Friday, July 31, 2020

Swaziland elections watchdog calls for widescale investigation into allegation of vote buying in Senate

An elections support network in Swaziland (eSwatini) has called allegations of bribery around a Senate election ‘shocking’ and is demanding widescale investigations.

The eSwatini Election Support Network (EESN) wants investigations by the police, the Elections and Boundary Commission, the Human Rights and Integrity Commission and the Anticorruption Commission.

It made its call after Ngomuyayona Gamedze, a candidate for  the vacant seat in the Swaziland Senate, withdrew from the race and said he had been asked to pay bribes to secure votes.

A seat became vacant after the death of Senator Mike Temple last year. Gamedze, a former deputy Senate president, was one of five candidates.

In Swaziland the people do not elect the 30 members of the Senate; 20 are appointed by absolute monarch King Mswati III and the others are elected by members of the House of Assembly.

Tjengisile Shabangu, EESN Chairperson, said in a statement published on Facebook, ‘These allegations are shocking. When money becomes a determinant factor to being elected into public office, it perpetuates the inequality gap especially amongst women and other vulnerable groups to participate fairly in the electoral process. This undermines fair participation and transparency of an election. It also undermines electing people of calibre to perform representation and oversight roles in Parliament.’

Shabangu called ‘for critical organs of government to conduct intensive investigations into the credibility and fairness of elections and the applicability of electoral laws for reforms where there is need’.

Shabangu added, ‘The allegations that Members of Parliament demanded to be paid because they also spent lots of money points to a political system that is already not in the best interest of the nation but is in pursuit of personal gain. People elected into public office must show effectiveness in representing national interests as well as be critical of the country’s governance structures.’

Shabangu said, ‘These allegations affirm the EESN observation in its 2018 elections report that the elections were marred with malpractices especially using money to buy favour from the electorate.’

Separately, Sifiso Mabuza, one of the three remaining candidates in the election, complained that police had visited tenants at flats that he rents out and questioned them about him. 

The Times of eSwatini reported, ‘Mabuza said he felt harassed as the police officers also questioned his wife about him and they also went around calling pastors, his former teachers to the extent of asking how far he had gone with his education.’

In Swaziland, police vet candidates for senate elections to see if they qualify for elections. 

According to the Senate (Elections) Act, 2013, for candidates to qualify for nominations they need to be registered voters, have no criminal record as well as be in compliance with eSwatini Revenue Authority (SRA) regulations.  Candidates who entered and lost the last national elections also do not qualify for the nominations.  Candidates who have contract engagements with government would be disqualified if they fail to declare them. Also, candidates who are members of the armed forces do not qualify for nominations.

The election was supposed to take place last Monday (27 July 2020) but was delayed because of the vetting process.

See also

Candidate withdraws as bribery allegation hits another Swaziland Senate election

Swaziland King appoints eight of his family to Senate amid reports of widespread vote buying elsewhere

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