Font size: Decrease font Enlarge font

While some emaSwati have vowed to boycott the general elections slated for later this year, others are keen to participate, in whatever form.

Some will be employed by the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) as temporary staff, while others will register to vote. Others will stand for the elections to be elected as Members of Parliament (MPs), Tindvuna Tetinkhundla (Constituency headmen) and Bucopho (constituency councillors). Cognisant of the differing views, the EBC has acknowledged that some emaSwati will exercise their right to vote, while others will not be doing so. Those who have no desire to get involved have been warned to desist from forcing others to see things their way. This is amid threats that those participating could be harmed.Even Parliament has called for assurance that government will be able to ensure the safety of everyone concerned.
Being aware of all these issues, EBC Chairman Prince Mhlabuhlangene says people should respect the rights of others. He says the right to participate in elections should not be trampled on by anyone.

Dlamini, who was speaking during the unveiling of the 2023 general elections logo on Wednesday, said people should not `prophesy’ that the Tinkhundla elections would be a flop, only to work towards ensuring that their `prophecy’ was fulfilled. He welcomed criticism, saying it should be constructive. This brings me to the gist of my thoughts this Sunday. Criticism is exactly what the EBC has been receiving since the beginning of the year. While there have been attacks, some of which had the potential to turn nasty, most of the comments, complaints and concerns have been constructive. They are being raised mostly by people who want to participate in the election process in various ways. It has emerged from these interactions that the Commission might not exactly be ready to conduct a smooth election process.

One example is that since 2018, when the last parliamentary elections were held, the Commission has not upgraded its Elections Management System (EMS). The legal issues the Commission had with Slomoes Corporation, the 2018 suppliers of this system are well documented. They date back to the very same year.Maybe there were behind-the-scenes manoeuvres but on the surface, it appears that the EBC only realised at the eleventh hour that the system had not been upgraded. In fact, only recently was the system handed over to the EBC to mark the end of a five-year contractual agreement to supply the Commission with maintenance and upgrade services. Only now, in 2023, is the EBC getting seriously concerned about this upgrade. The Commission now wants companies with expertise in that field to help it upgrade this important system, without which there would be no election. The EBC wants this system up and running by next month.


Companies that were interested in the tender have complained that this was almost impossible. This throws a spanner in the works for the elections team. It turns out that there is no other alternative but to upgrade this particular system because buying new equipment altogether will not help. This is because off-the-shelf software will not work for Eswatini. The kingdom uses a unique no-party system, while most available software operates better in countries where political parties are allowed to participate in elections. This makes one wonder why the EBC appears to have been unprepared for such things. The Commission is not a time-specific project but a permanent entity. It has permanent offices in Nkhanini, Lobamba, which are never closed, apart from weekends and public holidays. The offices have remained open and operating since 2018, with several staff members occupying various offices within that herculean building. What has everybody in there been doing if not preparing for the 2023 elections? EmaSwati everywhere are wondering.

The EBC cannot claim to be encountering teething problems because even the 2018 election was not the first one under the current constitutional dispensation. The 2013 and 2008 elections were held after promulgation of the National Constitution as well. Secondly, there is the very same voter education exercise. It has been during such events that EBC officials were attacked, mostly verbally. It was a different matter in one area under Hosea Inkhundla when the EBC team was told in certain terms that it would not be allowed to address the people without disclosing the whereabouts of their MP Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza. Mabuza is in jail with Ngwempisi MP Mthandeni Dube and together, they are facing terrorism charges allegedly emanating from the 2021 riots, which were the most violent t ever for previously peaceful Eswatini.


Here, the EBC is behaving like a child who does not take her studies seriously and only starts preparing for an examination a few days before. Only a miracle would save that child from failing. Why is voter education being conducted in 2023 when the Commission already has its hands full with various other aspects of the election? On one hand, it has to sift through thousands of applicants who submitted forms, hoping to be hired for any of the available jobs like registration clerks, polling officers, returning officers and others. There are intelligent and educated men and women within the Commission who should have suggested that voter education should have been held, at the latest, before December 2022. By now, all emaSwati willing to participate would be well-informed about the entire process. This delay resulted in even the applicants for election jobs not knowing what a polling officer or returning officer does. They just applied as if submitting entries for a raffle draw.

The EBC also seems to have been unprepared for questions like why the election will be held before the national dialogue, yet they knew that this is what many emaSwati were expecting.
It is not enough for the team to simply shrug off these questions by saying they are irrelevant to it and should be directed at other government offices. They cannot honestly expect ordinary citizens out there to divorce the EBC from the entire government system.  Come to think of it, early voter education may have possibly shed light even on such grey areas.     

Comments (0 posted):

Post your comment comment

Please enter the code you see in the image: