A veteran journalist in Swaziland has slammed the organisation of the upcoming municipal elections in the kingdom, suggesting voting will be rigged.
Ackel Zwane, writing his weekly column for the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III the absolute monarch in Swaziland, pointed to 'rampant corruption'.
Zwane wrote on Friday (13 October 2017), the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) which runs the election had disregarded the Swazi Constitution that requires it to set up appropriate rules and monitor elections in Swaziland.
'Since their commissioning the EBC has done nothing but recite certain clauses about the voting process instead of creating institutions that will protect citizens from all forms of rigging and make elections truly meaningful and not just a scramble for unearned positions of power.'
Zwane said there was persistent infighting at the EBC and 'the consequences are devastating'.
The elections are due to take place on 28 October 2017.
On 4 October 2017, the Swazi parliament was told there was confusion about whether the EBC or the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development was running the election.
Zwane said voter registration had been corrupted. 'The first and most abhorring loophole is the control and monitoring of the voters' roll. In this case prospective candidates drive scores of nonurban persons to the registration centres and the system cannot detect whether those people indeed come from the various wards.
'For instance in Ward 5 in Manzini voters would be coming from Sicewlini, Makholweni, Nkhundleni, Ticantfwini, Mphembekati, Mntfwanenkhosi, Mpholi, Magwaza, Mkhulamini, Mbekelweni and Ludzeludze yet the ward is only to produce a candidate from Murray Camps and Sikhunyana constituencies.
'Show me any system to verify in the voters' roll if all those registered indeed come from the designated wards.'
He added, 'This tradition also translates into the national election whereby people are taken from wherever to register and vote for particular candidates that offer them goodies at the end, if not outright vote purchasing.
'These registered votes are often rewarded with endless rounds of cold beers, roast chicken (chicken dust) and tripe in exchange for the candidate to earn sitting allowances, attend breakfast meetings and officiating in such auspicious events as distribution of new litter collection bins for the duration of the political term.'
On 20 September 2017, the Swazi Observer reported the inspection of the voters' roll had been extended because of doubts that they were accurate. It was claimed some people had been wrongly registered as voters in some towns and cities.
In October there were complaints that in most cases photographs of voters did not appear on rolls alongside names as expected.
Zwane said voter education was poor and candidates and voters alike did not understand what they were expected to do and corruption was rife. He said many councillors did not live in the areas they represented.
'We are aware of rampant corruption resulting from lack of policing municipality management systems,' he added.
'This culture has resulted in both rent and rates payers being marginalised and their interests neglected as those voted into office have no interest of the urban dweller or of urban life whatsoever. If any watchdog organisation could invest its energies in finding out how much property councillors have on Swazi Nation Land as opposed to urban property the results would be shocking.
'Most of the councillors have their homes in Lwandle, Ticantfwini, kashali, kaKhoza, Mpolonjeni, Mvutjini, Mantjolo, Esitibeni, Nkoyoyo with only titimela for rent in Ngwane Park, Skom or Msunduza, the urban area.'