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Thursday, 24 May 2018


Reports of malpractice in Swaziland’s election registration are many. Soldiers have been accused of physically intimidating voters, football teams have rejected dubious sponsorship from an aspiring member of parliament and the kingdom’s Attorney-General has warned people against declaring they are standing for election. 

Mtsebeni residents refused to register for elections after they said they were intimidated by soldiers. The Times of Swaziland reported on Tuesday (22 May 2018) they were forced to do physical exercises. The newspaper said it happened at the border area of Mtsebeni, under Gege Constituency, where there are 60 homesteads.

It reported the area’s Indvuna, Khakhayi Hlatshwako, saying there had been disputes with the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) and local traditional leaders over where the registration post should be. Hlatshwako said that at one point soldiers were insulted by residents over the telephone about their love lives.

The soldiers were said to have ‘tortured’ the area’s residents as punishment.

The Times quoted one community member saying, ‘When we went there to fetch firewood, the soldiers made us lie down and do intense exercises as punishment even when we had not done anything.’

The Times reported, ‘Other community members said these exercises included the much difficult jack-knife and push-ups. It was alleged that the age or gender of the people subjected to the exercises was not considered so even the elderly and women were subjected to same.’

At Maphungwane in the Matsanjeni North Constituency, football teams rejected a E10,000 (US$790) sponsorship from an aspiring member of parliament. The Swazi Observer reported (18 May 2018) that the sponsorship was in the form of prize money that would be paid at the end of the football season and after the election had been held.

The newspaper reported the clubs’ representatives questioned the timing of the sponsorship and rejected the offer. One club boss told the Observer that aspiring MPs had also tried to manipulate them in the past.

It has already been reported that police in Swaziland are investigating possible election corruption concerning a former government minister accused of bribing people with promises of food parcels for their votes. 

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

In an unrelated development, EBC Chair Chief Gija Dlamini said that aspiring MPs would have to declare how much money they spent on their election in line with the Elections Expenses Act 2013. The Times of Swaziland reported him saying, ‘A person can be given money by their friends and relatives to campaign, and in order to ensure that everything is done in a fair manner, it is important that we request candidates to declare.’

Attorney General Sifiso Khumalo has warned aspiring MPs not to declare yet that they intend to run as it is against the law. Voter registration is ongoing and is due to end on 17 June 2018.

Khumalo said the election itself had not started. The Swazi Observer on Wednesday (23 May 2018) reported him saying, ‘According to the law there are no elections candidates currently. Those who were elected in 2013 are currently just Members of Parliament and that’s all. We cannot then refer to them as contenders for the upcoming elections because that is up to the electorate. Also as per the law, it is wrong for anyone to declare their interest or lobby people to vote for them, there is a time for that and that is the campaign period.’

By law candidates can only campaign after primary elections have taken place.

EBC chair Chief Gija said, ‘No individual can nominate himself. Even if you are interested in contesting for election, it is immaterial as it is the electorate that must be interested in you and further nominate you for you to qualify to be an elections contender.’

Under the Swazi election process published by the EBC registration is followed by a period of nominations which take place at chiefdoms. On the day of nomination, the name of the nominee is raised by a show of hand and the nominee is given an opportunity to indicate whether he or she accepts the nomination.  If he or she accepts it, he or she must be supported by at least ten members of that chiefdom.  The nominations are for the position of Member of Parliament, Constituency Headman (Indvuna) and the Constituency Executive Committee (Bucopho).

The minimum number of nominees is three and the maximum is twenty.  The nomination process takes place in the open, persons are nominated by a show of hand and the nomination is done by the community. Those nominated then contest elections at primary level.

Primary elections also take place at the chiefdom level and is by secret ballot.  During the primary elections, the voters are given an opportunity to elect the member of the executive committee (Bucopho) for that particular chiefdom.  

Aspiring Members of Parliament and the Constituency Headman are also elected from each chiefdom.  At the end of the primary elections, there should be one candidate for the position of the Member of Parliament and one for the position of the Constituency Headman who are going to contest elections at secondary level.  The election for the Executive Committee Member (Bucopho) goes up to the primary level.

It is only between primary and secondary elections that candidates may legally campaign.
The secondary elections take place at the various constituencies.  All the nominees at chiefdom level contest elections at constituency level.  The nominees with majority votes become the winners and they become Members of Parliament or Constituency Headman. 

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Wednesday, 23 May 2018


The Swaziland Government is misleading people about the rate of unemployment in the impoverished kingdom.

Media reported on Tuesday (22 May 2018) an announcement from Minister of Labour and Social Security Winnie Magagula that the number of people with jobs was now 288,044 from a current labour force of 373,869. The figures, the Times of Swaziland reported her saying, were based on a 2016 survey. They were an improvement on 2013/14 figures, she said. If correct, this means 85,825 people were unemployed.

The Times reported she said, ‘I would like to take this opportunity to applaud all stakeholders that worked hand in hand with government to provide more jobs in the kingdom. We are highly grateful that the employment rate has been increased by five per cent.’

But, the figures are inconsistent with another issued by the Swazi Government. In October 2016 – the same year as the just-published survey – the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Youth Affairs reported 280,000 or 42.6 percent of the 668,000 people aged between 18 and 24 were unemployed. 

The latest CIA Factbook on Swaziland puts the 2016 unemployment rate in the kingdom at 28 percent, but says the labour force was estimated to be 427,900. That would make the number of unemployed 119,812, or nearly 34,000 more than the government count.

Seven in ten of the estimated 1.1 million population live in abject poverty with incomes less than US$2 per day. 

In a 2015 survey by Afrobarometer reported that one in two Swazis (53 percent) said that unemployment was one of the most important issues government should address, compared to 42 percent in 2013 who stated the same.  Education (23 percent), poverty (23 percent), water supply (22 percent), infrastructure/roads (19 percent ), health (18 percent ) and corruption (17 percent) were the top seven issues Swazi people said they wanted government to prioritise. 

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People across Swaziland are boycotting registration for the forthcoming election in disputes over constituency boundaries.

It follows a reorganisation that increased the number of constituencies, known as tinkhundla, from 55 to 59.

The latest to declare they will not vote are people in Engwenyameni. They have been moved from LaMgabhi into Lobamba Lomdzala against their wishes.

The Swazi Observer reported on Tuesday (22 May 2018) that they felt Lobamba Lomdzala was too far away and in the past they had contributed greatly to the development of LaMgabhi and would not now get the benefit.

The newspaper reported they had asked the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) to leave them where they were but nothing had changed.

The Observer reported, ‘In a meeting held last Sunday, the Engwenyameni residents labelled the Commission “corrupt” as they alleged that they were captured by certain individuals for their own personal ambition at their expense.’

Engwenyameni is not alone. Elders of the tiny community of Madadeni near Mpolonjeni in Siteki, which is made up of only 147 homesteads, have said they will boycott the election. The community is unhappy that residents of Madadeni must now vote under KaShoba Chiefdom.

The Times of Swaziland reported in April that Madadeni community shares boundaries with KaShoba and Ngcina Chiefdoms, but it does not recognise either of the two and, instead, it pays allegiance to KaMkhweli Royal Kraal, which is about 30 kilometres away.

The newspaper reported, ‘However, elders of Madadeni are adamant that they would not be incorporated into KaShoba because they believe that they are also a chiefdom on their own right. They have also criticised the EBC for publicly announcing that the community of Madadeni would now vote under KaShoba without having consulted them.’

Meanwhile, the Swazi Observer reported in April there is a campaign in three constituencies at Lavumisa to boycott the elections. The newspaper said people are angry at ‘the draconian laws imposed allegedly by the leadership of the area’. 

Lavumisa Chief Gasa WaNgwane’s main royal residence is Qomintaba. There are almost 16 mini-chiefdoms in Lavumisa, all which report to Qomintaba. Constituencies under Lavumisa include Sigwe, Somntongo and Matsanjeni South. 

The Observer reported, ‘There has been instability in the area with some of the residents, including close family members of the ruling household, questioning GasaWaNgwane’s leadership style. It is said some of the close family members and residents no longer participate in activities organised by the leadership. 

‘There is now reportedly a bad habit in the area as residents are allegedly influenced by those scheming against the leadership to boycott the elections. Some want such a decision endorsed by all the communities under Lavumisa.’

Voting registration in Swaziland continues until 17 June 2018. The date for the election has not yet been set by King Mswati III who rules as an absolute monarch. 

It is widely recognised outside of Swaziland that the national election that takes place every five years is not ‘free and fair’ because political parties are not allowed to take part and the parliament has no powers as it is subservient to the wishes of the King.

In the past people only got to select 55 of 65 members of the House of Assembly. The King chose the other 10. This time 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.

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Tuesday, 22 May 2018


A father in Swaziland raped his 16-year-old daughter to test that she was still a virgin, a court has been told.

It is a stark illustration of the way women and girls are treated in the kingdom where traditional law allows husbands to rape their wives and condones men having sex with children.

The Times of Swaziland reported on Monday (21 May 2018) that the 46-year-old man from the Lubombo region in the east of the kingdom made a statement to a judicial officer at Siteki Magistrates Court. He said he had argued with his daughter because he thought she had been sleeping with boys. He asked if she was still a virgin and she told him she was.

The newspaper reported, ‘However, the man confessed that he did not believe his daughter, hence he suggested that he should test her virginity. He unashamedly told the judicial officer that he allegedly forcefully had sexual intercourse with his daughter as a way of “testing” her virginity.’

He was charged with aggravated rape and an unrelated drug offence and remanded by Lubombo Magistrates Court until 1 June 2018.

The case came to light as Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) reported that parents were the main perpetrators of violence in the home. It said that of 332 cases reported in March and April 2018, 43 percent involved mothers or fathers. It added, females continued to be more vulnerable and exposed to abuse.

Women and girls are vulnerable in Swazi culture. In 2013, a 317-page document called The Indigenous Law and Custom of the Kingdom of Swaziland (2013) was presented to King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. It said that under Swazi Law and Custom a husband can legally rape his wife or his lover. Under Chapter 7, which addresses offences (emacala) in Swaziland, rape is said to be committed only if the woman forced is not the man’s wife or lover.

In 2015, a report from a US organisation ABCNewspoint stated that Swaziland had the fourth highest rate of rape in the world. It said there were 77.5 registered cases of rape among 100,000 people.

Four in six married women interviewed in the street in Mbabane by the Swazi News in October 2017 said their husbands had the right to rape them. Some wives said their husbands deserved sex whenever they wanted.

Rape and sexual abuse of children is common in Swaziland. In 2013, Unicef reported that one in three girls in Swaziland were sexually abused, usually by a family member and often by their own fathers - 75 percent of the perpetrators of sexual violence were known to the victim.

Many men in Swaziland believed was all right to rape children if their own wives were not giving them enough sex. In 2009, men who were interviewed during the making of the State of the Swaziland Population report said they ‘“salivate” over children wearing skimpy dress codes because they are sexually starved in their homes.’

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Swaziland’s controversial Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence (SODV) Bill may not become law unless it is passed before the forthcoming election.

The Bill has been around in some form since 2009.

An election is due later this year at a date yet to be set by King Mswati III, who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. If a bill is not completed by the end of a parliament it is usually shelved. It is one of six bills yet to be finalised.

The Bill has been passed by the House of Assembly and is now in the Senate. A Council of Chiefs also has to study the Bill to advise the King on matters relating to Swati Law and Customs.

SODV has caused controversy among traditionalists. The Swazi Observer identified three areas of concern. 1. Flashing – as an act of revealing of private body parts to another person or other people without their consent. ‘This caused an uproar from traditionalists, who were worried that people wearing traditional regalia could be classified under people who could be considered to be flashing,’ the newspaper reported in April 2018.

2. Abduction – This is forcibly taking someone away against their will. ‘Traditionalists also raised their concerns here, saying at times, this could be used against people who have taken their loved ones to stay with them for some time at a certain place,’ the newspaper said.

3. Stalking – This is an unwanted or obsessive attention by an individual or group towards another person. ‘Traditionalists asked for protection on this issue, saying at times, they would not be able to propose love to ladies because this could be considered as stalking. Sometimes, a lady does not readily give in to a proposal by a man. Therefore, it would be difficult to determine if a lady was interested or not,’ the Observer reported.

Marital rape is an other areas that concerns traditionalists. At a meeting of the Deputy Prime Minister’s Portfolio Committee, senators heard that marital rape was a ‘homewrecker’. Senator Moi Moi Masilela said it could open floodgates for women to abuse the law, the Times of Swaziland reported.

Senator Chief Kekela said if the Bill passed into legislation without amendment, Swazi men in polygamous marriages would find themselves getting arrested. The Times reported, ‘Chief Kekela said out of rage, a woman in a polygamous marriage could end up using it against her husband to spite him. He said jealousy prevailed in most of the marriages as the women always have demands they make to their husbands and always want attention.’

In 2013, a 317-page document called The Indigenous Law and Custom of the Kingdom of Swaziland (2013) was presented to King Mswati. It said that under Swazi Law and Custom a husband could legally rape his wife or his lover. 

Under Chapter 7, which addresses offences (emacala) in Swaziland, rape is said to be committed only if the woman forced is not the man’s wife or lover.

In April 2018, the International Commission of Jurists urged Swaziland to pass the SODV Bill without delay to meet its obligations under regional and international human rights laws to criminalise and sanction the perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence.

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Monday, 21 May 2018


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.

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Saturday, 19 May 2018


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

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