MBABANE: Only 13% of the 1.2million Eswatini population voted in the 2018 Tinkhundla Parliamentary elections after political parties particularly the People's United Democratic Movement(PUDEMO) advised citizens to boycott the elections labelling the process undemocratic.
Eswatini, a tiny Kingdom situated in Southern Africa and ruled by King Mswati, an absolute Monarch has about 70% of the population living below the poverty line, political parties are banned from participating in elections, the King appoints a Prime Minister, a majority of Senators, Ministers and all members of the various governing Councils.
An independent investigation by this Swaziland News uncovered that after a vigorous civic education by the Elections and Boundaries Commission(EBC) ahead of the 2018 elections, 544,310 citizens registered for the elections, however only 156,973 voted, the figure suggests that 28% of the registered voters participated while 72% boycotted.
Evidence in our possession further suggests that the Tinkhundla system of governance was 'endorsed' by at least 13% of the entire Eswatini 1.2million and the figure at 156,973.
Reached for comments, Richard Phungwayo, the Head of Secretariat within the Elections and Boundaries Commission(EBC) said figures of voters who participated in the elections were available in their website, however, he asked to consult with the Commission's Public Relations Officer(PRO) before releasing an official comment.
On or around 22nd September 2018, the African Union Election Observation Mission (AUEOM) to the 2018 General Elections in eSwatini released a preliminary statement calling upon King Mswati to consider reviewing the 1973 Decree which dissolved and prohibited all political parties and similar bodies and allow them to freely participate in the elections in accordance with the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance to which the country remains a signatory.
“Encourages the Eswatini authorities to consider reviewing the 1973 Decree, which dissolved and prohibited all political parties and similar bodies in Eswatini and allow parties to freely participate in the electoral process in accordance with the provisions of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance” read the statement released by the African Union Election Observation Mission dated 22 September 2018.
Wandile Dludlu, the Secretary General of the People’s United Democratic Movement(PUDEMO) said as a political organization,they were happy to see Emaswati heeding their call to boycott the Tinkhundla elections and that international bodies like the Commonwealth and the African Union(AU) have started to call for the participation of political parties in elections.
“As PUDEMO we have worked hard to create awareness about these undemocratic elections and further advise the people to boycott the Tinkhundla, this helped because even if they can portray the system as democratic in the eyes of the international community, the figures will expose them. The purpose of participating in elections is to form a government that will be accountable to the people not a person, we are happy with what we have achieved in calling for the boycott of the Tinkhundla elections, now as Emaswati we must work together to take over power” said the PUDEMO Secretary General.
On around 21st September 2018, Chief Gija Dlamini, the then Chairman of the Elections and Boundaries Commission(EBC) told the SABC that Eswatini was a democratic country, he was commenting on the country’s system of governance that prohibits the participation of political parties but allows citizens to stand for elections based on ‘individual merit’
“Eswatini can be counted among the countries that are democratic” said the then Elections Commission Chairman.
But Sibongile Mazibuko, the President of the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress(NNLC) said the Tinkhundla system was far from being democratic adding that people were forced to register for the elections to gain access to government services.
“People were intimidated and told that those who refuse to register will not gain access to government services, we advised NNLC members to register but not to vote”,said the NNLC President.
Reached for comments, Mbongiseni Shabangu, the Secretary General of the Swaziland Democratic Party(SWADEPA) said as a political organisation, they have always mentioned that these elections were not for forming a government but to fool the world into thinking that a new government was elected every 5 years adding that the low participation of voters suggests that people were no-longer interested in the Tinkhundla elections .
“Concerning the African Union's statement: they made it clear at Lugogo Sun in 2018 even before compiling the report that Eswatini Government and EBC should make sure they review the electoral laws to allow for the participation of political parties before the next elections. SWADEPA has always highlighted to the African Union and UN Human Rights commission that Eswatini falls short of the basic Human Rights benchmarks within the UN Human Rights Charter and the African Union Human Rights and People\'s Rights Declaration” said the SWADEPA Secretary General.
Elections Observers during during the 2018 elections