23 May 2018

Swaziland: Unhappy Residents Boycott Election

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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