Voice of America
6 May 2008
Swaziland’s Opposition Accuses Government Ahead of Parliamentary Elections
By Peter Clottey Washington, D.C.
Swaziland’s main opposition party, Pudemo is accusing the government of King Mswati III of making a mockery of the tenets of democracy ahead of this year’s parliamentary elections. The opposition party also reportedly described as illegal a decision by the electoral commission to open the voter’s register in preparation for the parliamentary elections. But the electoral commission says Swazis have the right to choose who should represent them and their interests in parliament.
Pudemo is demanding political reform in Swaziland, saying the people should be allowed to vote for their own government and not to be ruled by an absolute monarch. Mario Masuku is the chairman of Swaziland’s main opposition Pudermo party. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Mbabane that his party is determined to thwart the government’s efforts of deceiving the ordinary citizen.
“As far as we are concerned, I want to say that it is everybody’s right to be voted for and to vote for a government of their choice. But that should be held in an environment that is conducive for freedom of association and freedom of expression. The situation in Swaziland is that the opening of the registry is meaningless as far as the right to associate is concerned. As long as people may not register political parties, those national elections, or the process towards national elections remains undemocratic and backward as far Pudermo is concern,” Masuku pointed out.
He said although the opposition party stands a chance of losing out by refusing to be part of the upcoming parliamentary election, it is ready to fight for a total regime change.
“What you are saying is very true. But what is noble? Is it getting involved and be thrown out with a bucket of dirty water or stand up to a principle, respecting the fundamental human rights? We have chosen the latter that we would carry on at the end of it all people will realize that the government that is in power, a government would be elected by a minority, a government that would have a parliament, or house of assembly that has no power at all when the power is vested in the King and his family. We would rather stand to our principle of respecting fundamental human rights, and that of democracy than be counted among compromises of the truth,” he said.
Masuku said ordinary people are realizing that there was the need for a complete paradigm shift in the country’s absolute monarch rule.
“I don’t want to blow my own whistle, but if you read yesterday’s newspaper, one member of the house of assembly who has his own political party, and has always been seen as and regarded as conservative said indeed this elections are undemocratic and they are not taking part. And a number of people are also realizing that and are not taking part in the election,” Masuku noted.
He chided those he described as playing “politics of the belly” by trying to convince people to be part of the upcoming parliamentary election.
“We believe, therefore, that only those who are intimidated, and only those who want to practice stomach politics, will participate. But the principled people, the people who know what democracy is all about will not take part. And therefore, the results that we are looking forward to is that the least minimum of people who take part in this national elections. And therefore, they will not have the mandate of the whole citizens of Swaziland that they have formed a government,” he said.
Meanwhile, the government has reportedly announced it would, for the first time in the country’s history, invite election monitors from the United States and Commonwealth nations.
The government believes the move would prove how transparent the country’s young democracy is.
Clottey Interview With Pudermo Chairman Mario Masuku - Download (MP3)
Clottey Interview With Pudermo Chairman Mario Masuku - Listen (MP3)