The chief editor of King Mswati III’s newspaper has accused Swaziland’s Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) of committing treason for its poor handling of the elections in the kingdom.
Writing in the Swazi Observer Mbongeni Mbingo said, ‘It is obvious that the EBC was never ready for this election, and when we consider that they have been in office for so long, it begs the question of what they have been doing all along. In fact, that’s being polite. What they have done is treasonable.’
He added the EBC could not be allowed to ruin the election.
The Swazi Observer is in effect owned by the king and widely recognised as a propaganda sheet for the monarchy.
The elections in Swaziland have been beset with problems. Registration of voters had to be extended by a week because computers and personnel were not ready; the nomination process for candidates was flawed as many people who wanted to be nominated were ignored by election presiding officers; illegal campaigning took place ahead of the primary elections and at the primaries themselves some polls were called off and others allowed to remain open beyond the official closing time.
Mbingo wrote it was ‘tempting to even suggest that the EBC intended for this chaos to happen’.
What the newspaper failed to report was that King Mswati appointed the EBC in 2008 and at the time many civil society organisations and pro-democracy campaigners criticised the choices because members were inexperienced. The Swazi Constitution demands that the EBC chair should be a qualified judge, but King Mswati appointed one of his half-brothers, Chief Gija Dlamini, who was variously described at the time as an electrician or electrical engineer, to the post, which he still holds today.
The Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA) shortly after the 2008 election reported, ‘Almost all the stakeholders regarded the members of the EBC as royal appointees.
‘Stakeholders did not regard the EBC as independent and believed that the EBC operated under the instruction of the King. Stakeholders also expressed the view that the EBC was not representative of society as a whole, but was drawn exclusively from government officials or members of the aristocracy.
‘Most believed that the Commissioners do not meet the qualifications laid down in the constitution in Article 90(6): “The chairperson, deputy chairperson and the other members of the Commission shall possess the qualifications of a Judge of the superior courts or be persons of high moral character, proven integrity, relevant experience and demonstrable competence in the conduct of public affairs”’.
Pro-Royalists in Swaziland have been trying to talk up the election which is due on 20 September 2013, to counter the international community’s view that it is worthless as the parliament that is elected has no powers. The power in Swaziland is in the hands of King Mswati who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in the election.
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