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.