14 September 2008
Mbilaneni elections Not free and fair
By SABELO MASIMULA
MBABANE—Serious concerns of double standards by the Mbilaneni Umphakatsi are said to be manning the proceeding of the elections here as some quarters feel that the Chief’s Kraal (Umphakatsi) is influencing the course and complexion of the on-going elections exercise.
So serious is the matter that the residents have registered their concerns with the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) in a letter dated August 26, 2008. This letter was highlighting a number of concerns that they felt need to be addressed by the EBC to uneven the ground for free and fair election as it appeared some were being given preferential treatment by the Umphakatsi.
The people’s major concern was that some members of a board dubbed the ‘board of governors’ were nominated though they were active in the primary preparations with EBC. The people argue that this is tantamount to conflict of interest. This board is said to have meddled and controlled the proceedings of the primary elections such that the electorate feel the whole process should start afresh.
Confirmed reports are to the effect that this board was influential in directing the course and complexion of the primary election process in this constituency. The people on the ground argue that the EBC failed to address the irregularities brought about by this board as it’s believed to be wielding a lot of powers.
In a letter (which this newspaper has a copy of) that was written by Indvuna Thikazi to Indvuna yeNkhundla of Maseyisini one Hamilton Simelane, is being mentioned as a member of the board of governors and who is also in the election race. This letter was circulated to a number of essential offices within Nhlangano.
The circulation of this letter fuels the people’s belief that this board, especially the candidates who also serve in it, enjoyed unfair advantage, as they seem to control the very apparatus of EBC. The people argue that it presented the other candidates with unfair competition, as they had to compete with the very people whom they perceived to be working with the EBC on arranging logistics like venue and transport.
On the eve of the primary election, it is alleged that Thikazi (Mbilaneni Indvuna) announced over the national radio (SBIS) that the elections would begin at 7 am at Nyamane Primary School. The people are said to have ignored Thikazi’s announcement on the grounds that he had ulterior motives, which were later proven as he was also nominated.
The people were aggrieved about Nyamane as a polling station, which they said is very inconvenient to be used as a voting station as people from Makhwelela and Makhonza have to take two buses to get there.
To add salt to the injury, the EBC further moved the venue to Makhosini Primary School. It is believed that the board of governors were instrumental in the movement of the voting venue to Makhosini. The people allege that the reasons for proposing this venue were not based on objective grounds.
In the face of all these concerns, a meeting that was arranged by the Umphakatsi took place yesterday, where some of the candidates rejected by the electorate were endorsed as the candidates who will compete with Dlovunga, Emasibini, Simemeni, and Kamzizi Constituencies.
The meeting incorporated four zones from this constituency namely Makhobeni, Makhonjwa, Fosini and Nkoneni. This meeting took place though the Shiselweni Reed Dance called by the King was taking place within the vicinity.
A speaker during the meeting tried in vain to raise this issue and he was hushed. A resident who preferred anonymity said, "The whole process of the election in Mbilaneni is not free and fair and the EBC is not improving the situation either with its intervention as it appears to be in favour of the Umphakatsi’s meddling antics".
Reached for comment on this, Chairman for EBC, Chief Gija II preferred to reserve his comments, saying the Mbilaneni matter is still pending. When probed on the issue of the interference of the Board of governors’ members into the fray, he said, "no one except for the chiefs is barred from participating in the election".