Sunday, May 25, 2008


From: Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations
Date: Sun, 27 Apr 2008 11:05:49 +0200
Local: Sun, Apr 27 2008 11:05 am

Subject: Swaziland Coalition calls for Elections and Boundaries Commission to Resign

The Swazi Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations is bewildered by the stunning lack of respect for civil rights already evident in the Elections and Boundaries Commission. We have previously commented on the unconstitutional nature of the make up of the Commission saying that with these commissioners in place it cannot be independent, it does not have the legal experience and knowledge necessary and the use of people that were or are public officials is against the letter and the spirit of the constitution and international guidelines on proper election management.

The Board was set up on 10 March and in its first six weeks of operation has already trampled on our Constitution and our rights to due Legal Process, an independent judiciary, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press and good practice in interpreting Statutory Law.

So far it has banned reporters from public meetings solely because it does not like the way they report – how very thin-skinned from people who are constitutionally supposed to show ‘demonstrable competence in the conduct of public affairs’. A competent authority would understand the role, nature and workings of the press and get its message across - professionally.

It has said that our Freedom of Assembly extends to football teams but not political parties. It made this ‘unique’ pronouncement without hearing any party’s opinion and more importantly ignoring the fact that the matter is due to be heard at the high court and so is sub judice. This shows that they are prepared to pre-empt our courts and ignore Swazi Citizens’ constitutional rights to a fair hearing and to administrative justice – not exactly commendable in an adjudicating authority.

These actions do not give the Coalition confidence in the Commission’s ability to judge properly and fairly when there are disputes around our upcoming elections.

Much has been made of the former Deputy Attorney General’s professional qualifications and the government’s opinion that his advice will be the legal bedrock on which the commission can stand.

This is most worrying since this is the self same ‘legal eagle’ who imagines that the Commission’s constitutional duty to ‘facilitate civic or voter education’ gives it the right to curtail our Freedoms of Speech and of Assembly that are in the Constitution. Its recent pathetic attempt to ban anyone other than it from providing civic education is not only repugnant to those of us who respect constitutionalism and human rights but shows the true nature of the Commission’s attitude to those rights – it doesn’t know or it doesn’t care.

We have seen in Zimbabwe and in Kenya how non-independent, unqualified and biased Election and Boundaries Commissions can be manipulated to bend to the will of the powerful and the corrupt. The violence that erupts is an inevitable consequence of vote stealing and election rigging. We will not stand idly by and allow this to happen in Swaziland – an Election and Boundaries Commission is supposed to protect our votes and to make each one count as much as possible. This Commission already has shown a blatant disregard for other fundamental human rights, how can it be trusted with the most fundamental of all the democratic rights - our right to vote? In light of this litany of errors of judgement, law and professionalism, we call on the Commissioners to do the honourable thing and resign en masse.

In the mean time, the Coalition will continue with its programme of Civic and Voter Education and it will defend its right to do so robustly. Any interference with this programme will be taken as an attack on Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly and the perpetrators will personally find themselves answering to a judge.

The Coalition exists to promote democracy and human rights in Swaziland. The Swazi Constitution is very new and it will take time for all of us (including the government and the traditional authorities) to get used to this new way of doing things and of emaSwati having rights not permissions. While these rights are being ignored, attacked and generally not respected by the government and those in authority, the Coalition must, and it will, speak out and take action – it is our duty.

Statement issued by Right Reverend Meshack Mabuza, Chairperson of Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations.


Swazi Observer

24 April 2008


Stories by Musa Ndlangamandla

HIS Majesty King Mswati III yesterday expressed confidence of a free and fair election process, later this year. He told South African President Thabo Mbeki that under the new constitution, the elections were open to all Swazi adults and that the country’s political system has empowered every Swazi to freely choose what they see as the best candidate.

The King challenged all potential MPs to align themselves with the national fight to overcome poverty.

“On the home front, may I inform Your Excellency that we shall be having our national parliamentary elections later this year.

“These elections are open to every Swazi adult. Our political system has empowered every Swazi to freely participate in nominating and being nominated as candidates for parliamentary elections,” His Majesty said during a State banquet he hosted for the visiting Statesman.

The King added that this empowerment instrument is enshrined in Swaziland’s constitution in which the people are encouraged to nominate and elect on merit, a candidate amongst themselves whom they know best to have the potential of representing their interests in parliament.

In response, Mbeki, who promised to return to Swaziland again and again, said the region, the world and South Africa continues to be interested in the political developments in Swaziland - due to the mutual effects such has on all the countries.

“Ever since Swaziland gained her independence in 1968, there have been many political developments as embodied in the constitution and the subsequent developments are followed by South Africa and the world with keen interest because of, among other things, the SADC Charter. We wish you success in the general elections,” Mbeki said.

He assured His Majesty that South Africa would do more to ensure that the economic benefits between the two countries are enhanced.

He noted that there were more than 70 companies of all sizes that hailed from South Africa, investing in Swaziland. Mbeki saw the need to accelerate growth through NEPAD, saying the two governments must work together to strengthen the people to people agenda.

Mbeki cited the Lubombo Spatial Development Initiative (LUSIP) as another area that can be used to leverage economic success of the two countries.



From Swazi Media Commentary

Swaziland’s elections this year will be free and fair.

Or they will be if you believe the chief editor of the Swazi Observer. The Observer – the paper that is in effect owned by King Mswati III – reports the king assuring South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki (and therefore the world) that the news Swazi Constitution will ensure that the elections will be free and fair.

The Observer reported today (Thursday 24 April 2008), in a news article written by its chief editor, that the king told Mbeki that ‘under the new constitution, the elections were open to all Swazi adults and that the country’s political system has empowered every Swazi to freely choose what they see as the best candidate’.

The Observer reported that the king challenged all potential MPs to align themselves with the national fight to overcome poverty. What the Observer didn’t report was that these remarks were made at a sumptuous banquet, nor that in Swaziland this past year 600,000 people of the kingdom’s nearly one million population have had to rely on international food aid to fend off starvation.

The Observer did report that the king said that the new Swaziland’s constitution encourages people ‘to nominate and elect on merit, a candidate amongst themselves whom they know best to have the potential of representing their interests in parliament’.

What neither the king nor the Observer added was that political parties are banned in Swaziland, despite repeated calls for them and possible legal action from civil society groups in the kingdom.

Mbeki, who recently refused to acknowledge there was a political crisis in Zimbabwe following the disputed elections there last month (March 2008) said he wished King Mswati, ‘success in the general elections’.

It wasn’t clear what Mbeki’s definition of ‘success’ was. But, Mbeki’s continued support of Robert Mugabe, a despot who is trying desperately to cling on to power illegally in Zimbabwe, may give us some clue.

King Mswati III and the South African President, met during Mbeki’s two-day trip to the kingdom.

While the Observer and other Swazi media were upbeat in their reporting of the visit, some South African media were more realistic.

The SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation) reported (23 April 2008), ‘It is believed that pro-democracy groups are putting pressure on Mbeki to raise the question of King Mswati’s absolute rule and lack of reforms.’

SABC added, ‘Meanwhile, the Swazi monarch is expected to raise concern with Mbeki over Cosatu’s [Confederation of South African Trade Unions] call for an economic blockade of the kingdom. Cosatu has pledged solidarity with the Swaziland trade union movement in demanding an end to Mswati’s absolute monarchy rule. Swaziland has been under pressure over the past few years to introduce democratic reforms.’

I don’t know whether this was discussed at the banquet because, unsurprisingly, I wasn’t invited. If such a discussion took place I have yet to see reference to it in the Swazi media.

The Pretoria News (23 April 2008) was less optimistic. It didn’t believe that Mbeki would raise the issue of democracy.

It reported, ‘Swazis feel little hope that Mbeki will press the king for more meaningful political change towards making Swaziland a true democracy.

‘Mbeki’s actions on Zimbabwe have not escaped the attention of political pundits in Mbabane.’

It went on, ‘Even though the political climate in Swaziland is not as volatile as Zimbabwe, banned political organisation Pudemo’s publicity and information secretary Zakhele Mabuza said it would be a sad day for the voiceless and disadvantaged in Swaziland if Mbeki concluded there was also no crisis in the country.

‘Mbeki was last in the country in 1996 when he was deputy president to meet Mswati during a week-long mass stayaway by opposition unions and politicians brought the country to a standstill.

‘When asked by journalists in 2004 why he and Mbeki had never met during the latter’s presidency, Mswati shrugged it off as a mere clash of diaries in their busy schedules. Mbeki later cancelled a scheduled trip over a year ago at the last minute.

‘Mbeki’s failure to visit Swaziland has fuelled speculation that he does not approve of Mswati's leadership style and his suppression of democracy. Yet no one seems to think his long-delayed visit now will influence political change in the country.

‘Vusi Sibisi, a columnist in The Times of Swaziland, wrote: “There is not much we can hope for from his belated visit to these shores. For besides his mishandling of the Zimbabwe crisis, he is a spent force, who a year or two ago, as a leader of a regional superpower, could have counted for something in terms of nudging the Swazi government towards embracing democracy.”

‘A source close to the monarchy speculated that perhaps Mbeki was visiting only now because Zuma is expected soon for his first meeting with Mswati since he became ANC president and Mbeki wants to get in first.’

According to the Swazi Observer, Mbeki ‘promised to return to Swaziland again and again.’ If the Pretoria News is right, Mbeki will have plenty of time on his hands to do just that.


First published 24 April 2008


Swazi Observer

16 April 2008

Qinisile quits elections case

By Sabelo Mamba

HIGH Court Judge Qinisile Mabuza has recused herself in a matter in which political parties and unions are challenging the appointment of members of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC).

As a result, Chief Justice Richard Banda postponed the case in his chambers yesterday sine die (indefinitely). Though reasons for her decision to recuse herself could not be ascertained, it is understood that there is an appeal involving her in a similar matter. On the full bench, Justice Mabuza will be replaced by a Commonwealth judge expected to arrive in the country on the 1st June, this year.

The CJ explained to the media that the court could no longer constitute a full bench comprising three judges to preside over the EBC case since Justice Mabuza had recused herself.

Justice Banda, however, preferred not to disclose the reasons for the judge’s decision to drop the case, saying he did not know.

Justice Mabuza was supposed to sit on the full bench along with Justice Jacobus Annandale and the new judge Sanji Mmsenono Monageng, from the Commonwealth. Justice Banda explained that other justices Mbutfo Mamba, Stanley Maphalala and himself could not be roped in since they heard part of the same matter.

In the notion of motion, the political parties and unions are seeking an order declaring the appointment of the members of the Elections and Boundaries Commission unlawful.

Their argument is that it is inconsistent with Section 90 of the Constitution as it is not multi-membered to other stakeholders in the electoral process.

The applicant’s further contention that the EBC as created by Section 90 of the constitution, was established with a view to be an institution to guarantee and support democracy through holding and conducting genuine, free and fair elections as provided by subsection 7 (1) (a).

They also add that there is nothing to suggest that the members of the Commission are independent.

The applicants further contend that the Chairperson, Chief Gija Dlamini, by virtue of the fact that he is a chief, should be disqualified from membership. His deputy Mzwandile Fakudze, the applicants argue, was a public officer serving as Deputy Attorney General of the country.

“Accordingly, his independence is questionable as he has been serving the government for a long time, and government is an interested party in the manner the elections will be conducted,” state the applicants.

The applicants are Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions, People’s United Democratic Movement, Ngwane National Liberatory Congress, Swaziland Federation of Labour, National Constitutional Assembly-Trust and the Swaziland National Association of Teachers.

Cited as respondents are Prime Minister Themba Dlamini, Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Prince David, Senate President Gelani Zwane, Parliament Speaker Prince Guduza, EBC and Judicial Service Commission, to mention but a few.
The applicants are represented by private attorneys Paul Shilubane and Thulani Maseko while Attorney General Majahenkhaba Dlamini and attorney Mndeni Vilakati are appearing for the respondents.

Notable activists present in court yesterday were Jan Sithole, Vincent Ncongwane, Mario Masuku and Ntombi Nkosi to mention but a few.

Also present was retired Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Enterprise and Employment Myekeni Vilakati.



From Swazi Media Commentary

Journalists were banned from a meeting held by the Swaziland Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) because its chairman doesn’t like the way the media is reporting its activities.

Police, including at least one from the intelligence branch, were called to eject any reporters who tried to get into the meeting.

In another twist in the long-running controversy over the way members of the EBC were chosen and the Commission’s activities since then, the announcement of the date of the election has been postponed.

Chief Gija Dlamini told the Times Sunday today (13 April 2008) that the reason the meeting was held behind closed doors was because ‘the media had failed to report truthfully about their previous meeting at Siteki.’

The Times Sunday reported that the meeting at a hotel was with traditional leaders from the Hhohho Region of Swaziland and was part of ongoing ‘civic education’ being undertaken by the EBC.

The Times Sunday reported that more than 40 chiefs from different areas of the region ‘were given the special privilege of meeting the EBC behind closed doors and protected by the presence of the police.

‘Police officers, who were deployed at the hotel, were told that journalists were not welcome to cover the meeting.’

The Times Sunday continued, ‘Apparently, Chief Gija was not happy with one of the dailies [Swazi Observer] after it quoted him saying political parties were not allowed at the in the upcoming elections.

‘He said they were now careful with who participates in these meetings as they do not want to expose themselves to “manufactured” stories in the media.’

It is significant that Dlamini did not say that contrary to the Observer story; political parties indeed were allowed to participate in the election.

The Times Sunday reported that the EBC had already met privately with chiefs in other regions of Swaziland.

Dlamini went on (unwittingly, I suspect) to admit that not all people in Swaziland were to be afforded the same opportunities to learn about the election. Chiefs were to be given special privileges.

The Times Sunday reported, ‘Chief Gija said their meeting with the Chiefs was meant to respect traditional protocols before they can start the process of civic education to the ordinary masses.

“You will know that Swazi culture dictates that we respect chiefs as heads of communities and we could not therefore be seen to be doing something without the knowledge of the chiefs”, Gija said.’

The Times Sunday in an editorial comment said, ‘By holding such secret meetings, for a process that determines who will govern us for the next five years, the EBC has compromised the transparency that should encompass such an important election process.

‘To cut a long story short, the Commission has indicted to all that the elections, or selection, will not be independent.’

The EBC is under attack on several fronts at the moment. During the past week it was announced that civic organisations are going to court to get the appointment of the EBC members ruled unconstitutional. The Swazi Constitution states that members should be judges, but none of the people appointed are. The chairman himself is variously described in the media as an ‘electrician’ or ‘an electrical engineer.’ Whatever his formal job title is one thing is for sure: he has no legal training.

Following Chief Gija’s statement that political parties remain banned, the African Union Democratic Party announced it had petitioned the Swaziland House of Assembly to make a law allowing political parties to operate.

According to a report in the Swazi Observer (10 April 2008), ‘The petition alternatively states that the House of Assembly should amend provisions of the Constitution which prohibit political parties from standing for local and or general elections and from managing and directing public affairs at government level.’

Meanwhile, there is mystery about the actual date of the election. Recently, Chief Gija called a press conference to say that a date would be announced last week. The date for the announcement has come and gone but we still do not know when the election will be held.


First published 13 April 2008


Weekend Observer
12 April 2008

Call-off elections - NNLC

By Weekend Observer Reporter

The Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC) yesterday morning petitioned the Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Prince David to call off the National Elections and open a dialogue with them and other stakeholders on the elections.

The Dr. Alvit Themba Dlamini- led political organisation submitted its petition to Justice and Constitutional Affairs Principal Secretary Sicelo Dlamini, who promised to pass it over to the minister.

In its petition copied to the Head of State, the Prime Minister, the Elections and Boundaries Commission, Parliament, Diplomatic representatives and international bodies, both regionally and continental, claims that the constitution has political challenges, which are yet to be resolved by the courts.

The NNLC claims that Chapter III section 24 and 25 of the Constitution contains a bill of rights protecting freedoms such as expression and association while, on the other hand, section 79 provides for a Tinkhundla - based political system on individual merit. They say this is contradictory and it is for that reason that they are calling government to negotiations.

They further allege that the Elections and Boundaries Commission has already showed that it will not be impartial and is determined to retain the status quo. The NNLC says to establish a democratic kingdom, political transformation must take place and the resistance to change only means that change shall force change on you.
They want to contest the coming elections as a political party, contesting with other political formations like Inhlava Forum, Sive Siyinqaba National Movement, Imbokodvo National Movement and PUDEMO.

They state that if the elections are not contested under a multi party system, they will not participate in the process.



Swazi Observer
10 April 2008

By Donny Nxumalo

PROGRESSIVES have filed an urgent application to the High Court, in which they want the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), headed by Chief Gija, to be declared unlawful.

The case will be heard by a full bench (three judges) next Tuesday and Wednesday.
The progressives are Jan Sithole, Mario Masuku, PUDEMO, NNLC, SFTU, SFL and SNAT.

In his affidavit filed at the High Court yesterday, Vincent Ncongwane, on behalf of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), says the EBC must be independent, and that its independence means it should not lean or be dependent on any authority or be seen to be in favour of Tinkhundla.

“In other words, there must be no perception that the EBC lacks autonomy, as is the case at present,” Ncongwane contends, “in order to guarantee its independence so as to manage a credible free and fair election, the Elections and Boundaries Commission must be multi-membered. This will ensure that the interests of all stakeholders are protected.”

Ncongwane contends that Chief Gija should not be in the EBC because as a chief, he should be rallying his subjects and motivating them to take part in the elections, as the ‘footstool’ of the Ingwenyama, saying that the involvement of a chief in the commission would undermine the chief’s authority as a symbol of unity and father of the community.

He claimed there is a conflict of interest with the chief’s involvement in the EBC.
On deputy chairman Mzwandile Fakudze, Ncongwane says Fakudze should not have been appointed to the EBC because he is a civil servant, serving the very same government that is an interested party in how the elections will be conducted. He says in that way, Fakudze will be biased and in favour of government should there be disputes around the conduct of the elections.

The NCA says the same applies to Ncumbi Maziya and Nkhosingumenzi Dlamini, who are also civil servants.

On Gloria Mamba, the NCA says even though she is a lecturer at the University of Swaziland, there is nothing to suggest she is qualified and competent to serve in the EBC.

The progressives are represented by Thulani Maseko while government is still to file her intention to oppose the application.


Saturday, May 24, 2008


From Swazi Media Commentary

Swaziland will know this week the date of its national election.

The kingdom’s Elections and Boundaries Commission held a press conference last Friday (4 April 2008) to announce this.

That’s right. It held a press conference to tell us that sometime this week it will tell us the date of the election (presumably by holding another press conference).

The Swazi News (5 April 2008) was a bit put out by this, calling it a ‘mockery press briefing’ by the ‘illegally appointed’ Commission. I don’t suppose it would do any good if I pointed out that news reporting is meant to be unbiased and objective (go take a look at the SNAJ Code of Conduct Article 1 people).

The Weekend Observer (5 April 2008), as befitting a newspaper that is in effect owned by King Mswati III, was very supportive of the Commission. It gave space to the Commission’s Deputy Commissioner Mzwandile Fakudze to ‘clarify’ how it was that the newly appointed Commission had no judges on it, even though this was a specific requirement of the Swazi Constitution.

Fakudze said the Constitution also allowed for people of ‘high moral character and proven integrity’ to be appointed and the Commission members were appointed on this basis.

The Weekend Observer went on to report Fakudze saying that the King Mswati III (after being advised by the Judicial Service Commission) was the person to decide who had high moral character and proven integrity.

With the date of the election getting nearer (it is widely expected to be in October or November 2008) more and more election reports are getting into the newspapers. The main headline on the front page of the Swazi Observer on Monday (7 April 2008) read TEACHER ACCUSED OF ILLEGAL CAMPAIGN. The story referred to a school principal (not actually a teacher as the headline said) who had asked members of her community to nominate and support her candidacy for Parliament.

In the Alice in Wonderland world of Swaziland’s ‘unique’ democracy this is illegal because the powers that be haven’t said campaigning can begin.

Well, I suppose it depends on who you are, because the same issue of the Observer had a report about Zombodze Emuza, a sitting Member of Parliament, who told his constituency at a meeting of all the hard work he had put in on their behalf over the past five years. Then he gave each resident of his constituency two loaves of bread.

Which of course had nothing whatsoever to do with election campaigning.


First published 10 April 2008


From Swazi Media Commnetary

Here’s a question for you: In Swaziland what’s the difference between a soccer club and a political party?

The answer: When the Swazi Constitution talks of ‘freedom of association’ it means being able to join a soccer club, not being able to form political parties.

This is according to the chairman of Swaziland’s Elections and Boundaries Commission, Chief Gija Dlamini.

The chief, who was recently selected to chair the Commission under controversial circumstances, says that the new Swazi Constitution never intended to allow political parties. When the constitution speaks of ‘freedom of association’ it had in mind clubs such as Mbabane Highlanders soccer team, he said.

When he was appointed, the chairman was widely criticised by groups and individuals in Swaziland for not being qualified for the job (the Constitution says the chair should be a top judge but Dlamini is an electrician). Many believed that Dlamini had been appointed because he was close to the King Mswati III.

Yesterday (9 April 2008) The Swazi Observer reported Gija addressing chiefs and traditional authorities at a ‘civic education’ session in Siteki.

The Observer, a newspaper that is in effect owned by the king, missed the absurdity of the chief’s remarks and allowed them to go unchallenged.

The Observer reported that Dlamini said the national constitution did not say people would go to the polls by political associations.

The Observer reported, ‘People will be elected as individuals. If the community picks an individual and feels he qualifies to represent them, they can just vote him in, as long as he or she is Swazi.

‘The chairman was responding to a question from Chief Sibengwane Ndzimandze who wanted to know what would happen in the event that some people use political affiliation to canvas for parliamentary seats.

‘Petros Masina of Enceka also asked: “What are we going to do when people who affiliate with political parties eventually win the elections and go to parliament? Whilst there, they may try to change the system of governance.”

‘Chief Gija said the chiefs should not be concerned about political parties.

‘“Emaphathi akhona emoyeni nje. Emtsetfweni akabusiswa. Kwasho emaSwati kutsi afuna tinkhundla,” he said, meaning “political parties are not founded on the law. Swazis said they needed the Tinkhundla system of governance.”’

‘The chairman explained that in parliament no one could claim to be representing a political party.

‘He read section 79 of the constitution: “The system of government for Swaziland is a democratic, participatory, tinkhundla-based system which emphasises devolution of state power from central government to tinkhundla areas and individual merit as a basis for election or appointment to public office.”’

I notice that Dlamini didn’t actually answer the question, ‘What are we going to do when people who affiliate with political parties eventually win the elections and go to parliament?’

There is a growing call within Swaziland for political parties to be made legal and as this call gets louder it is going to be very difficult for the traditional authorities to resist. The only real option open to them is to forcibly stop political groups from meeting, by quite literally breaking up their gatherings.

If the police or the army do this during an election time it will attract international attention on a scale that Swaziland has never seen before. The very idea that the kingdom is having an election but not allowing people to meet to discuss who to vote for would show up what Swaziland’s traditionalists call the kingdom’s ‘unique’ democracy for the con trick that it is.


First published 10 April 2008


Swazi Observer
9 April 2008

No political parties at elections - Gija
By Timothy Simelane

CHAIRMAN of the Elections and Boundaries Commission Chief Gija Dlamini says political parties remain illegal in Swaziland.

Chief Gija says the clause allowing freedom of association in the national constitution merely talks about other formations, not necessarily political parties. He made an example of Mbabane Highlanders as just one of the many associations people can freely associate with. Chief Gija was addressing chiefs and traditional authorities at Siteki Hotel where the Elections and Boundaries Commission held a civic education.

He said the national constitution did not say people would go to the polls by political associations.

“People will be elected as individuals. If the community picks an individual and feels he qualifies to represent them, they can just vote him in, as long as he or she is Swazi.

The chairman was responding to a question from Chief Sibengwane Ndzimandze who wanted to know what would happen in the event that some people use political affiliation to canvas for parliamentary seats.

Petros Masina of Enceka also asked: “What are we going to do when people who affiliate with political parties eventually win the elections and go to parliament. Whilst there, they may try to change the system of governance.”

Chief Gija said the chiefs should not be concerned about political parties.

“Emaphathi akhona emoyeni nje. Emtsetfweni akabusiswa. Kwasho emaSwati kutsi afuna tinkhundla,” he said, meaning “political parties are not founded on the law. Swazis said they needed the Tinkhundla system of governance.”

The chairman explained that in parliament no one could claim to be representing a political party.

He read section 79 of the constitution: “The system of government for Swaziland is a democratic, participatory, tinkhundla-based system which emphasises devolution of state power from central government to tinkhundla areas and individual merit as a basis for election or appointment to public office.”



Swazi Observer
7 April 2008


By Bheki Gama

A principal has been accused of campaigning for the coming national elections long before official time arrived.

Pauline Ntombikayise Magagula is said to have asked members of the community to nominate and support her candidacy during a community meeting two weeks ago. Her rivals and other hopefuls in the election race did not take kindly to this and registered their concern.

When approached yesterday, Magagula did not conceal her political ambitions to join the next parliament. However, she explained that Indvuna Malindane Maseko asked her to tell the meeting how she started Mnjoli high school and primary schools.

“I know that some people read the whole thing wrongly and thought I was being imposed as a candidate,” she said.

The school head said she told the meeting that she was more than ready to be trusted with the responsibility as a member of parliament, mentioning that her track record in the development of the area spoke for itself.

She cited the two schools as examples of her unwavering commitment and desire to see the area develop.

“Yes, I am ready to be in parliament,” she stated with unmatched conviction. She said she served the community over the years with clarity of purpose and was even more determined to do more in parliament.

Magagula said the Indvuna's invitation to address the people offered her with a rare opportunity to explain her commitment towards development.

“I was born and bred here and this is where I want my contribution to be noted,” she said.

She said she only related her involvement and contribution to education in the area.

“But some confused that with campaigning,” she said, recalling that at some point she received a call from of former MP Sgwalaza Magagula's brothers, who threatened to remove her as a candidate.

“He said he would tell the elections office that I was campaigning so that I can be disqualified.

“All I did was to explain the history of the schools I helped to establish and my desire to see the community develop.”

She said she was aware that the community expected her to do so much for them and was willing to do their will as long as they supported her.

She ran for elections in 2003 and lost to Magagula (Sgwalaza) by four votes.
She recalled that her rivals say she was not eligible to stand as a candidate for Dvokolwako now that she has a home at Mandlangempisi. “I know that I have a right to stand right here at Dvokolwako.”



Swazi Observer
5 April 2008


Stories by Fanyana Mabuza

The Chief Gija headed Elections and Boundary Commission (EBC) yesterday announced that a tentative date signalling the beginning of this year’s elections process should be announced next week.

Speaking at a press conference held at the EBC offices at Nkhanini, Chief Gija stated that after the date has been gazetted and announced next week, every eligible Swazi should register, so as to qualify to vote, be voted for or to be appointed into Parliament, for the next five years. This year’s election will be a landmark in the country, in that it will be the first ever to be held under a new constitutional dispensation.

It also signals the end of Robert Thwala’s long-standing tenure as the Chief Electoral Officer, while ushering in the new elections body, formed under the dictates of the new Constitution. Chief Gija, who is the EBC Commissioner, was accompanied by his Deputy Mzwandile Fakudze, who is former Deputy Attorney General and commissioner Menzi Dlamini, while Ncumbi Maziya and Glory Mamba were absent.

Chief Gija reported that Mamba was held up at work preparing for exams at UNISWA where she is a lecturer, while Maziya was at the Government’s computer services centre doing other EBC related work. Maziya joined the meeting at a later stage during a workshop the EBC held with journalists at the Swaziland Water Services Corporation Headquarters just below the Gables at Ezulwini.

Also present was Sibongile Mohammed, who is from the Elections Secretariat.
The Chief noted that they did not have much time as they were appointed a bit late hence some things would have to be done while they are on the trot.

“Our situation is like a person who cannot drive a tractor and is given one just when the ploughing season is to begin. He cannot refuse the tractor saying he does not know how to furrow. He simply has to get on the tractor and learn along the ploughing process.”

Reporters then wanted to know as to when would Parliament be dissolved in order to pave way for the smooth operation of his commission, and he replied that theirs was to ensure a free and fair election, and the disbanding of Parliament was outside their ambit.

“We are only doing the elections bit and the dissolving of Parliament will be done by relevant authorities when they feel it is time or before it interferes with the electoral process.” According to the Constitution, Parliament can only be dissolved three months before the date of the elections.



Swazi Observer
5 April 2008

Deputy Commissioner clears air

The Deputy Commissioner of the Elections and Boundary Commission, Mzwandile Fakudze, yesterday cleared the air over the controversy surrounding their appointment to the commission.

Mostly controversial to many people was the appointment of Chief Gija to the post of head of the body, when Section 90 (1) of the Constitution stipulated that members of this body should have qualifications equivalent to those of a judge or of the Superior Courts.

A number of associations have openly voiced out this concern, expressing their disappointment at such a turn of events. Obviously, they had looked forward to Judges or legal eagles that have spent not less than a decade working in the courts of the land to be appointed to the commission.

Clarifying this, Fakudze stated that Sub Section of Section 90 did not end on the judge’s qualifications, but continued that ‘or be a person of high moral character, proven integrity, relevant experience and demonstrable competence in the conduct of public affairs.’ “In this spirit, the Constitution then does not only limit membership of the commissioners to judges only. They can all be judges, they can comprise of three judges and two non-judges or none of them can be judges at all, as long as they also have the qualities outside the judge’s qualifications,” Fakudze said.

He continued then that in this sense, all the people in the commission, including the head, do qualify to be appointed, looking at the law at hand.

When the journalists asked as to how the ‘high moral character and proven integrity’ were measured as one could measure a judge by his qualifications, which are written down, Fakudze said that was done by the King after being advised by the Judicial Service Commission.

“Indeed, every man has his shortcomings as no one is perfect. There is a saying that even the devil can never know what is inside of every man, but in this case what is normally called a ‘Reasonable Man’s Act’ could be used where a person could be evaluated by the way he handles himself, speaks to others and other things.”

When further pressed as to what really happened in this commission’s case, whether it was the Judicial Service Commission that selected the names and brought them to the King or it was the King who selected the names and handed them to the JSC for scrutiny, Fakudze openly stated that he was not sure as to how the selection process went, saying all he knew was that it was the King who appointed the commissioners acting on the advice of the JSC.



Swazi Observer
5 April 2008

How the election process moves in Swaziland

Sibongile Mohammed from the Elections Secretariat has stated the steps from the first day of the election to the last, just when those elected are sworn into Parliaments.
Even though this election will be held under a new constitutional dispensation, it would seem nothing much has changed from the way it was done before.

She stressed though that to avoid problems when results are out, they had tightened a number of loose screws after learning from the last election.

One of the areas, which will be given extra vigilance, is that of voter registration papers.

She noted that in the last election, out of the disputes that cropped up, forged voter’s registrations were the highest, and as a result they would give that part extra attention.
This is how the election will work this year.

* Delimitation of constituencies: This will comprise the verification of boundaries. In the past a committee was set up before the elections, and it would work on boundaries, come out with a final report, which was then taken to the King for assent. He then passed it to the Elections Committee, which would work around those constituency boundaries.

* Voter’s registration (Voters Roll): This is a vital part of the process and in most cases if a country gets this one right it will probably have less problems as the process moves forward. Voters must ensure that they are of the right age and are registered at the right place, while ready to make the right choice. The people are then requested to go check the voter’s roll once it is released to ensure that their names are there and at the right constituencies. This also gives all players a chance to correct any mistakes if there are indeed any.

* Nominations: This is done at the Imiphakatsi (chiefdoms) regardless of whether there is a chief or not. A minimum of four people to a maximum of 10, are nominated. 15 registered voters should second each nominee. After being seconded he must express his willingness to represent the people at a higher level.

* These nominees will then go for Primary elections, where out of the four in some cases or the 10 in others, one must come out victorious. These are still conducted at the Imiphakatsi. The winners will then represent their Imiphakatsi in the election for constituency representatives MPs.

* Campaigning: It is in this stage that campaigning is then allowed. The Primaries winners are then taken to all the Imiphakatsi under that constituency and campaign publicly fielding questions asked as well as tell the people what he has in store for them. Only one person must come out the winner, so he can go for Secondary elections.

* Secondary elections: These are the final elections where winners will then go to Parliament to represent their constituencies. It is from these winners that cabinet Ministers are also chosen. Mohammed then stated that according to the new Constitution, a person of foreign descent but who has stayed in the country for five or more years will be eligible to vote, only that he cannot be voted for.



Weekend Observer
16 April 2008

Call-off elections - NNLC

By Weekend Observer Reporter

The Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC) yesterday morning petitioned the Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Prince David to call off the National Elections and open a dialogue with them and other stakeholders on the elections.

The Dr. Alvit Themba Dlamini- led political organisation submitted its petition to Justice and Constitutional Affairs Principal Secretary Sicelo Dlamini, who promised to pass it over to the minister.

In its petition copied to the Head of State, the Prime Minister, the Elections and Boundaries Commission, Parliament, Diplomatic representatives and international bodies, both regionally and continental, claims that the constitution has political challenges, which are yet to be resolved by the courts.

The NNLC claims that Chapter III section 24 and 25 of the Constitution contains a bill of rights protecting freedoms such as expression and association while, on the other hand, section 79 provides for a Tinkhundla - based political system on individual merit. They say this is contradictory and it is for that reason that they are calling government to negotiations.

They further allege that the Elections and Boundaries Commission has already showed that it will not be impartial and is determined to retain the status quo. The NNLC says to establish a democratic kingdom, political transformation must take place and the resistance to change only means that change shall force change on you.

They want to contest the coming elections as a political party, contesting with other political formations like Inhlava Forum, Sive Siyinqaba National Movement, Imbokodvo National Movement and PUDEMO.

They state that if the elections are not contested under a multi party system, they will not participate in the process.



From Swazi Media Commentary

Media houses in Swaziland need to start preparing for the national election that is due to take place later this year (2008).

At the last election in 2003 Swazi media were criticised for not giving enough information to the people of the kingdom about what was going on.

On the day of the election itself Radio Swaziland didn’t even report that an election was taking place.

The poor media coverage prompted the Commonwealth Expert Team, which monitored the election in Swaziland, to recommend that in future elections a Code of Conduct for media personnel covering elections should be drawn up. This, it felt, would ‘ensure high standard and balanced coverage’ in reporting.

But nothing much has happened since then. The Swaziland National Association of Journalists (SNAJ) has a code of conduct that provides a framework of reference to all practicing journalists in Swaziland, both full-time and freelance.

The code is meant to ensure that members adhere to the highest ethical standards, professional competence and good behaviour in carrying out their duties. Its overriding concern is that members of the media should conduct themselves with a high sense of responsibility without infringing the rights of individuals and society in general.

However, the SNAJ code is not followed by most journalists in Swaziland and it does not deal with the coverage of elections. In this respect Swaziland is falling behind other countries in Africa. Since the turn of the century a number of African states have produced guidelines for journalists and other media personnel when covering elections. Among these states are Sierra Leone and Somaliland.

Here is an attempt to start people thinking about what a code of conduct on election coverage could look like in Swaziland, I want to propose a draft code of conduct for covering elections in Swaziland.

I do not want to reinvent the wheel so I have borrowed extensively from codes of Sierra Leone,
Somaliland and also work done by ACE Electoral Knowledge Network.


The preamble should make some definitive statements about what the role media have in the process of politics, such as these.

The media play an important role in monitoring the electoral process. By covering the election events and the political campaign, the media ensure that the public is aware of what is happening.

The media help the public to make a free and informed choice. They do this in three ways in particular:
• By communicating political messages from parties and candidates;
• By relaying important voter information from election administrators;
• By subjecting the whole election process to independent scrutiny and comment.

Individual journalists

Then we might look at the responsibilities of individual journalists.
Such as:
• The first duty of a journalist is to report accurately and without bias.
• A journalist shall report only in accordance with facts of which s/he knows the origin. A journalist shall not suppress essential information.
• A journalist shall observe professional secrecy regarding the source of information obtained in confidence.
• A journalist shall report in a balanced manner. If a candidate makes an allegation against another candidate, the journalist should seek comment from both sides wherever possible.
• A journalist shall do the utmost to correct any published information that is found to be harmfully inaccurate.
• As far as possible, a journalist shall report the views of candidates and political parties directly and in their own words, rather than as they are described by others.
• A journalist shall avoid using language or expressing sentiments that may further discrimination or violence on any grounds, including race, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinions, and national or social origins.
• When reporting the opinions of those who do advocate discrimination or violence, a journalist shall do the utmost to put such views in a clear context and to report the opinions of those against whom such sentiments are directed.
• A journalist shall not accept any inducement from a politician or candidate.
• A journalist shall not make any promise to a politician about the content of a news report.
• A journalist shall take care in reporting the findings of opinion polls. Any report should wherever possible include the following information:
• who commissioned and carried out the poll and when
• how many people were interviewed, where and how were they interviewed and what is the margin of error
• what was the exact wording of the questions.
• A journalist shall regard the following as grave professional offences:
• plagiarism
• malicious misrepresentation
• calumny, slander, libel or unfounded accusations
• acceptance of a bribe in any form in consideration of either publication or suppression.

Media houses

Media houses have a vital role in ensuring fairness in the dissemination of information. The people have the right to know what all the candidates are standing for and not just those that the media house owners might support.
• In all media, there shall be a clear separation between fact and comment. News reporting should reflect the facts as honestly perceived by journalists. Comment may reflect the editorial line of the publication.
• Publicly owned media shall not express an editorial opinion in favour of or against any candidate.
• Publicly owned media have a duty to be balanced and impartial in their election reporting and not to discriminate against any candidate in granting access to air time.
• If media houses accept paid political advertising, they shall do so on a non-discriminatory basis and at equal rates for all candidates.
• News, interviews, information or current affairs programmes or articles in the public media shall not be biased in favour of or against any candidate.
• The media shall provide equitable and regular coverage to all candidates.
• The media shall encourage and provide access to the voters to express their opinion and views.
• The media shall promote democratic values such as the rule of good law, accountability and good governance.
• Any candidate or party that makes a reasonable claim of having been defamed or otherwise injured by a broadcast or publication shall either be granted the opportunity to reply or be entitled to a correction or retraction by the broadcaster or publisher or by the person who made the allegedly defamatory statement. The reply or correction shall be broadcast or published as soon as possible.
• News coverage of press conferences and public statements concerning matters of political controversy (as opposed to functions of state) called or made by the head of government, government ministers, or members of parliament shall be subject to a right of reply or equal time rules. This obligation acquires even greater force when the person making the statement is also standing for office.
• Publicly owned media shall publish or broadcast voter education material.
• Voter education material shall be accurate and impartial and must effectively inform voters about the voting process, including how, when and where to vote, to register to vote and to verify proper registration; the secrecy of the ballot (and thus safety from retaliation); the importance of voting; the functions of the offices that are under contention; and similar matters.
• Voter education shall include programmes in minority languages and programmes targeted for groups that traditionally may have been excluded from the political process, such as women and people with disabilities.
• Media houses should monitor their own output to make sure that it conforms with the standards set out in this code of conduct.


Codes of conduct in election coverage in other African states recognise that political parties contest elections. In Swaziland, which is not a democracy, political parties are banned. The kingdom has its own unique form of ‘democracy’ which only allows candidates to stand for election as individuals.

The purpose of my draft code of conduct for Swaziland is to deal with the elections that will take place in 2008. It is highly unlikely that there will be a change of heart among the kingdom’s ruling elite before the elections are held, so we must assume that candidates will not be aligned to any political party. Therefore, this code of conduct is addressed to individuals; although it would apply equally to political parties should they be allowed to exist.

• All candidates shall respect the freedom of the media.
• Candidates shall not harass or obstruct journalists who are engaged in their professional activities.
• Incumbent candidates shall not abuse their office to gain unfair advantage in access to the media. This provision applies to all media, but is of particular relevance when publicly funded media are under direct control by the government of the day.
• Candidates shall not offer bribes or inducements to journalists or media houses to encourage them to attend campaign events or to report favourably on the party or unfavourably on other parties or candidates.
• Candidates should not misrepresent the stated positions or any other factual information about other parties and candidates.
• Candidates should avoid using language that is inflammatory or defamatory, or that threatens or incites violence against any other person or group.


First publsihed 28 March 2008


From Swazi Media Commentary

Swazi newspapers have attacked the appointment of an electrician to be chair of the Swaziland Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), the body that will oversee the national election later this year.

One newspaper editor has gone so far as to speculate that this is a deliberate ploy to rig the election.

The anger revolves around the appointment of the five-member EBC, which is to be headed by Chief Gija Dlamini, who has been employed as an electrician for 20 years at the Swaziland Water Services Commission.

The appointment of Chief Gina and the rest of the EBC, who also do not seem to be qualified for the job, caused outrage in the Swazi Press.

When the news broke in newspapers on Friday (7 March 2008) both the Times of Swaziland and the Swazi Observer drew readers’ attention to the new Swazi Constitution which states that ‘the chairperson, deputy chairperson and other members of the commission shall possess the relevant 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.’

According to the Times on Friday, when questioned by journalists about Gila’s qualifications, Prince David, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, said King Mswati III had used ‘the second part which starts with “or” when appointing the chief’.

The condemnation of the appointments to the EBC was swift. The following day Thulani Thwala, editor of the Swazi News, writing in his own newspaper (8 March 2008) said none of the five members were really properly qualified for the job.

Thwala said that Gila ‘has never been a judge and from the look of things he is nowhere near being a judge’ he was appointed because ‘he is a hard-core traditionalist, who heeds all royal command’.

Thwala said that the Swazi Constitution that came into effect in 2006 was being ignored. He wrote, ‘Was the constitution drafted in good faith or was it purely availed for the country to appease the international community for us to continue getting donations we so much adore?’

Thwala wrote, ‘My worry is whether the EBC is ready to reward us with sound MPs or its duty would be to rig the elections.’

The Weekend Observer (8 March 2008) interviewed civic society organisations and found they were ‘worried about the people who were appointed into the commission’. Members of the EBC keep the job for 12 years.

In its report the Weekend Observer noted, ‘In the event the commissioners blunder because of lack of political experience the Judicial Service Commission will have to take the blame for ignoring high, learned and experienced Swazis.’

A spokesperson for the Swaziland National Association of Teachers told the Weekend Observer the commissioners ‘lacked experience at political and leadership level’.

The Lawyers for Human Rights said Gija was unqualified for the job.

‘His job requires a high level of knowledge in politics, constitutional law and international relations. His job is not about morals per se,’ the Weekend Observer quoted a spokesman saying.
The spokesman added that there were many Swazis who were qualified for the job.

The Times Sunday (9 March 2008) in an editorial said the nation was ‘clueless’ as to how the members of the EBC were selected. The process of selection had not been transparent, the newspaper said.

The Times Sunday also reported the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO), which said the way in which the members were selected ‘shows the executive’s complete disregard for the principles of parliamentary supremacy’.

SCCCO noted ‘with extreme concern the utter disregard for both the spirit and the nature of the Swazi constitution in the appointment of members of the EBC’.

SCCCO wants a judicial review of the way the members were selected and are lobbying both Swazi and international civic organisations to its cause.

The Times Sunday quoted SCCCO saying, ‘We will not stand idly by and watch our votes be rendered useless by a system that regards Parliament and elections as mere window-dressing to appease other states and give the impression of democracy to satisfy international donors.’

SCCCO continued, ‘Our human rights will not be respected, transparency and accountability will continue to be foreign concepts and our political freedom to be governed as we choose will remain far off dreams.’

The date for the nation election has not been set but it is widely expected to be sometime in October or November 2008. That means there is not much time to get everything ready in time. There needs to be widespread voter education ahead of the polls to ensure that all people in Swaziland know their rights and obligations at election time.

The row over the appointment of the EBC needs to be resolved quickly. I support the Swaziland press in its attempts to ensure that the EBC works in line with its constitutional obligations. At the moment this is not the case.

I hope that civic organisations within and outside of Swaziland can unite to protest these appointments.

Here is a fine chance for the Swazi independent media to stand up for the people of Swaziland and stand up for democracy.


First published 11 March 2008


Swazi Observer
10 March 2008

'Buganu' can bag those votes

By Musa Ndlangamandla

INGWENYAMA says with the advent of the national elections later this year, there is no need to resort to desperate measures like ritual murder to win the people’s hearts for those who want to go to parliament or occupy positions of leadership.

The King says ‘Buganu’ has all the properties to cleanse a person's system, provide limitless energy and present them as healthy, capable individuals with the necessary brain power. He condemned the rising incidents of old people, children and the vulnerable being killed for ritual purposes, particularly when an election approaches.

Ingwenyama made the remarks over the weekend during the annual ‘Buganu’ festivities whose second-leg was at Hlane Royal Residence, which attracted about 4000 people from all regions of the country.

The colourful ceremony was attended by Her Majesty the Indlovukazi, King of the Mahlangwini Clan in the Republic of South Africa, Prime Minister Themba Dlamini and other dignitaries from a wide spectrum of the country's social and political strata.
“Buganu has many uses and very important properties. If used correctly, it is a detoxant and a cleanser of the body such that one would have boundless energy to perform all the duties that are expected of her and him in the community.

“It cleanses the system, boosts immunity and makes one alert at all times by keeping them at the premium of their health. That is all that is needed for a person to perform to the maximum of their ability and to attract the support of the constituencies, family and members of the community.

“It is, therefore, unnecessary to resort to other means in order to win people's hearts," Ingwenyama said.

Ingwenyama added that there were many uses of ‘Buganu’, which if properly explored could be turned into a money generating project for ordinary members of the public.

“It has cosmetic properties, health and immunity boosting qualities and the seed is edible and has nutritional value.

“There is so much you can do with Buganu. It is not just for fermentation and being used as an alcoholic drink. If pursued properly, projects that have to do with Buganu can turn the economies of many families around,” the King said.

In another matter, Ingwenyama called on the women folk to prepare themselves for the forthcoming elections.

He said there was power in women and if they come together they could turn the fortunes of the country around.

He warned them to take the lead, particularly in the advent of HIV and AIDS and to ensure that women take the leading role in so far as economic advancement is concerned.

Meanwhile, Her Majesty the Indlovukazi also urged women to break the 'proverbial ceiling' and forge ahead, together, in pursuit for excellence.
She invited people from other cultures to come to the country to share ideas with the Swazi people on how to be better positioned to grab the opportunities that life presents.


Friday, May 23, 2008


Swazi Observer 7 March 2008

By Timothy Simelane

HIS Majesty King Mswati III has appointed five people to form the Election and Boundaries Commission.

The commission will be chaired by Nkamanzi Chief Gija Dlamini who previously worked for the Swaziland Water Services Commission as an Electrical Engineer. He will be deputised by Mzwandile Fakudze the Deputy Attorney General.

Others were identified as Nkosingumenzi Dlamini (daughter to Royal Praise Singer Prince Mahlaba), Gloria Mamba, a UNISWA lecturer on African Languages and Ncumbi Maziya who works for the Swaziland National Treasurer.

Announcing the committee, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs said the they would be in office for 12 years as per the constitution.

Asked on whether the chairman meets the qualifications for the position as stated in the Section 90 (6) of the constitution that he or she should qualify to be a judge, Prince David pointed to the second part of the criteria, which states the chairman could alternatively be one of high moral character, proven integrity, relevant experience and demonstrable competence in the conduct of public office.

“It is on the second part of Section 90, part 6 that Chief Gija qualifies to be chairman of the commission.”

Asked about the fate of the Electoral Commission that has been in place over the past years, Prince David said “Our duties were to announce this committee.” Upon further questioning, the minister said other people knew nothing about the appointment except the new committee by the time of the announcement - 9.30 pm.

He further said an announcement would be made next week, whether the new team will have to leave their areas of employ to work full time in the Commission. The minister stole from words of the king when he announced a former prime minister: “Inkhosi yatsi kute ligeza laswela siyela salo” meaning there is no one without blemish.

He said the commission would not be expected to deal with boundaries between now and the election time because they will have to dedicate most of their time on the elections.

This duty is usually done by the Independent Electoral Commission in other countries.

“The commission will work independently just as all others such as the judiciary, anticorruption commission, DPP and others work independently,” he said. The constitution further says the members can be removed from office in the manner that judges of the superior courts.

Chief Gija has been employed by the Swaziland Water Services Corporation for the past 20 years after completing his diploma in electrical engineering at the Swaziland College of Theology (SCOT). He also went to England where he did his higher diploma.

Ncumbi Maziya hails from KaLanga in Siteki and has works for the Swaziland National Treasury. He studied in the United States of America and holds a Masters in Agriculture.

Nkosingumenzi Dlamini works for the ministry of agriculture and cooperatives as a rural sociologist. She studied at the University of Swaziland and further went to the University of Queen's Land in Australia for a Master's degree.



From Swazi Media Commentary

Swaziland’s national election, due later this year (2008) may not be free and fair, according to a report in the Times of Swaziland.

This is because an Electoral Commission which is supposed to oversee the elections has not been created.

This delay in setting up the Commission might mean that it would not have enough time to carry out its duties before the election, which is expected to be held some time in October or November. This could mean that the election would not be free or fair.

The Times reported yesterday (Thursday 28 February 2008) on a forum jointly organised by the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO) and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Swaziland Chapter.

The Times reported Stephen Donaghy of SCCCO saying the Electoral Commission should have been in place last year, but this has not happened. The reason it was meant to be there in that time was because it had specific duties to carry out.

One of these duties was informing people on the process of vote casting. There was also a need to make sure enough polling stations were available for voting.

The Times reported that Donaghy ‘called upon the nation to unite and find a solution on how best the situation would be handled in light of the delay’.

I hope all the media in Swaziland heed that call. As I have written previously, after the last election in 2003 the media – especially the broadcast media – were criticised by official election observers for the poor way they informed people in Swaziland about the elections.

If the media were seeking a guide on what their roles could be during the run up to the election, they could do no better than to read the official report of one of the groups of observers, the Commonwealth Expert Team (CET), which was very critical of the way the last election in 2003 was run.

The CET expressed concern over the very few people in Swaziland who actually registered to vote. In about 85 percent of the registration centres the CET visited, it saw no people at all registering.

Discussing the possible reasons for this apathy, the CET stated:

‘It appears to us that the lack of public participation in the registration process was symptomatic of a wider public disengagement with electoral processes.

‘For instance, civil society organisations played no role in educating and mobilising voters to register and thus exercise their franchise. The provision of education on electoral rights and responsibilities seemed to be the preserve of the election management body and the chiefs at inkhundla level.

‘Nor were domestic observers from civil society involved in monitoring the integrity of the registration process. We were of the view that key stakeholders such as civil and political organisations needed to be brought into the electoral process so that they could play an active role in educating and mobilising the public to exercise their vote.

‘We were also of the opinion that public participation in democratic activity both at local and national level may increase if political parties, which currently have de facto existence, were given legal recognition.’

There is very little time before the election and a lot of work still needs to be done. Let the media mount an immediate campaign to ensure that everything is put in place on time to allow a free and fair election. Let’s not give Swaziland’s undemocratic ruling elite an excuse to postpone the election.


First published 29 February 2008


From Swazi Media Commentary

An Archbishop in Swaziland has criticised the way members of parliament (MPs) use the radio to ‘chat’ to their constituents, rather than going to see them and talk face to face.

He also said that the MPs talk about ‘non issues’ such as mourning the dead rather than about matters that affect the people who elected them.

The comments from Archbishop Jameson Mncina, head of the Efiliphi Church in Zion, were published in the Swazi Observer newspaper yesterday (Wednesday 20 February 2008).

The Observer reported the Archbishop saying that MPs rely on the national radio to ‘chat’ with their constituencies. He was referring to a series of programmes that recently started on the state-controlled Swaziland Broadcasting Information Service (SBIS) radio. Each MP is being given the chance to go on radio at 6.15 in the morning to talk about matters that interest them.

The Observer reported the Archbishop saying, ‘Instead of going to the people at the grass-roots level where they were elected, they now create a barrier by talking to the people over the radio. They no longer have contact with the people. How many people listen to the 6.15 morning programme?’

The Archbishop was further reported saying that after MPs were elected they were expected to return to the people and organise meetings with them rather than talk to them ‘through gadgets of mass communication’.

The Archbishop went on to criticise MPs for talking about ‘non issues’ such as food aid distribution and, he was reported saying, they mourn dead members of society ‘and they give a colourful picture of the effects of destitution’.

The Archbishop has a point if MPs are deliberately avoiding their constituents by going on the radio. A conscientious MP would both appear on radio and visit the grass roots.

But radio should not be ignored by MPs. Radio is a very important medium in a developing country such as Swaziland. Radio is by far the best way of getting messages out to the largest number of people in the kingdom.

Figures contained in the African Media Barometer – Swaziland 2007, published recently by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Swaziland Chapter report estimate that SBIS, which has two channels, can reach about 95 percent of the population (of about one million people).

Radio is broadcast in the local language siSwati, as well as in English. This means that just about everyone in the kingdom can understand what is being broadcast. Unlike when reading newspapers, the listener does not have to be literate to understand what is being said on the radio.

The programme that includes MPs is a new programme and it is no coincidence that it has been started in the run up to Swaziland’s national elections which are due to take place later this year (2008). Sceptics might say that this is giving sitting MPs the chance to remind their constituents who they are so that they will vote for them again when the elections come.

SBIS should be congratulated for thinking about how it can give good coverage to the election. After the last election in 2003, SBIS received mixed responses over its coverage.

As I wrote before in a report on the way the election was conducted the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa praised SBIS for allowing all candidates to canvass in the airwaves for about five minutes.

However, the Commonwealth Expert Team (CET) in a report found broadcasting coverage of the election in Swaziland ‘disappointing’.

SBIS carried short items by the candidates early in the morning, but there was little news about the election and in the week up to the poll and the CET said it heard no discussion programmes or any other substantial coverage.

The CET also criticised radio coverage on the election day itself, because the fact that it was election day was not even mentioned on the early morning news.

The date of the election day in 2008 has yet to be announced, but it is widely expected to be in October or November. This gives SBIS time to organise coverage and to make sure that people in Swaziland get a proper chance to be educated about the election itself and also to hear from candidates and others about the main issues that people should be considering when choosing an MP.

To be truly useful to people in Swaziland at the time of the election, SBIS must provide air time to all candidates and allow them to be questioned by listeners. Radio phone-in shows could be a good way of doing this. SBIS must also choose a number of topics that are important to ordinary people in the kingdom and produce programmes around them. For example, programmes about health, education, water roads as well as the ever-present topic of corruption could be broadcast.

These programmes should allow people of all opinions (not just the ruling elite) to debate the topics and SBIS should not be afraid to allow dissenting voices (and not just the traditionalists) to be heard.

SBIS has a golden opportunity to prove to people in Swaziland - as well as to the listening world outside - that it is capable of behaving in the same way as radio stations in democratic countries.


First published 21 February 2008


From Swazi Media Commentary

As Swaziland approaches election time the kingdom is less stable than people generally recognise.

Sooner rather than later poor ‘peasants’ in rural areas who are assumed to be loyal to the present regime of King Mswati III will show their dissatisfaction with their present situation .

These are the views of Richard Cornwell, a senior research associate at the Institute for Security Studies, published on the website of South Africa’s Mail and Guardian newspaper on Tuesday (12 February 2008).

Under the headline The Swazi quagmire, he writes that the elections due in Swaziland later this year have drawn little attention and it is unlikely that this will change as polling day approaches.

Nevertheless, Cornwell says there are structural tensions within the kingdom’s social and economic fabric which, sooner or later, will test the political framework at the national and local levels.

He writes, ‘In 1973, King Sobhuza II suspended the country’s constitution after a minor parliamentary challenge to the absolute authority of the monarchy. Almost 30 years passed before his son, King Mswati III, allowed the formation of a committee to examine the possibility of opening the political space to greater public participation. In the meantime, a neo-traditional system of government dominated a parliament chosen largely through a system of individual and localised elections supervised by traditional authorities.

‘The principal beneficiaries of this modified absolutism, politically and materially, were the extensive royal family, their courtiers and the rural chiefs, a situation which prompted increasing opposition from civil society and student and trade union activists, supported by foreign allies.’

Cornwell goes on to remind us that the Swaziland Constitution which came into force in 2006 does not allow for political parties in the kingdom.

There are attempts in Swaziland to form some kind of political groups ahead of the election which are expected sometime in October or November (a date has yet to be set).

At a meeting held on 2 February 2008, civic society organisations met to work towards a united front by April, when they will adopt a name and organisational rules. This will be the first time a common position has been attempted since the collapse of the Swaziland Democratic Alliance in 2003.

Cornwell goes on to say,

‘It would be premature to expect too much from the democratic push, however. The Swaziland trade union movement, which led the earlier drive for constitutional rule, is badly fractured.

‘In any event, although the conspicuous consumption of the Swazi royal house has created a broader popular unease in the kingdom of late, there is little evidence to suggest that the democrats’ followers are as yet as numerous as they claim. It seems more probable that such progress as can be made in curbing the royal prerogative and moving towards more accountable and efficient government will depend for now on developments within the ranks of the “loyal reformists”.

‘Even they will have their work cut out, however, for there are powerful entrenched forces determined to thwart any dilution of neo-traditional authority.

‘Yet unless Swaziland’s government can break free of the inertia born of its scelerotic political condition, the problems of economic reform, particularly in a rural sector unable to feed its own people, and in a macro-economic environment both financially and fiscally hostile, there can be no serious attempt to address the dangerous problems of increasing impoverishment among the majority.

‘Sooner rather than later, this could indeed lead to an unprecedented destabilising response from a peasantry whose loyalty to the present system is so blithely assumed.’


First published 14 February 2008


From Swazi Media Commentary

Swaziland’s Times Sunday newspaper has started a debate that I hope will become a campaign ahead of the national election this year (2008).

On Sunday (10 February 2008) it reminded readers that only people with the surname Dlamini are eligible to become the kingdom’s Prime Minister. This ‘tradition’ should be stopped, it said.

The present Prime Minister A. T. (Themba) Dlamini may be reappointed by King Mswati III after the elections but this is by no means certain.

In an editorial comment the Times Sunday says,

‘If A. T. Dlamini is not reappointed, we will be expecting yet another surprise. Such a surprise, traditionally announced at the Ludzidzini cattle byre, comes after intense lobbying by traditionalists and those who are close to the Swazi power circles. Unfortunately such a selection is limited to individuals – deserving or not – whose surname is Dlamini.

‘We are aware of the lobbying that occurs around this period in the country, with different factions pushing for their candidates to be appointed. We are also aware of the people whose names are being raised by those close to the powers that be. Some are already enjoying honourable status as we speak.

‘However, it would appear we have run out of people (Dlamini candidates) who are capable of steering the next government, if any of the names put forth so far is anything to go by (and if A.T. is not retained).’

The Times Sunday goes on to say we should consider opening up the position of Prime Minister to sections of the Swazi population who do not have Dlamini as a surname.

The Times Sunday leaves the argument hanging in the air there.

The Times Sunday is correct. Of course, the best people for the job should be given the chance to be leader of Swaziland. The Constitution that came into force in 2006 does not limit the choice of Prime Minister to people called Dlamini.

What the Constitution does say is that the king appoints the Prime Minister from among members of the House of Assembly acting upon recommendation of the King’s Advisory Council (Section 67 (i)).

The King’s Advisory Council or Liqoqo is made up of chiefs and other traditionalists (Section 231 (i)).

What that means is that it is for the King to choose and he is not required to appoint a Dlamini.

Of course, in a real democracy it would not be the monarch’s choice. Members of Parliament themselves would elect a Prime Minister from among their number. The man or woman who could command support of the House would be Prime Minister until such a time as the House decided by a vote to remove him or her, or the Prime Minister decided to stand down.

The election that will take place later this year (2008) at a date yet to be announced will be the first held under the new Swaziland Constitution. This gives the kingdom’s rulers the opportunity to demonstrate to King Mswati’s subjects and to the world beyond the Swazi borders that Swaziland is becoming a modern democracy.

I doubt that the ‘traditionalists’ who really rule Swaziland will be willing to give up without a fight their influence by having the king select one of their own as Prime Minister.

I applauded the Times Sunday for giving an airing to the issue, now let’s get a proper debate going and make sure we get the right man (or woman) for the job of Prime Minister.


First published 13 February 2008


From Swazi Media Commentary

Things are beginning to get interesting as Swaziland prepares for Parliamentary elections later this year (2008).

Opposition groups are set to boycott the polls and instead campaign for multi-party elections.South Africa’s Independent on Line (IOL) reported on Sunday (3 February 2008)
that a dozen political parties, civic organisations and student groupings met to endorse the formation of a united front within two months to challenge the status quo in Swaziland.

IOL quoted Mphandlana Shongwe, founder member of the banned People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), saying that taking part in elections would give the state a sheen of false legitimacy. PUDEMO is one of six political parties taking part in the broad movement.

IOL reported that Shongwe told a rally on Saturday, ‘For the past 24 years we have been able to deny the state legitimacy so we are proud of ourselves and we must not rest until we attain the goals we set for ourselves.’

Boycotting the polls in their current format would send a message to the world that change was required, he added.

‘Does it mean we have to start butchering people before the western world can realize that there was something wrong with the way the country was governed?’Any member of the front who wanted to stand in elections, likely to be held in October or November, would have to resign from his party, delegates concluded.Political parties were banned in 1973 when the late King Sobhuza II, father of incumbent King Mswati, determined that Westminster-style democracy promoted hatred.The constitution, rewritten in 2006, allows for freedom of association but people can only stand for elections as individuals.The front will be officially launched at a conference in early April where a name and constitution would be adopted.


First published 6 February 2008.


From Swazi Media Commentary

Swaziland will hold its unique form of elections later this year (2008). I say ‘unique’ because although the ruling elites in the kingdom believe the elections to be democratic, just about nobody else does.

The date for the elections has not been set, but it is generally accepted they will be towards the end of the year, possibly in October or November.

As in elections anywhere in the world, the media will play an important part in keeping people informed about what is going on. In the free world it is generally accepted that the media have a prime responsibility to examine what government is and is not doing, by reporting the news, interpreting the news, influencing citizens’ opinions, setting the agenda for government action, and socializing citizens about politics and encouraging a political culture to evolve.

This is even more important at election time when voters go to the polls to elect a new government.

In Swaziland where political parties are banned, candidates are only allowed to stand as individuals. You can learn more about the Swazi electoral system here.

Most of the time the Swazi media are not very good at calling political leaders to account and this is especially so at election time. In this, the first of an occasion series of posts about the media and the forthcoming Swazi elections, I want to look back to the last elections in 2003 and see how the media performed.

In a report of the Swazi media coverage of the 2003 elections the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA) found that the print media in Swaziland played an important role in keeping the voters and all stakeholders informed about the elections by their extensive coverage of the elections but the broadcast media were less good.

Here is an extract from the report.

We observed however that the approach the two main dailies; the Times of Swaziland and the Observer took was different from one another.

The Observer, seeing that it was government owned, took a conservative approach to the elections whereas the Times of Swaziland, a privately owned paper, took a progressive approach and tended to sensationalise the issues.

With regard to the content of their coverage we noted that the eight cases that arose from the primary election disputes, received more coverage in both dailies than pertinent electoral issues that are aimed at informing the electorate. The local observers and media personnel indicated that coverage by the broadcasting media on the other hand was scant. There were no programmes or any other discussions on elections in the few weeks leading to the polling day.

The response from the contesting candidates regarding access to the media varied. Some individuals commented that there had been unfairness in terms of giving people equal access; that candidates with financial influence had greater access to the print media. And usually those featured were mostly the popular candidates, which tended to marginalise those in rural communities with no assets.

Others however commended the broadcasting media for providing equitable access.

The Swaziland Broadcasting Information Service (SBIS) they noted, allowed all candidates to canvass in the airwaves for about five minutes.

Reports from the local observers as well as representatives from the media indicated that the use of the media by the Elections Office was very limited. Most commented that there was very little feedback from the Elections Office to the various media outlets regarding the election process.

Local observers blamed this lack of communication on the mistrust the Election Officers had for the media.

That said, at least one representative from the media outlets commented positively on the interventions of the Elections Office to ensure that pertinent information regarding the election process was regularly fed to the media.

In a related matter, we observed that there was no monitoring mechanism within the Elections Office to assess the media’s coverage of elections. This would have ensured that the media played a more constructive role in the elections.

Most media personnel commented that they were not aware of a policy, law or even a commission that ensures that elections were covered effectively and fairly or one that allocates fair and free time to all candidates.

The Commonwealth Expert Team which observed the elections in 2003 came to similar conclusions about the media. It liked the ‘vigour’ print media coverage, but criticised the Times of Swaziland for being sensational. The report said, ‘we hope that it will do more in future to discuss issues as well as to report on personalities’.

The report found broadcasting coverage of the election in Swaziland ‘disappointing’.

It went on, ‘The limitation on resources was quoted in explanation. Radio Swaziland told us they carried short items by the candidates early in the morning, but there was little news about the election and in the week up to the poll we heard no discussion programmes or any other substantial coverage. This mattered because the majority of Swazi citizens have access to the radio, so this is the perfect medium for conveying information and creating awareness. Although the state broadcasting media had internal guidelines there was no Code of Conduct regarding the behaviour of the media. There was no allocation of broadcast “free time” for candidate.’

The Commonwealth Expert Team also criticised Swaziland Radio coverage on the election day itself. ‘The fact that it was election day was not even mentioned on the early morning news,’ the report stated.

The report concluded that in future elections a Code of Conduct for media personnel covering elections should be drawn up. This, it felt, would ‘ensure high standard and balanced coverage’.


First published 31 January 2008.