24 August 2013

Swaziland: Election Board Defeated in High Court

The woman who was banned from being nominated to stand in the election in Swaziland because she was wearing pants has won a High Court case to have her name put on the ballot paper.

And, the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) has been forced to postpone the election in her chiefdom at Lubulini to allow her to stand.

Mana Mavimbela, aged 18, drew international attention to the undemocratic elections in King Mswati's Swaziland, when she tried to have herself nominated on 4 August 2013 to stand in the primary election for the House of Assembly. The official presiding officer, employed by the EBC, refused to allow her to do so because she was dressed in jeans.

Now, High Court Judge Mbutfo Mamba, meeting in emergency session, has ordered the election at Lubulini to be postponed to allow her name to be included in the list of candidates.

Mavimbela was not the only woman discriminated against at the nominations because she was wearing pants. Fakazile Luhlanga of Ndvwabangeni in the Mhlangatane constituency was also not allowed permission to nominate a candidate as she was wearing cargo pants.

Local media reported Luhlanga saying she was told that she was dressed like a man and would be a bad influence to the community members as they would want to emulate her.

Some chiefs across Swaziland imposed the ban on women wearing trousers, shorts or mini-skirts at nomination centres.

Chief Petros Dvuba of Mpolonjeni in Mbabane, the kingdom's capital, said people who would be going to the nominations should dress properly and show respect as it was King Mswati III's exercise. He told local media, 'Even those who have relaxed hair should cover their heads when going to that place.'

The primary elections were due to take place on Saturday (24 August 2013). At the primary elections one candidate is elected to represent the chiefdom in the 'secondary' election on 20 September where one person from the Inkhundla (constituency) will be elected to the House of Assembly.

The election in Swaziland is considered by many to be valueless because the parliament that is elected has no power, as this rests with King Mswati, who rules as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch.

Political parties are barred from taking part in the election. The election is only to select 55 members of the 65-seat House of Assembly. The other 10 members are appointed by the king. No members of the Senate House are elected by the people. Of its 30 members, 20 are chosen by the king and 10 are elected by members of the House of Assembly.

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