Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Vote-Rigging Claims During Swaziland’s Election Grow. Calls For Some Polls To Be Re-Run

More allegations of vote-rigging and malpractice have surfaced in the wake of the first round of Swaziland’s election.
Voters at Mabantaneni in Lubulini called on the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) to nullify the election there. They said the total number of votes counted was more than the number of voters registered.

They also said voting lasted until 11.00 pm instead of 7.00 pm; some people voted more than once and one person boasted they voted six times. The Observer on Saturday newspaper reported (1 September 2018) they said people who had cast their votes were not marked with ink on their thumbnails to make it impossible for them to vote again.

The Observer reported voters also alleged the presiding officer colluded with one of the candidates to ensure that the elections were rigged.

It quoted voters saying, ‘It all happened right in front of our eyes and we were left helpless as the presiding officer dismissed our concerns as minor every time we raised them with him.’

It added, ‘Furthermore, the voters allege that a certain resident, who had not registered for the elections, managed to enter the ballot box and cast votes using another registered voter’s card, something that is not permissible by law. 

‘They say after realising that it had become a free-for-all affair at the polling station with one of the voters even boasting that he had voted six times already they tested the situation by sending one voter to cast his vote again, which he successfully did without any hindrance.’

EBC Communications Officer Mbonisi Bhembe confirmed the EBC was investigating.

Meanwhile, some candidates at KaLanga in Lugongolweni walked out of the count alleging they had been harassed by two EBC presiding officers. Most of them did not sign to approve the results as required by election regulations, the Observer on Saturday reported (1 September 2018).

The newspaper said the count at Matsetsa School for the Deaf took about 17 hours,
Candidates had raised concerns about some ballot papers that were a different size to the majority. The Observer reported, ‘When the counting of votes for was about to be concluded, candidates asked the presiding officers to first declare the total number of votes entered, then subtract the total number of spoilt votes.

‘“While we were raising other concerns, the presiding officers seemed to be losing their cool, and one of them threw the spoilt ballot papers at my face,” claimed one of the candidates who eventually walked out.

‘Another candidate said after this incident, they felt threatened; hence they decided to walk out of the hall.

‘“We decided to walk out of the hall after that incident because we did not want to be accused of disturbing the national elections,” explained another candidate.

‘In separate interviews, the candidates claimed to have been harassed by the presiding officers.’

The newspaper reported candidates said they would not make a formal complaint to the EBC ‘as they believed that would not change the results’.

There have been many complaints about vote-rigging and malpractice in the days following the first round of the election (known as the Primary Election) that took place on 24 August 2018 in Swaziland (recently renamed Eswatini by the kingdom’s absolute monarch King Mswati III).

There were claims at the Ezikhotheni chiefdom in the Shiselweni 1 constituency that candidates brought strangers to vote. EBC polling officials were reportedly notified but did nothing about it.

There were riots at the Mshingishingini polling station due to the lack of electricity, election candidates have called for fresh elections to be conducted.

Candidates at Mvembili claimed the winner of the constituency executive (Bucopho) election was an imposter. They said Martin Magagula was not from the Northern Hhohho area but Dvokolwako, and therefore he stole the election victory. They want him stripped of his victory.

Meanwhile, Ayanda Shiba, aged 22, was fined E1,000 by the Siteki magistrate after he admitted trying to vote twice using two different voting cards at Good Shepherd polling station, at Makhewu in Siteki.

At Kwaluseni about 16 candidates and their agents walked out of the counting in protest at cheating and called for the election in the constituency to be cancelled. There were complaints that ballot papers were tightly interlocked and could not be easily removed from ballot boxes. Candidates questioned how a thick package of papers could have been in the box when it was half empty.

There were also allegations at Kwaluseni that during the voting polling station officers had told people who to vote for.

Candidates and voters from the Buka Chiefdom and Lobamba Lomdzala marched on the offices of the EBC calling for the votes in their areas to be recounted. At Buka they said the number of votes cast did not tally with the number of registered voters and some rejected ballot papers were counted. They also said some ballot boxes were late arriving at the count after voting ended at Buka.

EBC Commissioner Ncumbi Maziya told local media many complaints had been received from across the kingdom. ‘We have received complaints from Ezulwini, Lobamba Lomdzala, Kwaluseni and some from Mpolonjeni in the Lubombo region.

Members of the Operational Support Service Unit (OSSU), the paramilitary police wing, were called to Nkhaba Old Inkhundla polling station and Matsanjeni South to calm the situation where voters blocked the exit of electoral officials who were transporting ballot papers to a central command place where counting could take place.

There was confusion at KaMethula, a newly created constituency, and many people were unclear where they had to vote. Some decided not to vote at all. 

Independent observers at Swaziland’s elections were refused access to some polling stations until they had signed secrecy forms restricting what they could report.

The final round of voting (the Secondary Election) takes place on 21 September 2018. Swaziland’s elections are recognised outside the kingdom to be undemocratic. Political parties are banned from taking part and the King appoints the Prime Minister and government ministers.

People are only allowed to elect 59 members of the House of Assembly, the other 10 are appointed by the King. None of the 30 members of the Swaziland Senate are elected by the people.

See also

Swaziland’s Independent Observation Group Says Election ‘Free And Fair’ But Identifies Many Shortcomings 

Polling Station Riot and Fresh Accusations of Vote-Rigging Reported at Swaziland Election

Fears Grow of Vote-Rigging and Malpractice in Swaziland Election. Ballot Boxes Not Properly Sealed

Independent Election Observers in Swaziland Barred From Some Polling Stations, Told to Sign Secrecy Forms

First Round of Swaziland Election Marred by Inefficiency and Fear of Vote-Rigging

Chaos and Violence Reported Across Swaziland as Voters go to the Polls

Organised Certainty, Why elections in Swaziland are not democratic

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