Friday, August 30, 2013


There were more election irregularities reported on Friday (30 August 2013) in the aftermath of Swaziland’s primary election with news that a ballot box had been tampered with and wrong results had been announced.

The tampering happened at Ebenezer where a box was reportedly found with its seal broken and some voting papers missing. Some candidates are calling for a re-run of the election.  Six ballot papers were said to be missing. The victorious candidate won by three votes. 

The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) admitted it had released the wrong names of poll winners at LaMgabhi. The election organisers blamed a ‘typographical error’. 

A similar error was discovered at Dlangeni.

These are just some of a vast number of irregularities and illegalities reported since the primary election last Saturday.

The EBC has confirmed the numerous complaints had been lodged with the commission.

In a statement, EBC chair Chief Gija Dlamini said it would have been a miracle if everything had gone smoothly saying such could only be achieved by Jesus.

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Media in Swaziland have demonstrated they will report anything King Mswati says, even when they know he is wrong.

The latest example of this happened on Friday (30 August 2013) when they reported the king’s views on the primary election that took place last Saturday.

This is what the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent newspaper, reported the king saying, ‘All the processes were free and fair.’

Yet, elsewhere in the same edition the paper reported a raft of irregularities and illegalities at the election.

This is Times’ managing editor Martin Dlamini, writing in his own newspaper on Friday, ‘A cursory glance at the list of complaints lodged with the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) reads like a comedy script.’ He then listed examples of alleged vote buying, illegal electioneering and so on.

All week both the Times, and even the Swazi Observer, which is in effect owned by the king, have ran reports from across the kingdom detailing complaints about the election. On Thursday the Times ran a story about votes being bought in the town of Pigg’s Peak.

The EBC, the body that runs the election, has received severe criticism all week from both of Swaziland’s daily newspapers.

The Times also reported on Friday, ‘His Majesty King Mswati III has expressed pleasure at the massive turnout during the first two phases of the elections [the nominations and the primaries].’

Actually, the king did not seem to say that: this was the invention of the reporter. What the king actually said (as reported in direct quotes by the same reporter) was, ‘I must say that I have been very pleased with the turnout even from the first round of the elections starting from the registration where people turned out in numbers, thereafter during the first round of the elections which has just been completed, which was also very successful and peaceful.’

The king being ‘very pleased’ with the turnout does not equate with expressing pleasure at a ‘massive turnout’.

In fact, all week the media have been writing about the ‘successful’ turnout at the primaries, but not one of them has reported the actual figures. About 415,000 people registered to vote: can we be sure that no more than a fraction of that number actually went to the primary poll?

King Mswati, rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. When he says something is so, the media report it without question and often follow it up in later editions with comment articles praising the king’s wisdom.

Sometimes as in the case of the Times’ report, the journalists get a bit carried away in their efforts to please the king.

Observers of the political scene in Swaziland would be well advised to ignore anything the media says about the king.

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Kenworthy News Media, August 30, 2013.

Court case against Swazi activists is a farce

The court case of two political activists in the tiny absolute monarchy of Swaziland is getting increasingly farcical. Secretary General of youth league SWAYOCO, Maxwell Dlamini, and political activist Musa Ngubeni were arrested in 2011 on charges of contravening Swaziland’s Explosives Act, writes Kenworthy News Media.

One example of the farcical nature of the case is the alleged “evidence” of the explosives. First, one of the prosecution witnesses, whose testimony had contradicted that of two other witnesses, claimed that the explosives were too dangerous to bring to court. Then suddenly the explosives had apparently exploded after a South African bomb expert had allegedly tried to assemble it.

The defense attorney then requested to have the remnants of the alleged explosives presented in court, which the prosecution has failed to do. Instead, the prosecution wished to use undated photographs apparently taken by the South African bomb expert of what they claimed was the remnants of the explosives as evidence, which the court refused.

Generally, the court has failed to produce any evidence against Maxwell and Musa.

Both Maxwell and Musa claim that they have been tortured during their detainment in 2011, and the stiff bail of 50,000 Rand (the highest ever in Swazi legal history), the arduous bail conditions, and a seemingly endless court case is a commonly used way of trying to scare off other potential activists, according to the members of Swaziland’s democratic movement that I have spoken to.

The case will continue on October 3.

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Thursday, August 29, 2013


Kenworthy News Media, August 29, 2013

Swazi ‘selections’ begin

Swaziland’s elections have started, elections that many people in the small absolute monarchy jokingly refer to as “selections”, not elections, writes Kenworthy News Media.

The reason for this is obvious, if you bother to scratch a little below the surface of Swaziland’s so-called traditional democracy, also known as Tinkundla.

Firstly, absolute monarch King Mswati III is basically above the law as he can veto any law he doesn’t like.  As the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa, who monitored the last elections in 2008, stated “executive authority is vested in the hands of a hereditary monarch.”

Secondly, the parliament is more or less chosen by the king, who appoints the entire government, appoints several of the MP’s personally and has to approve the rest.

And finally, no parties are allowed to partake in the elections – only individuals can run for office. Elections have therefore “increasingly become arenas for competition over patronage and not policy,” as the African policy research institute, Institute for Security Studies, put it.

During the first round of elections, held Saturday [24 August 2013], candidates were by law not even allowed to campaign or discuss issues with their constituents. This has to wait until the second round, to be held on September 20. “This means that Swazi people are being asked to elect people at the primary without knowing what they stand for and what they will do if eventually elected to parliament,” as long-time Swaziland commentator, and former Associate Professor at the University of Swaziland, Richard Rooney, put it.

The fact that Swaziland is thus not by any definition of the word a democracy is also confirmed by all who bother to look into Swaziland’s elections. As the Pan African Parliament’s observer mission at the last election reported, the elections do “not meet regional and international standards and principles for democratic elections”.

This is why the largest party, the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), has been campaigning for an election boycott by the Swazi population for months. “Our goal is to organise for a popular rejection of the undemocratic Tinkundla system, and its false elections, and to build an unstoppable campaign or a democratic alternative system,” PUDEMO said in a recent statement.

According to PUDEMO’s “People’s Charter”, adopted last year, the organisation demands a “people’s government”, a “people’s centred economy”, “rural development and land reform”, and equal rights and participation for women and minorities.

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Textile firms in Swaziland have been accused helping to buy votes in the kingdom’s primary election.

It is alleged at least three three firms in the industrial town of Matsapha transported their workers by bus to the town of Pigg’s Peak where they were paid E400 (US$38), the equivalent of almost a week’s wages, by a candidate for their votes.

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported, ‘Two textile employees have confessed to the Times to have boarded buses from Matsapha to Pigg’s Peak where they voted. The workers alleged that a registration kit was brought to their firm where they were advised to register to vote in Pigg’s Peak.

‘“Everything was arranged by our supervisor. She told us that one nominee in Pigg’s Peak has asked for our votes and that in return the candidate would pay us E400 each. Hearing such an offer, we did not hesitate but registered to vote in Pigg’s Peak. On Saturday, [the day of the primary election] transport was organised and we were driven to Pigg’s Peak where we voted. We were each paid E400,”’

‘This publication has also established that some employees from three textile firms registered to vote in Pigg’s Peak.’

Now, losing candidates want the Elections and Boundaries Commission and the courts to have the results nullified and the voting exercise started afresh.

The Anti-Corruption Commission has also been informed.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Complaints about malpractice at Swaziland’s primary election are flocking into the offices of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC).

EBC Spokesperson Sabelo Dlamini confirmed to local media that there were a number of complaints that the commission was receiving.

He told the Swazi Observer newspaper that from the day after nominations, a number of people had been flocking to their offices to lodge complaints, which the commission was addressing. 

One of the latest complaints came from youths at Msunduza, East Mbabane, who delivered a petition complaining that EBC officers had closed polling station gates at 16:50pm, even though the voting process had started late.

In a separate case, the Moneni Royal Kraal wrote to the EBC to request the primary election in the chiefdom be held again because some candidates allegedly bribed textile workers to vote for them. They also clam that candidates were illegally campaigning ahead of the election on Saturday (24 August 2013).  

According to the Times of Swaziland newspaper, ‘They alleged that concerns were raised with the presiding officers and to the police officers who were at the polling station on Saturday during the Primary Elections. It is alleged that they were told that there was nothing wrong.

‘“It became obvious to the residents that the presiding officer was not neutral on issues raised by the nominees. The concerns were also raised even before the start of the counting process to the presiding officer,” the letter alleged.’

The EBC has been under fire for its poor organisation of the election. Members of the EBC were appointed by King Mswati III and have been criticised for being too close to the monarchy.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, accused the EBC of committing treason in their poor handling of the election.

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