Swaziland’s Minister of Labour and Social Security Lutfo Dlamini gave away 450 food hampers to elderly people in his constituency.
After the hampers were given out, attendees of the charity event were treated to a free meal made up of pap and beef.
Dlamini, who is also Ndzingeni Member of Parliament, denied to local media that he was campaigning ahead of this year’s national election. It was, he said, part of the constituency’s charity programme.
The distribution of food to voters appears to be a sure way to win their support. In a separate development, women in Nhlambeni interviewed by the Times of Swaziland openly admitted, ‘that due to hunger, they would not hesitate to cast their vote for people who will campaign using food’.
One woman told the newspaper, ‘There is no way I would turn my back on food donations and of course I would not tell the world about it, but such a person would have my vote because my children and I are starving.’
Another woman said, ‘People are hungry and if they are promised food, it is highly likely that they will vote for that particular person.’
There is increasing evidence that sitting government ministers are using their position to garner favour with their constituents ahead of the election.
Minister of Health Benedict Xaba hosted a tournament for Shiselweni schools on a school day. He is expected to stand for election in his constituency. Xaba also dismissed allegations that his event would be construed as a campaign strategy.
Minister of Sports, Culture and Youth Affairs Hlobisile Ndlovu was reported by media in Swaziland to have distributed E100 bank notes to potential voters in the small town of Pigg’s Peak in her constituency last week – this in a kingdom where about 70 per cent of the population earn less than E10 a day.
Ndlovu is reported to have handed out the money to people drinking outside a bar.
She denied she was ‘campaigning.’ The Times of Swaziland reported her saying, ‘As a representative of the Pigg’s Peak constituency, it is my duty to give money or help those who come seeking help. I will continue giving out money until Parliament has been dissolved.’
Rodgers Mamba Minister of Tinkhundla Administration and Development reportedly donated 600 blankets to elderly people in his constituency. At a public event, his supporters also offered his constituents money to formally nominate Mamba to stand for election.
Corruption is rife in Swaziland at all levels of society and the House of Assembly is no exception. In 2008, at the last national election, the kingdom’s Elections and Boundaries Commission reported, ‘corrupt practices and other offences like treating, undue influence, bribery and personating are practiced all in the name of campaigning’.
The Commonwealth Expert Team of international observers at the 2008 election, reported at the time, ‘During the voter registration exercise, and also prior to the primary and secondary elections, there were reports of intimidation and bribery of prospective voters by politicians. Politicians allegedly also threatened voters to either register or lose certain benefits like scholarships, food aid, health facilities and job opportunities.’
Even Swaziland’s Attorney General Majahenkhaba Dlamini said that candidates in the election bribed voters to win parliamentary seats. Dlamini said people declared publicly that they were given money to vote.
‘Giving people money is against the law and the candidates know that but they continue defying the law’, the Swazi Observer quoted him saying in 2008. At the time many defeated candidates in the election took out court applications which complained that their competitors had paid voters.
After the election in September 2008, the Times of Swaziland, in an editorial comment, said, ‘We no longer have an election; we have a selection of those who were able to buy their way into power.’
The Times in 2008 went on to say that the new MPs would be ripe for bribing. ‘From what we hear, corrupt MPs are there for the taking as they seek to recoup their “expenditure” on the election campaign. None of the MPs we have spoken to wish to come on record for reasons we only see as putting themselves up for the financial rewards on offer. What a shame. Individuals have pledged their first salary, plots and other gains to the MPs. The whole process has simply gone rotten and can best be described as a sham.’
Candidates know they can bribe their way to office, because in Swaziland voters are only allowed to elect individuals to parliament: they cannot vote for political parties.
That means candidates do not compete against one another in terms of what they could do if they were elected to parliament. This is simply because one single MP working alone cannot achieve anything once elected. It is only by working in consort with other MPs that polices can be put forward to parliament and accepted. That is the value of political parties.
At Swazi elections there are no discussions about policies, the best that voters are offered are essentially empty promises from candidates. Candidates talk in vague ways about bringing ‘development’ to their areas (without stating how this would be achieved). Or they make promises, such as increasing the grants to elderly people, that they know they have no way of delivering.
This reduces the election to a ‘beauty contest’ between candidates. Unless they are coerced by their chiefs to vote for a particular candidate, people will vote for the person they like the most. And, often, by ‘like’ they mean the person who has treated them well.
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SWAZI ELECTION ‘WILL BE A FRAUD’