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IN a week’s time, the people of Eswatini would have decided on their candidates to elect to Parliament and the country’s fate would have been sealed.

The candidates have been busy with campaigns, forging alliances and luring voters with promises of a better tomorrow. A few have hit the nail on the head with well researched ideas on the legislation we need for the country to work better, attract investment, diversify and grow the economy, root out corruption and improve efficiencies in public service delivery.

Others have just decided to have fun by throwing cash around and gambling with the country’s future - literally. Some may argue that at least they are not slitting children’s throats and dismembering their bodies for muti votes.

However, they are killing the country. Yes, these strategies are not the worst in the history of elections all over the world. We’ve heard of candidates in other countries promise to provide every poor household with a TV set. Others promised to waive off all educational loans and would provide laptops for students, as well as mobile phones with 3G and 4G connections that have additional 10 GB download options per month to boot.  

Some aspiring politicians have promised voters a waiver for farmers who have taken loans from nationalised and cooperative banks. One political party in India promised eight grammes of gold to eligible women living below the poverty line, for marriage! Recently, in the run down to the Zimbabwe election, opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa promised to rename the country, saying he believed its name was cursed and is responsible for the nation’s poor showing in international sporting events. But really?

Back home, a legal mind was asked how different this gambling was from people who donated blankets and gave food parcels to the electorate as a campaigning strategy.
He said it was more or less the same principle but differed in that this form of gambling violated the Gaming Act, the Elections Expenses Act, 2013 and the Elections Act, 2013. He said the two latter laws were recently quoted by the courts as they pointed out the issue of achieving undue influence.

These gambling candidates have also done their research to find that the majority of Eswatini voters are poor, hungry, unemployed and cannot relate to policies and legislation which don’t put food on the table. Sadly, the campaign strategy adopted by the nominees is to make fun of all these desperate people.

The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), which has been woeful in addressing election transgressions, has referred the matter to its legal team but I expect nothing to come of it. We simply have to contend with the fact that our Parliament will be composed of legislators with the fattest wallets – people of no integrity. Nobody can fault us for trying to drum sense into the minds of the voters and the candidates, as it seems not everybody got the message.
And while we fool around, the South African Government is seeking approval from its Parliament to change the SACU revenue sharing formula to increase the share because of its massive contribution to the pool when compared to the other member countries, including Eswatini. Remember SACU? This is where we get above 60 per cent of revenue for our national budget.
Chances are, if the SA Government has its way, this source of funding will plummet to below 40 per cent. This can only mean one thing; we will be left worse off.
This comes as bit of a surprise because at the recent SACU Summit in Botswana, Finance ministers resolved to meet in SA this month to finalise logistics of how the SACU revenue pool could be removed from the SA Treasury and placed independently at the SA Reserve Bank for purposes of proper auditing and transparent distribution of the pool. So what has changed? The China-Africa Summit perhaps?
The bigger question, though, becomes what strategy will our gambling MPs put on the table to save this broke country that is about to lose a significant chunk of its national budget resource?
Their actions suggest they will gamble this country away through the lottery to the highest bidding superpowers of the world – just so we can eat to see another day. So much for 50 years of independence.

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