17 September 2008
I am not the only one who isn’t sure what the election observers are doing in Swaziland – the observers themselves are in the dark.
They had a meeting yesterday (16 September 2008) to discuss what they should do ahead of the election in two days time.
An informal report I have received about the meeting says that the observers, who are from various Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries had never read the Swazi Constitution or the 1992 Elections Order that governs how elections should be run.
To make matter worse they don’t know whether they are monitoring the Swazi poll using SADC or African Union election guidelines or whether they should be using some local guidelines. Since the Swazi Government keeps telling us that Swaziland has a ‘unique’ democracy (political parties are banned, the parliament has no real power and the King appoints the Prime Minister and some Cabinet members even though they have not been elected to parliament) I suppose ‘local guidelines’ are best.
It also emerged that some of the observers do not speak English or siSwazti (the two languages in Swaziland) yet no translators have been made available to them.
Meanwhile, the Swazi Observer reported today that civil society doubts whether the EBC is ready to conduct Friday’s elections. Among concerns raised are those relating to constituency boundaries.
The Observer reported that Mario Masuku, president of the banned organisation Peoples’ United Democratic Front (PUDEMO), also cited the number of cases pending in court from the primary elections last month that might jeopardise the authenticity of the Friday election.
Times of Swaziland political commentator Vusi Sibisi, writing in today’s newspaper today also wonders why the election observers are there.
Sibisi writes, ‘As I see it, there are no similarities or comparisons that can be found between the uniquely Swazi Tinkhundla political system to or with any other political system the world over. This in spite of the fact that the Kingdom of eSwatini is a signatory to all international conventions relating to people’s rights and freedoms.’
He goes on, ‘As I see it the yardsticks used to determine if an election has been free and fair do not apply here simply because the system on which the elections are anchored is not democratic.’
To read the full Sibisi article click here.