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MANZINI – After being subjected to vigorous training at a soldier-guarded polling station, Mtsebeni residents have refused to register for elections.

A population from over 60 homesteads at Mtsebeni area, under Gege Constituency, has reportedly refused to use a registration centre that was situated along the borderline after alleged experiences of forced exercises by the soldiers on guard.

Narrating how the residents came about the decision to snub the polling station was the area’s Indvuna Khakhayi Hlatshwako. He said the problem started back in 2013 during the national elections when the place that was requested by the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) team to conduct the same process was neglected for the borderline.

According to Hlatshwako, the place with electricity that was requested by the team was overlooked due to a dispute within the, KaTsambekwako Umphakatsi then under leadership of the late Chief Samuel Malinga. The centre in question was then selected as an alternative polling station pending the dispute at the umphakatsi.

While the process was ongoing, Hlatshwako alleged that the bona fides (imisumpe) who were selected to work during the elections process, insulted the soldiers over the phone, insinuating that they were romantically involved with the female registration officers from the area who were working there. “They asked the soldiers what they wanted with their ‘wives’ and this infuriated the army officers,” said Hlatshwako.

He further mentioned that the matter was reported to the then chief who took it upon himself to investigate in a bid to bring the concerned parties to task. The indvuna said although the imisumpe first denied that they were the ones who called and disrespected the soldiers, as investigations progressed, they allegedly eventually admitted the offence.

Subsequently, Hlatshwako said the chief then apologised to the soldiers on behalf of his subjects and further condemned the act.
Even so, the enraged soldiers seemed not to have accepted the chief’s apology as they allegedly continued to torture the area’s residents. “When we went there to fetch firewood, the soldiers made us lie down and do intense exercises as punishment even when we had not done anything,” a community member said.

Other community members said these exercises included the much difficult jack-knife and push-ups. It was alleged that the age or gender of the people subjected to the exercises was not considered so even the elderly and women were subjected to same.

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