24 August 2008
Disaster at Shiselweni
By MBONGENI MBINGO
NHLANGANO—In what will be described as inefficiency of the Elections and Boundaries Commission, thousands of voters were left disappointed in the Shiselweni region where the primary elections came to a complete standstill.
Voters were told after waiting for hours that ballot papers had some irregularities, and that some of the ballot papers had some of nominees missing while others could not reach the voting points as the printing company was not yet through with its printing.
At highly anticipated Zombodze Emuva Umphakatsi where Titus Thwala was to face former Nhlangano Mayor Johannes Ndlangamandla, an enthusiastic crowd of about 5 000 people was left with no option, but to turn back—dejected. This was only one of many postponements in the region, forcing the EBC Shiselweni chief personnel Gordon Mbuli to say these were due to the non-arrival of ballot papers on time and missing nominees on ballots papers.
"The process could not take off as ballot papers could not reach the voting point as it was reported to me by my superiors that the printing company had a problem finishing them on time. We had no option but to postpone it," said a stressed Mbuli.
Zombodze Emuva is under Zombodze Emuva Inkhundla. Parliamentary hopeful Johannes Ndlangamandla said this was a great inconvenience because some of their supporters work in South Africa. He said they couldn’t make it if another day is fixed.
"Their employers can’t afford to lose their workforce twice for an exercise that is perceived should not have such mistakes," Ndlangamandla said. His archrival Titus Thwala was understanding of the problem, despite the setback.
"As the system used now is new, it is bound to have problems. However, I beg voters not to despair despite all that has happened," said Thwala.
A voter from Mzinsangu, Bheki Skhosana under Zombodze Emuva, said despite all this he would come back.
"Despite that I lost E15 for nothing today, whatever date set I will honor it because I wanted to vote for my candidate
At Mbilaneni voting could not take off because ballots had some candidates missing. These were both from MPs and Tindvuna Tetinkhundla. Another inconvenience was that two venues for voting were announced. About 3 000 voters gathered at Mbilaneni royal kraal while the other group of 2 000 or so gathered at Nyamane Primary School, along with all the candidates.
Elections officials at around 11am convened at Mbilaneni Umphakatsi where it was announced the process is suspended, indefinitely.
"We are sorry that two venues in our national radio were announced. Now that others are gathered at Nyamane and due to ballot papers misprint were are calling off the exercise," said Mbilaneni Umphakatsi acting Headman Bongani Masuku.
But for Mbilaneni, this is just the tip of the iceberg, as many voters were left disappointed that their chieftancy dispute threatened to boil over. The decision by the EBC to allow one of the candidates to make the radio announcement, calling on voters to convene at the royal kraal was questioned, especially as it conflicted with that of the EBC.
"How can they allow a candidate to make an announcement like this and not intervene? This is very wrong, because there is a clear conflict of interest at play here," complained one disgruntled voter.
The very fact that the presiding officers convened at Nyamane, the place that the EBC had authorized as where voting would take place, showed there were two centres of power here.
"This should not be allowed," complained another voter, who had travelled kilometres to get to the voting place at the school, and had struggled to raise the money for transport.
He continued, "transport in this area is very scarce, and our chiefdom is quite big, so this is a huge inconvenience, not just in terms of fixing the next date, but for us to be able to come back."
Meanwhile, the EBC Deputy Chairman Mzwandile Fakudze said the issue at this chiefdom had more to do with chieftancy dispute, and there was little they could do. He admitted, however, that the two conflicting announcements had played a major role in the voting exercise being indefinitely suspended.
"We are aware of that issue, but as you will know, their case is more of a chieftaincy dispute, and there is very little the EBC can do there," he commented last night.
MP hopeful Rodgers Matsebula was left confused about this mess. "Why are such silly mistakes made? It is a great inconvenience that will cost us dearly as we are hopefuls. Our supporters might be engaged when another day is fixed," said Matsebula.
At Nyamaneni, the people, along with former MP Magwagwa Mdluli, were left bemused, especially as it was later after lunch that they were finally told that the voting had been called off.
"This is a total disaster, and a shambles," said a disappointed voter, who had waited for hours from 8am to cast her vote.
She said this was a continued disregard for the people, many of whom are old and unemployed and can barely raise the money for a second trip to the polling station.
At Kontshingila voting continued despite that pictures of two of Tindvuna Tetinkhundla were missing. Voting for the other categories were continued while it was said voting for this category was suspended.
At Ndushulweni Umphakatsi under Ngudzeni Inkhundla voting could simply not take off because the printing company was not yet through (with printing the ballot papers).
A nominee for the august House, Raymond Ngcamphalala was left hopeless as he said his supporters might not afford to come back. Found with a group of women at the bus station who were still discussing the setback, he said, "What has happened is painful, unbelievable and a major setback for us. How can this be communicated to us at the last minute?"
Still under Ngudzeni Inkhundla, Kaphobane Umphakatsi voting continued despite that some nominees picture were not displayed. Only their names were appearing.
Nominees there, Sibongile Simelane said to them the process has been fined because after all they voted.
"We are now through here despite all the problems. We voted as the names of those missing pictures were there", said Simelane. The missing name in MPs category was Nomphumelelo Mamba.
At Kagwegwe Umphakatsi under Sandleni Inkhundla where it was expected former MP Gibson Cracker Hlophe was to be pitted against Innocent Simelane, voting was also stopped.
Ballots could not be delivered on time.