Tuesday, March 5, 2013


The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) has joined a growing chorus for a boycott of this year’s undemocratic national election. 

The election is for a ‘parliament which obviously has no political power’, it says.

Elections are due to be held sometime in 2013, at a date to be set by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Elections in Swaziland are meaningless. There are two chambers of parliament, the House of Assembly and the Senate. Of the 65 members of the House, 10 are chosen by King Mswati and 55 are elected by the people. In the Senate, King Mswati chooses 20 of the 30 places. The other 10 are chosen by members of the House of Assembly. None are elected by the people.

Political parties are banned from taking part in elections.

King Mswati is in complete control of his kingdom. In October 2012, the House of Assembly passed a vote of no-confidence in the Prime Minister and cabinet. In such circumstances the constitution requires the monarch to sack the government (he has no discretion in the matter), but King Mswati ignored this and put pressure on the House to re-run the vote, this time ensuring that it did not have the required majority to pass. Members of the House did as they were told and the government continued in office.

SSN said in a statement that King Mswati had a vested interest in the election being seen as democratic and he has set aside E200 million from the national budget for them. ‘He has further used every opportunity to urge every Swazi to come out and participate in them.’

SSN goes on, ‘His interests are served in two important ways; the first is in convincing impressionable Swazi minds that Swaziland is a democratic country because like other countries it allows the existence of national elections.’

It adds, ‘This parliament is also for keeping up appearances to international observers that Swaziland is also a modern state with all three arms of government.’

SSN calls for a boycott of the election. ‘Having the nation boycott this window-dressing exercise would therefore be a Public Relations coup by the population because it would mean that the facade has been exposed and the people want a genuine parliament with the power to make decisions.’

SSN joins a number of activists for democracy in Swaziland that have already called for a boycott.
The Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) recently launched a boycott campaign.  It says the election have been called by the king to allow him to renew his support base.

It goes further than the SSN by calling for an immediate dissolution of the government to be replaced by ‘an Interim Government of democratic representation from all sections of progressive forces and every community’.

CPS goes on, ‘It is only this democratic process that will lead our country to a true democratic elections under a democratic constitution where all will be equal before the law and all will have a guaranteed equal access to the wealth of the country for welfare and happiness of the population.’

Meanwhile, Maxwell Dlamini, President of the Swaziland Nationals Union of Students (SNUS), also called for a boycott of the election, unless political parties are unbanned.

He told Africa Contact, ‘We will not partake in these undemocratic elections in Swaziland unless political parties are unbanned. We seek to intensify our boycott.’

He said, ‘We as the youth of Swaziland commit ourselves fully to mobilise all young people and the generally oppressed people of Swaziland not to partake in these elections. We also call on the international community to shun the [Swazi] Tinkundla elections and call for King Mswati III to unban political parties and respect fundamental human rights.’

In another development, the main opposition group in Swaziland, the banned People’s United Democratic Party (PUDEMO), called for international election observers to boycott this year’s national poll because political parties are outlawed.

Mario Masuku, President of PUDEMO, told Voice of America, ‘We are calling on countries not to respect the outcome of these elections and we want the international poll observers to boycott the election because no election shall be free in the absence of political parties.’ 

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