Swaziland’s 2018 elections a mockery of democracy-ACTSA



BY : ZWELI MARTIN DLAMINI

JOHANNESBURG: The Action for Sothern Africa (ACTSA) has described the 2018 national elections in Swaziland has a mockery of democracy due to the non-participation of political parties in the process. Sunit Bagree, the Senior Campaigns Officer at ACTSA wrote an article that was published in the website of the Swaziland Human Rights Network- UK expressing concern with the elections that excludes political entities yet the government claims they are democratic.

“Swaziland is due to hold national elections later this year, probably in September, though the date has not yet been confirmed by the Elections and Boundaries Commission (which is headed by the Mswati III’s half-brother). However, as Action for Southern Africa has argued, Swaziland’s polity is fundamentally undemocratic. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and many political activists are labeled ‘terrorists’ under the hated Suppression of Terrorism Act” he said .

The Senior Campaign’s Officer said local chiefs who report to Mswati III have enormous influence over elections to the House of Assembly, and the King directly appoints two-thirds of the Senate. He said the King further appoints the Prime Minister and he can veto legislation and the country criticism of the King as a criminal offence “It is therefore unsurprising that the 2013 national elections were condemned by international observers. For example, the Commonwealth Observer Mission recommended that the Constitution should be revisited ‘through a fully inclusive, consultative process with all Swazi political organizations and civil society to harmonize provisions which are in conflict to ensure that Swaziland’s commitment to political pluralism is unequivocal’. Similarly, the European Union (EU) Election Experts Mission highlighted numerous breaches of Swaziland’s international obligations and identified a ‘fundamental problem with the system of government and the respect for the principles of separation of power, rule of law and independence of the judiciary” he said. Bagree said the European Union and the Commonwealth has failed to take action to ensure that he recommendations of their observers on the Swaziland’s elections are fully implemented.

“Sadly, the Commonwealth and the EU have done little more than this. In fact, it is fair to say that they have actually undermined the work of their election observers. The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, has only used warm words when meeting with Mswati III. Incredibly, the EU’s Ambassador to Swaziland, Esmeralda Hernandez Aragones, has gone as far as to praise the King’s ‘wise and strong leadership’. Whenever criticized, both the Commonwealth and the EU are quick to point out that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is highly reluctant to take action on Swaziland. It is true that SADC has failed to hold Swaziland to account for its violations of the SADC Treaty. Indeed, Swaziland’s absolute monarch was actually the Chairperson of SADC for one year from August 2016, during which time he even had the gall to urge the regional organization’s leaders ‘to remain committed to the ideals and principles of the SADC Treaty’” he said.

The Senior ACTSA Officer noted that SADC has a very poor track record when it comes to tackling flawed elections and authoritarianism more broadly. “Incisive analysts fully understand that SADC has a very poor track record when it comes to tackling flawed elections and authoritarianism more broadly. Yet this is no excuse for democratic countries such as the UK and US or multilateral organizations that have democracy at the heart of their mandates (such as the Commonwealth and the EU) to ignore human rights abuses, autocracy and corruption. Instead, the leaders and representatives of these countries and organizations should be doing all they can to act as a shining example to the likes of SADC. That they are not acting in such a manner is a stain on all of their reputations. Is simply not enough to note that elections in Swaziland are flawed. The international community must apply strong, consistent and public pressure on Mswati III using a variety of diplomatic and economic levers. Only then will the King accept the need to work with all Swazis, including his political opponents, so that the country develops a democratic constitution and becomes governed by those who are properly elected and truly accountable. And only then will the citizens of Swaziland have a government that is committed to rights, equality and development for all” he said.