Swaziland: Primary Election Shambles
Swaziland’s primary election was a shambles across the kingdom on Saturday (24 August 2013) as incorrect ballot papers were issued, campaign laws were broken, residents threatened to boycott the poll and police had to get a riot squad escort to remove ballot boxes from one polling station.
The election was called off at Bahai and Magwaneni and at Pigg’s Peak polling stations were allowed to remain open beyond the official closing time.
The election for the Mbabane West Constituency at Bahai and Magwaneni polling stations had to be called off after it was discovered the ballot papers had the picture of one candidate appearing twice at the expense of a competitor.
When this was discovered Mangwaneni residents demanded that the election be halted. After much confusion the Election and Boundaries Commission (EBC) which is responsible for organising the election, announced polling would be postponed until the following day (Sunday). But it could not be established if those who had already voted would have to come back and start afresh.
At Lubuli, Chief Mshikashika Ngcamphalala had to be brought in to calm angry residents at the Ngcamphalala Royal Kraal.
This was after residents complained about the reinstatement of Mana Mavimbela, the18-year-old woman who had been unlawfully banned from having her name put forward as a candidate during the nominations on 4 August because she was wearing jeans at the time.
On the eve of the primary election, the Swazi High Court ruled she should be allowed to stand. The EBC then put her name on the ballot paper even though she had not been officially nominated and said the ballot should be postponed by one day.
At a public meeting on Saturday residents complained that this meant Mavimbela had been give a free passage in the nominations. Many residents said they would boycott the primary election.
Chief Mshikashika Ngcamphalala confirmed to local media that he had to go and address residents of his area.
The Times Sunday, an independent newspaper in Swaziland, reported, ‘The chief said he received a call from officials of the EBC who pleaded with him to go and reason with the people because they were not in agreement with what the EBC officials were saying.’
The newspaper also reported the elections at Pigg’s Peak, ‘were full of drama which was accompanied by sporadic fights, accusations of vote-rigging and general confusion’.
The newspaper reported, ‘The elections were so chaotic such that at some point, it was suggested that the elections should be called off and postponed to today. This happened when the general cut-off time of 5pm as set by the EBC, elapsed. Five pm passed while a queue of over 2 000 people waited outside the polling station for a chance to get inside.’
The elections continued ‘way into the night’, the Times Sunday reported.
At Lubuli, residents protested after police took ballot boxes away from the polling station at Lubuli High School once voting had ended. Usually the count takes place at the same place as the polling.
State riot police the Operational Support Services Unit escorted a police car away from the polling station to avoid toyi-toyi-ing residents.
The Times Sunday also reported that the turnout of voters was very poor in some areas. It said that officers at the Mbabane East Polling station at Woodlands High School, Sidvwashini, ‘were lazing around with no one to attend to’.
One person the newspaper spoke to called Mfundo ‘Shakura’ Dlamini, said, ‘It [looks] like many people decided to stay indoors and snub the elections.’
At Pigg’s Peak a man was briefly detained by police on suspicion of campaigning for one of the candidates.
All campaigning for the primary election is banned by law, but local media reported campaigning was taking place behind the scenes.
The Times Sunday reported, ‘The Pigg’s Peak elections lived up to its billing of being controversial as there were sporadic incidents from rival teams, leading campaigns and manhandling each other but the presence of the police calmed the morning session of the voting process which remained peaceful.’
The newspaper said some voters appeared intoxicated and others wore t-shirts with campaign slogans. Despite breaking the law, they were not disturbed by the police.