Monday, May 21, 2018

POLICE PROBE ELECTION ‘CORRUPTION’


Police in Swaziland are investigating possible election corruption as voter registration enters its second week.

A former government minister has been accused of bribing people with promises of food parcels for their votes.

The Swazi Observer reported on Monday (21 May 2018) that the man who it did not name and his brother had been offering free meals and transporting people to registration points in the Hhohho region. People had made verbal agreements to vote for the ex-minister when the election proper begins.

The newspaper reported that police, acting on a tip off, detained and recorded statements from 17 people. Police continue to conduct investigations to establish the extent of the alleged corruption, the newspaper said.

Meanwhile, registration across Swaziland has been hampered by problems with voter-registration computer software equipment which is slow in uploading information. This has happened despite promises from the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) that they were fully prepared for the election.  Software and equipment problems also affected the last election in 2013.

The EBC reported on Sunday that more than 85,000 people had registered to vote made up of 51 percent men and 49 percent women. The EBC has not announced how many people in Swaziland are eligible to vote. In 2013 it put the figure at 600,000 of which 414,704 registered and 251,278 people voted. That meant that only 41.8 percent of those entitled to vote did so in 2013.

See also

POOR START TO VOTER REGISTRATION

REGISTRATION OPENS FOR SWAZI ELECTION

Saturday, May 19, 2018

ABSOLUTE KING DEMONSTRATES HIS POWER


King Mswati III, the absolute monarch in Swaziland, has signed what amounts to a decree to formalise his unilateral decision to change the kingdom’s name to Eswatini.

It demonstrates how much the kingdom is under his control and signals a reminder that elections due to be held later this year have no validity.

A Legal Notice No 80 of 2018 was released on Thursday (17 May 2018) confirming the name-change came into force on 19 April 2017. It was then at an event to jointly mark his 50th birthday and the 50th anniversary of Swaziland’s independence from Great Britain, King Mswati announced his proclamation

The Legal Notice states that, ‘reference in any written law or international agreement or legal document to Swaziland shall be read and construed as reference to Eswatini’.

The King’s announcement in April was received with mixed emotions. The heavily-censored news media in Swaziland welcomed the move joyously. Meanwhile, critics argued that the King should not make the change without first consulting the people and parliament. 

The King’s decree is a reminder that Swaziland is not a democracy. On Sunday (13 May 2018) voter registration began ahead of national elections later this year. Political parties are banned from taking part and the King picks the Prime Minister and Government. At past elections people only got to select 55 of 65 members of the House of Assembly. The King chose the other 10. At this 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.

As in previous years, none of the 30 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.

The European Union Election Experts Mission (EEM), one of a number of international groups that monitored the conduct of Swaziland’s previous election in 2013, made much of how the kingdom’s absolute monarchy undermined democracy.

In its report it stated, ‘The King has absolute power and is considered to be above the law, including the Constitution, enjoying the power to assent laws and immunity from criminal proceedings. A bill shall not become law unless the King has assented to it, meaning that the parliament is unable to pass any law which the King is in disagreement with. 

‘The King will refer back the provisions he is not in agreement with, which makes the parliament and its elected chamber, the House of Assembly, ineffective, unable to achieve the objective a parliament is created for: to be the legislative branch of the state and maintain the government under scrutiny.’

The EEM went on to say the ‘main principles for a democratic state are not in place’ in Swaziland.

It stated, ‘Elections are a mechanism for the popular control of government and ensure the government accountability to the people. The King appoints the Cabinet. A vote of no confidence in the prime minister and government from more than two-thirds of the members of the House, in October [2012], was easily reversed although the Constitution provides that in such cases the prime minister shall be removed from office. 

‘In this context, an analysis of the legal framework for elections seems quite a redundant exercise, as the main principles for a democratic state are not in place. Although the electoral legal framework contains the technical aspects required for the proper administration of elections, it does not conform to international principles for the conduct of democratic elections, as it does not respect one of the fundamental rights for participation –the freedom of association.’

The EEM was not alone in recognising Swaziland as undemocratic. In its report on conduct of the 2013 election, the African Union (AU) mission called for fundamental changes to ensure people had freedom of speech and of assembly. The AU said the Swaziland Constitution guaranteed ‘fundamental rights and freedoms including the rights to freedom of association’, but in practice ‘rights with regard to political assembly and association are not fully enjoyed’. The AU said this was because political parties were not allowed to contest elections.

The AU urged Swaziland to review the constitution, especially in the areas of ‘freedoms of conscience, expression, peaceful assembly, association and movement as well as international principles for free and fair elections and participation in electoral process’.

In its report on the 2013 elections, Commonwealth observers recommended that measures be put in place to ensure separation of powers between the government, parliament and the courts so that Swaziland was in line with its international commitments.

They also called on the Swaziland Constitution to be ‘revisited’. 

The report stated, ‘This should ideally be carried out through a fully inclusive, consultative process with all Swazi political organisations and civil society (needed, with the help of constitutional experts), to harmonise those provisions which are in conflict. The aim is to ensure that Swaziland’s commitment to political pluralism is unequivocal.’

It also recommended that a law be passed to allow for political parties to take part in elections, ‘so as to give full effect to the letter and spirit of Section 25 of the Constitution, and in accordance with Swaziland’s commitment to its regional and international commitments’.

In 2015, following a visit to Swaziland, a Commonwealth mission renewed its call for the constitution to be reviewed so the kingdom could move toward democracy.

The constitutional review has not taken place.

Richard Rooney



Legal Notice No 80 of 2018

 See also

NO NAME-CHANGE YET IN SWAZILAND

GOVERNMENT NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE REVERSED

Friday, May 18, 2018

POOR START TO VOTER REGISTRATION


With the election registration in Swaziland only days old there is a report of corruption and another of nepotism. Voting equipment is not available across the kingdom.

The Times of Swaziland reported on Tuesday (15 May 2018) an aspiring member of the parliament who it did not name had been accused of bribing people E50 if they registered at his chiefdom. He reportedly ferried people in a hired car from Kwaluseni to register at Ngwane Park. Police are investigating.

The first day of registration on Sunday was marred by confusion. People at many registration centres across the kingdom were turned away as no registration kits were available.

The Times of Swaziland, reported on Monday several registration centres visited by reporters were found with only the registration clerks, assistants, and police officers. It reported the registration kit includes a laptop, scanner, fixed camera, biometric scanner and a printer.

The Times reported Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) Communications Officer Mbonisi Bhembe said they had technological challenges, including software issues and slow Internet connections.

The problems came despite previous EBC assurances it was ready for the election. It said it had trained about 600 people to administer the election, mostly during the registration period.

EBC chairman Chief Gija Dlamini told media in April 2018 the trained people were unemployed students from tertiary institutions and pupils who had just finished high school. He said the people had been recommended by chiefs.

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

The registration process at the last election in 2013 had similar computer problems and there was reported corruption during registration in 2013. The EBC said some people were offered bribes of E100 (US$10 at the then exchange rate) or E200 to register twice.

Political parties are banned from taking part in the election and King Mswati III, who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, picks the Prime Minister and Government. At past elections people only got to select 55 of 65 members of the House of Assembly. The King chose the other 10. At this 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.

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.

King Mswati has yet to set the date for the election.

See also
REGISTRATION OPENS FOR SWAZI ELECTION