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ELECTIONS: SOME CHIEFS WANT SELF-EXILED EMASWATI BARRED

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PIGG’S PEAK – Some chiefs in the Hhohho Region want the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) to ensure that self-exiled emaSwati do not take part in the 2023 General Elections.

This transpired yesterday at the Pigg’s Peak Hotel, where the EBC held a meeting with Hhohho chiefs and traditional leaders. The meeting was aimed at sensitising the chiefs and traditional leaders on the newly-passed Elections (Amendment) Bill 2023 and the Voters Registration Bill, into law, ahead of special voting on August 22, 2023 and the primary elections slated for August 26, 2023. The Elections Act, 2023 amended the Elections Act No.6, 2013, to provide for the promotion of transparency, equity and credibility in the elections process and extension of special voting to other classes. The Voters Registration Act, 2023 amended the Voters Registration Act No.4 of 2013, to provide for continuous registration, revision of the voters register, burden of proof in case of objections and incidental matters.

Yesterday, during the closed meeting, chiefs wanted to know how the EBC ensured that self-exiled emaSwati, wanted for criminal-related matters and those promoting political parties and demonstrations in disapproval of the Tinkhundla System of Government, would not be taking part in the elections. The chiefs’ main concern was that the self-exiled emaSwati might form part of those who had registered and would be voting outside the country.  The chiefs indicated that their main fear was that the self-exiled emaSwati (for political reasons) might manipulate or distort diaspora results to work in their favour.

First to raise the issue was Ndzingeni Chief, Umntfwanenkhosi Mavelebaleni. He wondered how it would be ensured that emaSwati in diaspora, who were political activists, did not take part in the elections. “Our main concern is those in diaspora voting outside the country. The word ‘diaspora’ has been seen not just to mean emaSwati working and living outside the country, but it is an umbrella word used even for self-exiled political activists. We are, therefore, concerned how the EBC will monitor if the self-exiled political activists do not interfere with the voting process so that the results are not ‘cooked’,” he said. The chief highlighted that corruption took place even in the country and wondered how worse it could be beyond the borders.  

  Another traditional leader shared similar sentiments on the voting of emaSwati in diaspora.  He enquired: “We understand that inmates who had been found guilty of serious crimes and those sentenced to life imprisonment cannot vote. How about those who fled the country for crimes they committed? Are they allowed to vote? Who assures that they are not allowed to vote?” Prince Kekela, Chief of Mvuma, also wanted to know if self-exiled emaSwati, especially those whose warrants of arrest had been issued, would be prevented from participating in the general elections.

Diaspora

This was after EBC Commissioner Chief Mawandla Gamedze had responded to the questions of the other chiefs and highlighted that what was good with the diaspora was that the commission knew all the people working outside the country, such as in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kenya, among other countries, as they were not too many. “We are not sure of those accused of crimes, because one is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Even the counting of the votes will be done at the diaspora and results will then be sent back,” said the commissioner. Chief Gamedze explained that 222 emaSwati in diaspora had registered for the 2023 General Elections, against over 500 000 registered local citizens. He explained that registering for voting in diaspora involved places where there was a local embassy or Eswatini was conducting business.        

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