Alert / Media Alert

‘We are now on the verge of becoming political pariahs on our own continent’ — Times of Swaziland echoes election concerns

MISA-Swaziland | Alert
September 26 2013

Swaziland’s only independently-owned newspaper has echoed the concerns of election observers, suggesting that the country is “far behind the curve when it comes to our political structure”.

In its editorial on September 24, four days after the national election, the Times of Swaziland said the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) observers are showing “hesitation” to “call our elections ‘free, fair and credible'”.

The Times of Swaziland, in an apparent reference, perhaps, to Zimbabwe, says: “both organisations have previously shown a willingness to endorse elections widely regarded to be rigged by life-long African dictators (although fairly enough, every candidate appeared to have the freedom to buy the votes they needed)”.

“SADC’s and the AU’s problems with our politics stems from the structure of our electoral system, particularly when it comes to equal representation. The fact that traditional leaders — chiefs — oversee nominations and elections is a problem from the point of view of democratic credentials because the chiefs are not used to the concept that every citizen carries the same weight in society, which is essentially the mandate behind giving every citizen a vote.”

The editorial also takes aim at “Swazi culture, as it is practiced today”, saying it endorses “elements of discrimination which are incompatible with equal representation. Widows, the disabled and anyone else who does not subscribe to mainstream Swazi culture are actively marginalised; and women in general appear to be so discouraged and lacking in confidence to see themselves as agents of positive change that they won’t even vote for each other”.

Only one woman, Esther Dlamini, was elected to the 65-seat House of Assembly. Fifty-five (55) members are elected by the people and 10 are appointed by the king. None of the 30-member Senate are elected by the people. Twenty (20) members are appointed by the king and ten senators are appointed by the House of Assembly.

Esther Dlamini was elected to the Mbabane East constituency.

“The AU observers particularly referred to the African Commission’s Resolution on Swaziland, taken in the session at Banjul, The Gambia, last year,” said the Times of Swaziland.

“The resolution reminds Swaziland of the various human right charters, especially the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and declares itself ‘deeply concerned about allegations of the violation of the right to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association’ in Swaziland, as well as Swaziland’s ignoring of African Commission recommendations.”

The newspaper notes that “it now appears we are on the verge of becoming political pariahs on our own continent, never mind in Europe of America”.

For comments or queries, please contact:
Mr Vuyisile Hlatshwayo
MISA-Swaziland National Director
Email: misa.nd@realnet.co.sz

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