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MBABANE – Is Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) Chairman Prince Mhlaba onto something?

The chairman has brought back to the public domain the suggestion that voters should be allowed to recall Parliament representatives they deem to be underperforming, which is known as the ‘power of recall’. While this has irked some Members of Parliament (MPs), who are of the view that the EBC boss is targeting them, but this is what a majority of emaSwati called for almost 30 years ago. This happened when emaSwati made submissions to the Prince Mahlalengangeni-led Tinkhudla Review Commission (TRC) that was appointed in 1992 by His Majesty King Mswati III. Under the item ‘representation of local interest’, the majority of emaSwati presented the power of recall as one of many suggestions necessary in devising a system of elections that would be efficient and adequate on the one hand and, on the other, sufficiently acceptable to the Eswatini people in terms of local and popular participation of the people in the Tinkhundla System of Government.

power of recall

The people suggested as follows: “There should be a power of recall exercised by an Inkhundla on its elected representative.” This suggestion was positively welcomed by the Commission, but with a further suggestion of its own on how this could be enabled. “The Commission accepts the principle and recommends accordingly. It is hoped that the modalities of the power of recall will be in accordance with a suitable law passed by Parliament,” the Commission wrote on its report, which was submitted to the King. Not only that, the majority of emaSwati also suggested that the elected representatives should be accountable to the electorate, something which the Commission agreed with and recommended accordingly. In that regard, the Commission wrote: “Direct election will make it possible for a elected representative to know his or her elected electorate to whom he or she reports periodically as may be required.”

secret ballot

As part of the summary of its recommendations, the Commission wrote, under ‘on the representation of local interest’, as follows: “There should be direct representation, power of recall in terms of a suitable law and a one person, one vote secret ballot.” What the EBC chairman is calling for appears to be in line with what the Commission’s terms of reference, with particular reference to the item on ‘representation of local interest’, sought to achieve judging from what he told a local publication when he noted that it was a weakness that under the country’s election system, there was no available controlled and balanced mechanism by which voters were able to hold their elected politicians accountable. He reportedly said the filling of this gap was among the reform measures that the Tinkhundla political system urgently required for its efficiency and utility and that this may include the power to recall, in a non-abusive and controlled method, not made too easy to exploit for abuse.


The MPs though, as quoted by the local publication, are of the view that such legislation would be unfair to the elected representatives, while favouring those that are appointed because the electorate would have no power to recall them (appointees). They reportedly argued that service delivery was a collective effort, while insisting that local government should also be held accountable and not just legislators. The MPs are said to have further stated that the EBC chairman was out of order and urged him to stop trying to score points at their expense.
The power of recall and direct election of representatives were not the only submissions made under the ‘representation of local interest item’. One of the things that the people successfully called for was the abolishment of the Electoral College, which they said was not answerable to the voters and was open to abuse by the electoral committee. The electoral committee was accused of imposing a list of names from which the Electoral College was instructed to nominate candidates for elections as was seen in 1983. In 1987 the electoral committee was said to have instructed the Electoral College not to elect chiefs, bantfwabenkhosi and the clergy.


Again in 1987, the electoral committee was accused of having canvassed and getting elected by the House of Assembly into Senate almost in its entirety. The Commission therefore agreed and recommended that a system of election allowing for direct and popular participation of the people at all levels be introduced. However, there was also a submission that the electoral system of open queue voting with an Electoral College should be retained. But the Commission recommended against this, saying: “The Commission has thoroughly considered this proposal and is unable to recommend it. The present system has been the cause of such public dissatisfaction.” There were also suggestions on political parties, with one view saying they should be introduced, while another said there should be no political parties because Eswatini was not ready for them at that stage. On the former proposal, the Commission said: “The Commission has carefully and thoroughly considered this proposal, which it is unable to recommend at this stage.”


On the latter proposal, it said: “The Commission has carefully considered this proposal and recommends accordingly.” There was also a suggestion that a requirement for a minimum standard of education for all representatives should be put in place and it was suggested that this should be a Form III level of education. However, the Commission, after carefully considering this proposal, recommended that a representative should be literate enough in one of the official language for the duties assigned to him or her.

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