Times of Swaziland
17 September 2008
SADC observers here to legitimise elections
By Vusi Sibisi
So, just what it is that the various observer missions that have been sent here will observe in the Tinkhundla secondary elections slated for Friday?
This question is premised on the political perspective of the Kingdom of eSwatini. First being that the Tinkhundla political system is uniquely Swazi and cannot be compared or related to any other political system across the globe. And as it turns out the any other political system being the universally accepted multi-party democratic system that apparently is the nemesis of the kleptocratic government.
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. This country is also a signatory to electoral principles of among other organisations the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which norms are universally recognized and supported.
But of course signing and ratifying anything has no significance to the government that has no affinity with the rule of law. As I see it signing and ratifying some of these conventions and protocols was merely to placate the international community that is constantly pressuring the Swazi leadership to conform to the norms and practices of the rest of the civilized world. In turn these conventions and protocols are good for nothing within the fiefdom of the Kingdom of eSwatini because they are never really translated into practical legislation and if they are the ruling elite simply ignores them and do as they please.
Essentially the Swazi leadership cannot conform to the requirements of these international conventions and protocols simply because they are not prepared to cede any power, be it political or socio-economic, to the people. In turn they care less about accountability and good governance but care more about spending recklessly that which should be used to develop the country and uplift the lifestyle of the people.
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. And even if it was it has no impact whatsoever on the way this country is governed because the resultant government is responsible to the ruling class and not to the people. The people cannot call the government to account for its actions because it is not answerable to or accountable to them. So much for the so-called grassroots democracy that is nothing but a big lie.
Be that as it may, as for the SADC it lost its credibility when its elections observer mission hastily adjudged the March 29 Zimbabwean general elections as having been free and fair. Yet shortly after the observer mission had prematurely given those polls its stamp of approval, the results for the presidential elections were delayed for about a month during which the ruling Zanu-PF and its security agencies took possession of the ballot boxes from the partisan Zimbabwe Elections Commission.
No one dared to question what was happening to the ballot boxes during the period between the end of polling and the time the results for the presidential election were announced almost a month later. Even then SADC was only too pleased to accept the cooked results that gave Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) 47% of the vote and Zanu-PF’s Robert Mugabe 43% thus occasioning a run-off poll between the two since none of them had garnered the 51% votes that could have won them the presidency outrightly.
Notwithstanding the power-sharing settlement that was chiseled out by South Africa President Thabo Mbeki, the SADC mediator to the Zimbabwe crisis, as I see it SADC’s approach to serious matters of the region, especially where it pertains to violations of its own conventions and principles, is that of not rocking the boat to the extent that the illegitimate becomes legitimate for as long as it favours the status quo. And it is precisely because of its propensity for promoting camaraderie amongst the heads of state at the expense of the truth and realities on the ground of some of the region’s troubled spots that are progressively and systematically making SADC irrelevant and your typical old boys’ club to the ordinary people of this regional block.
So, as I see it, the SADC observer mission is here to put a stamp of legitimacy on the elections and nothing else. Yet the very presiding body, the Elections and Boundaries Commission, has a crisis of legitimacy because its composition is not in accordance with the letter and spirit of the constitution. Ultimately it is all a whitewash!