Times of Swaziland
26 September 2008
Parliament now needs 23 women who have to be handpicked as they dismally failed to convince the electorate they are worth the ballot. The vote for women campaign could only manage five entries to Parliament so far.
While many would view this as a failure on the part of the campaign, it was far from it. These were not elections to begin with. These were job vacancies up for grabs to every Tom, Dick or Larry, not Penny, Siphiwe or LaNkhosi.
And like with all vacancies in Swaziland, the successful candidate is one who bribes the most or is related to the government recruitment officer/boss.
This is a product of the Tinkhundla system. That is how it recruits members of the armed forces where you do not need to be educated beyond JC to get a job.
Royal appointments are the preserve of members of regiments most loyal to the monarch. You must butseka (get initiated) first. Critics of Tinkhundla will hardly sit on the king’s advisory board because they are labelled ‘unSwazi’.
That’s how the system works here. Gender equality and fair representation does not feature in Swazi politics as espoused by Jim Gama, the Ludzidzini governor, recently when women marched to the Prime Minister’s office for an explanation regarding a trip by Emakhosikati to Dubai.
He made it clear women had no place on the streets without permission from their husbands. So how many husbands allowed their wives to stand for an election?
Who will cook, wash, weed the fields and look after the children?
And with so much money to be earned (at least E21 000) in a country of low paying jobs and high unemployment, what type of Swazi man would want his wife to earn 10 times more than he does? It’s unSwazi.
The few women who made are known to play active roles in society. Nonhlanhla Dlamini of Ludzeludze needed no introduction with her vocal campaigns for women and children’s rights.
Hlobsile Ndlovu of Pigg’s Peak is an independent woman and has no husband to report to. Thandi Nxumalo of Manzini South has been in the forefront in business, even earning herself leadership status in the Federation of the Swaziland Business Community and in a women’s consortium, a group that later turned against her over administrative issues.
I know just as little of Siphiwe Kunene of Mhlume as I did Trusty Gina before she became MP and Deputy Speaker in the previous Parliament.
Perhaps this is an indication that the ‘Vote for Women’ campaign should have focused on the husbands; educating them on how possible it is to have a home with a woman in politics.
There are thousands of well educated and successful women in government, corporate and social sector who took no part in this election.
Instead, some of them only feature in the Businesswomen or Entrepreneur of the Year competitions and that’s the last we hear of them. Perhaps they hold the view that their contribution would not be appreciated by the system and that it would not have been worth the effort. True.
Tinkhundla has a history of breaking brains. Good people go bad and none could ever muster the courage of former Finance minister and now NERCHA Director Dr Derk von Wissel to resign when the situation calls for it.
So while there seemed to have been an aggressive campaign for women, there was even greater campaign by the poor husbands to get a well paying job.
Many were prepared to break the bank to win votes and they did. Buying kombis, food, T-shirts, booze, meat and E50 handouts to voters was all part of the circus. It’s a joke. Why bribe your way into a job? Election laws should ban this completely.
Election finance should be used to market one’s agenda. It should go towards posters, newspaper adverts, TV commercials and rallies. Not handouts.
It is a shame on the electorate to sell itself so cheaply. Swaziland is poor, yes. People are hungry, true. Beggars we’ve become, definitely. But then how will corrupt people bail us out of this misery.
The electorate must realise they have just endorsed a corrupt Parliament. Forget that the list includes ex-convicts, crime suspects and failed business people, the new MPs will be walking into Parliament with corrupt minds and we have allowed this to happen.
People will have nobody, but themselves to blame five years down the line when the reality that the losers who offered their intellectual wealth to voters may have been the ideal candidates.
No use crying over spilt milk, but the point must be made that voters were a big disappointment in many areas, not just for the women but the country at large.
So it was not just a ‘Vote for Women’ flop, it was an election flop. The women groups that were involved in the campaigns should take comfort in the fact that they put up a decent civic education exercise, unlike our Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) that is gloating in victory over what they term a successful election.
Yes, people voted and election observers have given them thumbs up, but the quality of the product sums up their job better.