9 August 2008
To buy or not to buy votes - women ask
Whether to buy votes or not is a major debate among women nominated to stand for national elections.
Yesterday, women expressed worry that men in their various constituencies were already distributing foodstuffs and gifts ahead of the campaign period.
Speaking at the Tums George Hotel during a CANGO sensitisation programme under the ‘vote for a woman’ campaign, a number of women harped on the notion of honesty but were rather doubtful whether that would work in the face of rampant violations of the electoral law back in their constituencies.
A woman from Zombodze Emuva, who introduced herself as Myeni, said it was unfortunate that while she was at the workshop some of her competitors were distributing truckload of food stuffs to voters.
“But I’m here and do not have anything to offer to voters. How then am I going to be voted for? How can CANGO assist me?”
She further requested CANGO to decentralise the sensitisation exercise by going to the various constituencies to educate voters about the importance of the rules of the election process.
They were, however, told that it was the duty of the Elections and Boundary Commission (EBC) to provide the answers. However, there was no EBC official despite an invitation to the event that was attended by women from the four regions of the country. There were about 200 women in attendance.
Bongiwe Zwane of CANGO said she had budgeted for about 70 participants but was overwhelmed and pleased by the attendance that later developed into a hot debate.
The women were divided on whether to join the ‘cash for a vote’ spree allegedly taking place in a number of the constituencies already.
Others felt there has to be some from of enticement or else those splashing money would win their way to parliament. This was against a background of long teachings by former Prime Minister Obed Dlamini and former Cabinet Minister Stella Lukhele who tried to instill virtues of honesty and fair-play.
There were other examples of crowd pullers who buy loads of alcohol for mainly the youth to get them to vote in their favour. A young woman said there were elder women in her constituency who were driving around with young boys buying them liquor and offering them money much to the detriment of other women.
She said it was a pity that the women were looking for support from men by giving them money instead of joining hands with other women in order to realise the ideal of the campaign and the wishes of all women.
Mumcy Dlamini of Kwaluseni said she would never bow down to sacrifice whatsoever she has in order to please men so she could be voted for.
She complained that other male voters on nomination day tried to discourage her that she was single and, therefore, could not ably represent institutions of the family and the entire community. She said it did not take marriage to acquire leadership skills and the capacity to deliver what is required of each candidate. There was then a barrage of condemnation of certain men who tried to discourage women by reminding them they are inferior and subjected to male authority.
Queen Shongwe, the celebrated blabbermouth who frequently calls the radio station offering free opinions in just about every subject, almost earned herself the wrath of the organisers as she time and again engaged other women from the back in rowdy discussions, thus disturbing the workshop.
However, she made her point when she requested the women to approach the national radio station SBIS to lift the ban on all nominees who want to air their views.
She told the other women that other candidates were given unfair advantage in that they were allowed airtime yet they also contest in the election.
She made an explicit example of Minister of Public Service and Information Elijah Shongwe who was on air on Thursday morning announcing that he would be touring bridges at a certain constituency.
She won the sympathy of other women and CANGO was tasked with negotiating with the national broadcaster with a view to allow all citizens equal access under democratic rules.
There are other organisations tasked with civic education currently going on around the country to assist with answers to questions left unanswered by the EBC, which never ran a comprehensive civic education exercise before running to the nomination stage.
This was after a number of women expressed concern that they were blank about the processes involved this time around yet they wanted to take up the leadership roles envisaged for them by the voters.