Swazi Widows Excluded From Voter Registration.
20 May 2008
Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO)
It has come to the attention of the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations that Election Registration Officers are ignoring or flouting election law. We are aware of at least two occasions in Nlhangano alone that widows in mourning have been turned away from voter registration for the sole reason that they are widows in mourning dress. There is no such exclusion in the 1992 Voter Registration Order and so it is apparent that the Registering Officers are not adequately trained on their duties, or worse, they are fully trained but are deliberately flouting the law. We demand that the Elections and Boundaries Commission exerts its independence and issues clear instructions that the only law that is applicable is the 1992 Voter Registration Order read in light of the Constitution and that traditional customs have no place in Voter Registration. We further demand that the Commission fully investigates these matters and takes clear reparatory actions: namely
Issuing a clear apology to the offended parties.
Processing their registration as a matter of urgency.
Investigating the nature of the actions – is it lack of knowledge or lack of regard?
Suspending the registration process so that registering officers may be adequately trained.
Retraining registration officers on the current law.
It has been obvious from the outset that this Commission’s appointment, qualifications, competence and experience are all outside the letter and the spirit of the Constitution. This illegal exclusion of the widows is just the latest in a series of gaffes where the Commission has ignored and flouted the law, the constitution, common sense and good practice. How many more blunders does it take before the Commission realises how far out of its depth it is and does the honourable thing and resign.
The Election and Boundaries Commission and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Affairs’ disregard for the rule of law and Parliamentary Independence have shown the true colours of the Commission. It is just as obvious that in recent closed meetings with traditional authorities that its appearance of independence is fatally compromised. This is not an independent rigorous, well organised and technically capable commission but a toothless rubberstamp for labadzala – nothing more, nothing less.
Statement Issued by Musa I N Hlophe