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Sunday, 27 May 2018


The extent to which state media in Swaziland is censored to control people’s understanding of what is going on in the kingdom, has been revealed by UNESCO.

The news agenda is manipulated in favour of absolute monarch King Mswati III. No opposition to the government is allowed on the airways and media practitioners in state-run media are civil servants first and journalists second, it reported.

In Swaziland all radio stations except one that does not report news is state-controlled. The largest of two TV stations in Swaziland is also state-controlled.

The report, Assessment of Media Development inSwaziland, is the most comprehensive study of journalism and development in Swaziland ever published.

The report stated, there is a ‘lack of editorial independence in the state-controlled broadcast media’.  It added, ‘Swazi TV and radio are effectively departments of the civil service and government mouthpieces acting more as a vehicle for development.

‘In the case of the SBIS, which operates the radio station, the broadcast journalists are considered civil servants first and journalists second. As they are employed as information officers, they are part of the civil service and are thus expected to abide by the Government General Orders.

‘As government information officers they are expected to censor disruptive or critical information likely to compromise national security and frustrate government’s realisation of socioeconomic development goals, which clearly contravenes the spirit of editorial independence.

‘In addition, the ICT [Information, Communications and Technology] Ministry has invoked the Public Service Announcement (PSA) Guidelines to control the state broadcasters. These guidelines bar all Swazi citizens, irrespective of their status, from airing their opinions on the radio and television stations before their opinions have been cleared by their chiefs. Thinly veiled as public announcement guidelines, the PSA guidelines regulate all operations and activities of the state broadcasters.’

It said no PSA is allowed on air, ‘that is negative or does not support Government’s agenda’.

UNESCO reported, ‘According to the Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Services Code of Conduct and Operational Procedures of 1987, all state events and occasions which involve the presence of the King, Indlovukazi (Queen Mother) and Prime Minister shall receive priority coverage.

‘Article 3 of the same code stipulates that SBIS is a national radio station fully supported by the government and therefore broadcasters must abide by the policies and should not allow their political affiliations to intrude into broadcast messages.’

UNESCO reported this was contrary to international standards on public service broadcasting, ‘which caters for all people irrespective of their social or economic status in society. It provides programming for everyone; be it the general public or minority audiences.’

Broadcasting, UNESCO reported, should be, ‘A meeting place where all citizens are welcome and considered equals. It is an information and education tool; accessible to all and meant for all, whatever their social or economic status.’

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Saturday, 26 May 2018



As registration for the forthcoming election in Swaziland entered its second week, more than 100,000 had reportedly signed up.

Martin Dlamini, the Managing Editor of the Times of Swaziland, and one of the chief cheerleaders for King Mswati III, the kingdom’s absolute monarch, called the turnout ‘impressive’. In his column in the newspaper on Friday (25 May 2018) he said it showed there were ‘potential voters eager to elect new Members of Parliament’.

But he (and we) have no way of knowing if these figures are impressive or not. That is because we do not know how many people in the undemocratic kingdom are entitled to vote.

At the start of registration for the last election in 2013 the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) announced 600,000 people were eligible to vote (but observers questioned at the time this was an under-estimate of the true figure.) At the election in 2008, the EBC gave the figure as 400,000.

This time around no figure has been given. It is not even clear what Swaziland’s total population is. In November 2017, the Swaziland Government announced it was 1,093,238 people, according to the 2017 census. Of these, 562,127 were females and 531,111, males. It did not give a clear breakdown according to age, but said 35.6 per cent of the population were of ‘working age’. That would amount to 389,192 people, a far cry from the 600,000 eligible to vote last time.

The accuracy of the total population count is in doubt. For years, outside organisations had been estimating the size of the population in Swaziland and recording it as much higher than 1.1 million. The CIA Factbook gave the figure in July 2017 as an estimated 1,467,152 (373,914 higher than the government figure). 

The CIA figures breakdown the ages. Unfortunately, it does not state how many are aged 18 and over (the eligible voting age), but it shows the number of people aged 25 and over as 628,935. It also shows 324,495 people aged between 15 and 24. We cannot be certain how many from this group are aged 18 or over, but an educated guess would be that when added to those aged 25 and over the number of  people eligible to vote is comfortably between 700,000 and 800,000.

Which of the two estimates of the population is more accurate? We cannot say for certain, but it is on public record that there were many problems collecting information for the 2017 census. In April 2018, long after the census was completed and results announced, the Swazi Observer reported that enumerators (the people who did the counting) were still owed E1.3 million (US$104,000) in payments. That suggests the census was not run very efficiently.

It matters that we have an accurate figure for the number of people eligible to vote. Elections in Swaziland are recognised outside the kingdom to be undemocratic. Political parties cannot take part and people vote under a system of ‘Monarchical Democracy’ that underpins the King’s place as an absolute monarch. The King and his supporters say that the people of Swaziland like it that way and there is no need for change.

But that has never been tested. Media are censored and freedom of assembly is limited, so there has never been an a opportunity to debate whether people are truly happy with the political system. The turnout at elections is used by the King’s supporters as a way of measuring this. That is why it is in the interest of the King to spread the message that they are well supported. 

Martin Dlamini, who doubles up as a newspaper editor and an official paid praise singer for King Mswati, says the 100,000 who have signed up to vote so far is ‘impressive’. But, really it is not if there are more than 700,000 people able to vote.

At the last election in 2013 the EBC said there were 600,000 people eligible to vote. Assuming (although it was disputed as being too low) this was an accurate figure, in 2013 414,704 people registered to vote. At the final (secondary) election, 251,278 actually voted. That was only 41.8 percent of those supposedly entitled to vote and hardly a ringing endorsement for the validity of the election.

Richard Rooney

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Friday, 25 May 2018


Seven in ten journalists interviewed by UNESCO in Swaziland said they had faced attempts from politicians or advertisers to interfere with what they were writing.
Meanwhile, there is evidence that journalists in private media are not only compromised by politicians but also ‘brown envelope journalism’ where media practitioners are given money or other financial benefits to push or hide information or stories.

Practitioners in state-run media have no editorial independence and are considered civil servants and are expected to abide by government orders.

The findings are contained in Assessment of Media Development in Swaziland, the most comprehensive report ever published on journalism and development in Swaziland.

UNESCO reported that in a survey journalists were asked, ‘Have you ever been faced with attempts by external actors (whether political or commercial) to interfere in the editorial content of an article or programme that you re working on?’ A total of 65 percent of the journalists interviewed answered ‘Yes, more than once.’ Another 5 percent answered, ‘Yes.’ A further 15 percent had no answer to the question.

UNESCO reported the number of respondents who had no answer, ‘may suggest that some respondents might have been responding with caution out of fear of reprisal.’

It added, ‘These results suggest lack of editorial independence in both private and state media and two recent cases illustrate this. In 2014, the government interfered with the editorial independence of the privately-owned Times of Swaziland as well as the state broadcaster. The government ordered the former, Times of Swaziland, to retract a story about the spending of E208 million (US$20,800,000) by the authorities reportedly sourced from Principal Secretary in the Finance Ministry, Khabonina Mabuza, to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in Parliament. 

‘In another case, the management of the state broadcaster suspended  information officer, Thandiswa Ginindza, from air after she broadcast a live interview with the Chairman of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and Member of Parliament, Jan Sithole, on the country’s disqualification from benefitting from the USA’s African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA). A controversy surrounded the number of benchmarks that Swaziland required to meet before being reinstated as a beneficiary. But the main reason for her suspension was that MPs are banned from using the state broadcaster.’

UNESCO also reported that in an interview, Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civil Organisations (SCCCO) Director, Lomcebo Dlamini, ‘observed that the editorial independence of the private media is not only compromised by political pressure but also by “brown envelope journalism” where media practitioners are given money or other benefits to push or hide information or stories.’

It quoted Vuyisile Hlatshwayo, National Director of Media Institute of Southern Africa, Swaziland chapter, who said even in the private media editorial independence was compromised by editors and media owners who had ‘a cosy relationship’ with the government and big corporations. ‘The private media owners and editors ingratiate themselves with big corporations that reciprocate with handing out freebies to the editors and journalists. Such tendencies not only compromise the editorial independence of the media but also contravene Article 3(1) of the Code of Ethics for Journalists which states that: “Journalists should not accept bribes or any form of inducement to influence the performance of his/her professional duties,”’ UNESCO reported.

It also reported that Swazi TV and radio ‘are effectively departments of the civil service and government mouthpieces acting more as a vehicle for development’.

It added, ‘broadcast journalists are considered civil servants first and journalists second. As they are employed as information officers, they are part of the civil service and are thus expected to abide by the Government General Orders.

‘As government information officers they are expected to censor disruptive or critical information likely to compromise national security and frustrate government’s realisation of socioeconomic development goals, which clearly contravenes the spirit of editorial independence. 

‘In addition, the ICT [Information, Communications and Technology] Ministry has invoked the Public Service Announcement (PSA) Guidelines to control the state broadcasters. These guidelines bar all Swazi citizens, irrespective of their status, from airing their opinions on the radio and television stations before their opinions have been cleared by their chiefs.’

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Evidence is growing in Swaziland that traditionalists do not support a constitutional change to ensure 30 percent of members of the House of Assembly are women.

It has taken 10 years for a Bill to reach parliament and on Monday (21 May 2018) debate on it was halted because some members left the house leaving fewer than the necessary quorum of 30 in place.

During the debate on the Election of Women Members to the House of Assembly Bill, Mbabane West Member of Parliament (MP) Johane Shongwe said that wives should not stand for election unless they had the permission of their husbands. His comments were reported prominently by both of Swaziland’s daily newspapers.

The Times of Swaziland, reported he ‘had some of his colleagues in stitches while others were seething with anger’. 

The Times reported, ‘In his usual funny tone’, Shongwe said he was in favour of passing the Bill but had an issue with the fact that some of the women who would be nominated would be people’s wives.
It added, he queried, ‘If I nominate someone’s wife, who will I say gave me the permission?’

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported Shongwe saying, ‘It is difficult for women to nominate one another in chiefdoms. Therefore, it is advisable for them to get permission from their husbands. I was nominated by a woman to be where I am right now, to show that most women would rather nominate a man than another woman.’

The Observer reported, ‘The legislator further said women MPs would sometimes attend workshops at places far away from their homes. This would mean they would have to go for days without sleeping next to their husbands at home. MP Shongwe said this could pose a problem for the husband, especially if his permission was not sought by the wife before taking the politics path.’

Later, Silindelo Nkosi, Advocacy Officer, for the Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA), said, ‘This is clear backward thinking. While the rest of the world is advocating and promoting gender equality, it is rather worrying to have a prominent public figure making such an irresponsible statement with no shame.’

In Swaziland, political parties are not allowed to run for election. The King chooses 10 of the 65 members of the House of Assembly and 10 members of the 30-strong Senate. Members of the House of Assembly choose the other 20.

The Constitution that came into effect in 2006 requires five women to be elected to the Senate by the House and the King to choose another eight. There have been two national elections since the Constitution came into effect and the required number of women members of parliament has not been met. 

On representation in the House of Assembly, the Constitution states, ‘The nominated members of the House shall be appointed by the King so that at least half of them are women.’

It also requires there are four female members specially elected from the four regions of Swaziland.
The Election of Women Members to the House of Assembly Bill will put into legal force the constructional requirements. It was tabled in the House of Assembly in April 2018 on the instruction of the King. It is hoped that it would become law before the next national election due later in 2018.

There has been opposition to the change across the kingdom. In the past year, the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) ran a series of voter-education workshops and conferences. 

Chiefs at a capacity building conference in Siteki in February 2017 spoke against encouraging the electorate to vote for women for gender-balance reasons, the Swazi Observer reported at the time. ‘The traditional leaders said this may be equal to interfering with the people’s choices or rather channelling them into voting against their will but adhere to an order.’

It added, Chief Mdlaka Gamedze raised the issue and he said the call by many organisations to vote for women might lead to interference with the people’s choices.

‘Instead, Gamedze urged the EBC team to encourage the freedom to nominate or elect any member of the society without considering whether it is a male or female,’ the Observer reported.

‘Meanwhile, Chief Mvimbi Matse reported that some women were denied the opportunity to contest for the elections by their husbands. Matse said there have been instances where women were nominated during the first stage but later withdrew after their husbands instructed them to do so. However, Matse said they would now work closely with the EBC to make sure that such incidents are not repeated in the future,’ the newspaper reported. 

At a voter education workshop at KaGucuka in June 2017, One women, reported by the Swazi Observer at the time, said most women of the area feared being nominated for the elections because they would be questioned and even disowned by their husbands. 

It reported a woman who did not want to be named saying, ‘To be very honest, the reason why this small area has never had a female nominee for elections is because we fear our husbands who will question us on how we got nominated to stand for the elections in the first place. We have heard that a successful nominee requires at least 10 people to nominate them to stand for the elections, unfortunately for us women our husbands will get angry at us when we get nominated.’

Women remain oppressed in Swaziland, according to report published in 2016 by ACTSA (Action for Southern Africa). It reported that despite claims that Swaziland was a modern country, ‘the reality is, despite pledges and commitments, women continue to suffer discrimination, are treated as inferior to men, and are denied rights’.

In a briefing paper called Women’s Rights in Swaziland ACTSA reported, ‘Cultural gender norms dictate that women and girls provide the bulk of household-related work, including physical and emotional care. As a result, girls are under pressure to drop out from school, especially where there are few adults available to care for children and the elderly, for example, in child-headed households.’

Despite the misgivings of traditionalists, the Bill will certainly be passed because King Mswati has instructed it. Barnabas Dlamini, the Swazi Prime Minister, is on record saying government belonged to His Majesty and it took instructions from him to implement them to the letter, without questioning them.  In 2012 the Times Sunday newspaper reported him saying, ‘Government listens when His Majesty speaks and we will always implement the wishes of the King and the Queen Mother.’

The PM said Cabinet’s position on the matter was that it respected His Majesty’s position on all matters he spoke about. He said Cabinet just like the nation, heard what the King said and his wishes would be implemented.

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Thursday, 24 May 2018


Swaziland must urgently enact the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Bill, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said in a report released on Thursday (24 May 2018).

The Bill which has been around in one form or another for at least 10 years has stalled at the Swaziland Senate.

The ICJ said there were many discriminatory practices in the kingdom based on customary laws and traditional beliefs undermining equality between men and women. It said this inequality promoted ‘patriarchy, which in turn perpetually promotes inequality resulting in prevalent violence’.

It added, ‘It has been reported that violence against female children is highly prevalent in Swaziland. It has been stated that, approximately one in three women experience some form sexual violence as a child; nearly one in four women experience physical violence as a child; and approximately three in ten women experience emotional abuse as a child.

‘Boyfriends and husbands are the most frequent perpetrators of sexual violence, and male relatives the most frequent perpetrators of physical violence, while female relatives are the most frequent perpetrators of emotional abuse.’

It added, one in three women experience some form of sexual violence by the time they reach the age of 18 years, while almost one in two (48 per cent) women experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. 

Almost one in five (18.8 per cent) of women have been coerced into having sexual relations.

‘It has also been reported that at least 49.2 per cent of sex workers experience sexual violence and 33.5 per cent of these are reported to have been raped since the age of 18,’ the report added.

At present there are is no specific provision in the Swaziland Constitution that addresses SGBV, the ICJ said. ‘The lack of specific legislative provisions aimed at combating SGBV has made it difficult for authorities to combat and eradicate it,’ it added.

The SODV Act, ‘was first drafted over ten years ago, but it has still not been passed into law, specifically because there is a perception that four of its provisions will infringe on Swazi law and custom. It has been reported that: “It has been argued that some clauses in the bill would hinder Swazi cultural practices”.

‘The preservation of culture is the crutch upon which traditionalists are relying on to ensure that the Bill is not passed.

‘The provisions in question pertain to: 

‘• Abduction – clause 42 seeks to protect children (anyone under the age of 18) from child marriages, sexual acts, harmful rituals or sacrifices and any other unlawful purpose. In terms of Swazi law and custom, a girl becomes of marriageable age at puberty, regardless of the child’s age when reaching this stage. 

‘• Incest – clause 4 of the Bill clearly specifies the classes of relatives that may not be involved in sexual relations. There is a concern among traditionalists that the classes as between uncle, aunt, nephew or niece are too broad within the Swazi context, particularly because of the extensiveness of the recognised extended family structure. 

‘• Flashing – the nature of Swazi traditional attire is such that there is some display of flesh. For example, during the reed dance, young maidens and girls go around bare-chested with their breasts in full display and wearing short beaded skirts that show off their buttocks, potentially in violation of clause 47 of the Bill. The Constitution, however, protects the right to privacy as well as dignity. 

‘• Unlawful Stalking – under Swazi culture, a woman may be proposed to relentlessly no matter how many times she may refuse the proposals. Traditionalists perceive this type of courting as likely prohibited under clause 10 of the proposed law.’   
The ICJ said Swaziland had international human rights obligations and commitments on SGBV. The kingdom which is ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has signed up to but not implemented the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, and the Protocol to that Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol).

The ICJ reported that surveys in Swaziland on attitudes towards domestic violence demonstrated strong support for traditional gender roles, high levels of rape-supportive attitudes and tolerant attitudes for violence. 

‘For example, only 51 per cent of men have been surveyed as believing that a woman may refuse to have sexual intercourse with her husband, while 88 per cent believe a woman should obey her husband and 45 per cent believe a husband has a right to punish his wife if she does something he deems is wrong.’

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Reports of malpractice in Swaziland’s election registration are many. Soldiers have been accused of physically intimidating voters, football teams have rejected dubious sponsorship from an aspiring member of parliament and the kingdom’s Attorney-General has warned people against declaring they are standing for election. 

Mtsebeni residents refused to register for elections after they said they were intimidated by soldiers. The Times of Swaziland reported on Tuesday (22 May 2018) they were forced to do physical exercises. The newspaper said it happened at the border area of Mtsebeni, under Gege Constituency, where there are 60 homesteads.

It reported the area’s Indvuna, Khakhayi Hlatshwako, saying there had been disputes with the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) and local traditional leaders over where the registration post should be. Hlatshwako said that at one point soldiers were insulted by residents over the telephone about their love lives.

The soldiers were said to have ‘tortured’ the area’s residents as punishment.

The Times quoted one community member saying, ‘When we went there to fetch firewood, the soldiers made us lie down and do intense exercises as punishment even when we had not done anything.’

The Times reported, ‘Other community members said these exercises included the much difficult jack-knife and push-ups. It was alleged that the age or gender of the people subjected to the exercises was not considered so even the elderly and women were subjected to same.’

At Maphungwane in the Matsanjeni North Constituency, football teams rejected a E10,000 (US$790) sponsorship from an aspiring member of parliament. The Swazi Observer reported (18 May 2018) that the sponsorship was in the form of prize money that would be paid at the end of the football season and after the election had been held.

The newspaper reported the clubs’ representatives questioned the timing of the sponsorship and rejected the offer. One club boss told the Observer that aspiring MPs had also tried to manipulate them in the past.

It has already been reported that police in Swaziland are investigating possible election corruption concerning a former government minister accused of bribing people with promises of food parcels for their votes. 

Residents at Mbangweni complained of nepotism when four people selected to assist in the election were from the same family. The Swazi Observer reported Inkhosatana Gelane, the acting KoNtshingila chief, saying they were ‘loyal and respectful residents’. The Shiselweni Regional Administrator Themba Masuku is investigating. 

In an unrelated development, EBC Chair Chief Gija Dlamini said that aspiring MPs would have to declare how much money they spent on their election in line with the Elections Expenses Act 2013. The Times of Swaziland reported him saying, ‘A person can be given money by their friends and relatives to campaign, and in order to ensure that everything is done in a fair manner, it is important that we request candidates to declare.’

Attorney General Sifiso Khumalo has warned aspiring MPs not to declare yet that they intend to run as it is against the law. Voter registration is ongoing and is due to end on 17 June 2018.

Khumalo said the election itself had not started. The Swazi Observer on Wednesday (23 May 2018) reported him saying, ‘According to the law there are no elections candidates currently. Those who were elected in 2013 are currently just Members of Parliament and that’s all. We cannot then refer to them as contenders for the upcoming elections because that is up to the electorate. Also as per the law, it is wrong for anyone to declare their interest or lobby people to vote for them, there is a time for that and that is the campaign period.’

By law candidates can only campaign after primary elections have taken place.

EBC chair Chief Gija said, ‘No individual can nominate himself. Even if you are interested in contesting for election, it is immaterial as it is the electorate that must be interested in you and further nominate you for you to qualify to be an elections contender.’

Under the Swazi election process published by the EBC registration is followed by a period of nominations which take place at chiefdoms. On the day of nomination, the name of the nominee is raised by a show of hand and the nominee is given an opportunity to indicate whether he or she accepts the nomination.  If he or she accepts it, he or she must be supported by at least ten members of that chiefdom.  The nominations are for the position of Member of Parliament, Constituency Headman (Indvuna) and the Constituency Executive Committee (Bucopho).

The minimum number of nominees is three and the maximum is twenty.  The nomination process takes place in the open, persons are nominated by a show of hand and the nomination is done by the community. Those nominated then contest elections at primary level.

Primary elections also take place at the chiefdom level and is by secret ballot.  During the primary elections, the voters are given an opportunity to elect the member of the executive committee (Bucopho) for that particular chiefdom.  

Aspiring Members of Parliament and the Constituency Headman are also elected from each chiefdom.  At the end of the primary elections, there should be one candidate for the position of the Member of Parliament and one for the position of the Constituency Headman who are going to contest elections at secondary level.  The election for the Executive Committee Member (Bucopho) goes up to the primary level.

It is only between primary and secondary elections that candidates may legally campaign.
The secondary elections take place at the various constituencies.  All the nominees at chiefdom level contest elections at constituency level.  The nominees with majority votes become the winners and they become Members of Parliament or Constituency Headman. 

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Wednesday, 23 May 2018


The Swaziland Government is misleading people about the rate of unemployment in the impoverished kingdom.

Media reported on Tuesday (22 May 2018) an announcement from Minister of Labour and Social Security Winnie Magagula that the number of people with jobs was now 288,044 from a current labour force of 373,869. The figures, the Times of Swaziland reported her saying, were based on a 2016 survey. They were an improvement on 2013/14 figures, she said. If correct, this means 85,825 people were unemployed.

The Times reported she said, ‘I would like to take this opportunity to applaud all stakeholders that worked hand in hand with government to provide more jobs in the kingdom. We are highly grateful that the employment rate has been increased by five per cent.’

But, the figures are inconsistent with another issued by the Swazi Government. In October 2016 – the same year as the just-published survey – the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Youth Affairs reported 280,000 or 42.6 percent of the 668,000 people aged between 18 and 24 were unemployed. 

The latest CIA Factbook on Swaziland puts the 2016 unemployment rate in the kingdom at 28 percent, but says the labour force was estimated to be 427,900. That would make the number of unemployed 119,812, or nearly 34,000 more than the government count.

Seven in ten of the estimated 1.1 million population live in abject poverty with incomes less than US$2 per day. 

In a 2015 survey by Afrobarometer reported that one in two Swazis (53 percent) said that unemployment was one of the most important issues government should address, compared to 42 percent in 2013 who stated the same.  Education (23 percent), poverty (23 percent), water supply (22 percent), infrastructure/roads (19 percent ), health (18 percent ) and corruption (17 percent) were the top seven issues Swazi people said they wanted government to prioritise. 

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People across Swaziland are boycotting registration for the forthcoming election in disputes over constituency boundaries.

It follows a reorganisation that increased the number of constituencies, known as tinkhundla, from 55 to 59.

The latest to declare they will not vote are people in Engwenyameni. They have been moved from LaMgabhi into Lobamba Lomdzala against their wishes.

The Swazi Observer reported on Tuesday (22 May 2018) that they felt Lobamba Lomdzala was too far away and in the past they had contributed greatly to the development of LaMgabhi and would not now get the benefit.

The newspaper reported they had asked the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) to leave them where they were but nothing had changed.

The Observer reported, ‘In a meeting held last Sunday, the Engwenyameni residents labelled the Commission “corrupt” as they alleged that they were captured by certain individuals for their own personal ambition at their expense.’

Engwenyameni is not alone. Elders of the tiny community of Madadeni near Mpolonjeni in Siteki, which is made up of only 147 homesteads, have said they will boycott the election. The community is unhappy that residents of Madadeni must now vote under KaShoba Chiefdom.

The Times of Swaziland reported in April that Madadeni community shares boundaries with KaShoba and Ngcina Chiefdoms, but it does not recognise either of the two and, instead, it pays allegiance to KaMkhweli Royal Kraal, which is about 30 kilometres away.

The newspaper reported, ‘However, elders of Madadeni are adamant that they would not be incorporated into KaShoba because they believe that they are also a chiefdom on their own right. They have also criticised the EBC for publicly announcing that the community of Madadeni would now vote under KaShoba without having consulted them.’

Meanwhile, the Swazi Observer reported in April there is a campaign in three constituencies at Lavumisa to boycott the elections. The newspaper said people are angry at ‘the draconian laws imposed allegedly by the leadership of the area’. 

Lavumisa Chief Gasa WaNgwane’s main royal residence is Qomintaba. There are almost 16 mini-chiefdoms in Lavumisa, all which report to Qomintaba. Constituencies under Lavumisa include Sigwe, Somntongo and Matsanjeni South. 

The Observer reported, ‘There has been instability in the area with some of the residents, including close family members of the ruling household, questioning GasaWaNgwane’s leadership style. It is said some of the close family members and residents no longer participate in activities organised by the leadership. 

‘There is now reportedly a bad habit in the area as residents are allegedly influenced by those scheming against the leadership to boycott the elections. Some want such a decision endorsed by all the communities under Lavumisa.’

Voting registration in Swaziland continues until 17 June 2018. The date for the election has not yet been set by King Mswati III who rules as an absolute monarch. 

It is widely recognised outside of Swaziland that the national election that takes place every five years is not ‘free and fair’ because political parties are not allowed to take part and the parliament has no powers as it is subservient to the wishes of the King.

In the past people only got to select 55 of 65 members of the House of Assembly. The King chose the other 10. This time 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.

As in previous years, no members of the Swazi Senate will be elected by the people; the King will choose 20 and the other 10 will be chosen by members of the House of Assembly.

See also