The new rule that people nominated for public office must be paid up to date on their taxes has thrown the election in Swaziland / Eswatini into confusion. Hundreds of people have reportedly withdrawn from the election because they cannot afford to pay their taxes.
Thousands of people besieged Swaziland Revenue Authority (SRA) offices across the kingdom trying to get tax clearance certificates. There was confusion about how much time they had to obtain the documents with the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) issuing contradictory information about extending the deadline.
There were not enough staff at SRA offices to deal with the rush, local media reported.
Many of those nominated feared they would be disqualified from the election if they did not have the certificate on time. In July 2018 the EBC announced that prospective candidates for this year’s election would be vetted after nominations had closed and if they owed taxes, they would be disqualified.
Police reportedly scuffled with candidates at Siteki when they blocked the entrance to the SRA office.
According to official EBC figures a total, 6,486 people were nominated to stand for office locally or for the national parliament across 59 constituencies. All needed to obtain clearance certificates.
The Swazi Observer reported that some nominees dropped out of the election because they could not afford to pay the taxes they owed. It was reported (3 August 2018) that people were expected to pay off at least 25 percent of what they owed. The Observer quoted EBC sources at Northern Hhohho confirming ‘that hundreds of nominees’ had dropped out.
The Times Sunday reported (5 August 2018) that Richard Phungwayo, EBC Head of Secretariat, said the figure of people with tax issues could be more than 100.
It June 2018, EBC Chair Chief Gija Dlamini said all people nominated for the elections would also be vetted by the police. In an interview with the Observer he said the vetting would be at police headquarters in Mbabane where the fingerprints of all candidates would be checked.
‘All nominated candidates will be required to go to police headquarters to be vetted and a record will then be forwarded to us,’ he told the newspaper.
Elections in Swaziland are widely recognised outside of the kingdom as undemocratic. Political parties are banned from taking part. Parliament has no powers as these are vested in the King who rules as an absolute monarch. After the election, the King will chose the Prime Minister, government ministers and the top civil servants and judges. At past elections people only got to select 55 of 65 members of the House of Assembly. The King chose the other 10. At the forthcoming election there will be an additional four seats for people to vote for. It has not been announced how many members the King will choose but the Swaziland Constitution allows him to pick up to ten.
No members of the 30-member Senate are elected by the people.
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