought by the aspiring politicians or their agents.’
The Observer also reported ‘total chaos’ at Gobolondo Hall, Pigg’s Peak, when polling closed at 7.00 pm with about 50 people still trying to cast their vote.
It reported, ‘Police officers had a torrid time trying to ward off angry voters who were forcefully pushing the gate to gain entry.’
It added, ‘A woman collapsed and was attended to by paramedics while voting continued inside. It is not too clear what made her collapse.’
Swaziland was going to the polls in the first round of national elections. The final vote takes place on 21 September 2018. Political parties are banned from taking part in the elections and King Mswati appoints the Prime Minister and Government.
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