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SADC sends observer mission to eSwatini to monitor elections opposition groups boycotted and called ‘a sham’

King Mswati with former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS

King Mswati with former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS

Published Sep 21, 2023


The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has sent a team of observers to monitor the upcoming general elections in the troubled and politically volatile Kingdom of eSwatini.

The banned opposition parties like Pudemo and the Communist Party of Swaziland boycotted the elections, calling them "a sham," while other parties like Swalimo are participating with the hope of changing the oppressive Tinkhundla system from within.

Swalimo was at the forefront of the 2021–2022 failed attempt to force political reforms that would have included clipping the wings of extravagant King Mswati and his family, who enjoy a luxury life while the rest of the people live in poverty.

The elections to be held on September 29, are the culmination of a three-stage election where the electorate starts by nominating a large pool of candidates in their respective royal kraals.

From there, the winner from each kraal then faces off with other candidates and goes on to represent his or her constituency in the national parliament.

King Mswati, who enjoys supreme authority, then picks some of them (through his proxy prime minister) as ministers. Despite having been elected by the people, the MPs do not wield much power, as the monarch appoints the prime minister, who only comes from the Dlamini clan, the ruling family.

Equally, through his appointees in the House of Senate and some in the House of Assembly, the king always ensures that he has the majority.

In its statement, SADC said its observer mission would be coordinated by Elias Magosi, its executive secretary.

“The SEOM (SADC Electoral Observation Mission) will be deployed to all four regions of the Kingdom of eSwatini to observe the pre-election and post-election phases.

“The Mission will assess the conduct of the elections against a set of principles stipulated in the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections of (2021) which include, among others, the full participation of the citizens in the democratic and development processes.

“Measures to prevent political violence, intimidation, and intolerance; equal opportunity for all political parties to access the State Media, as well as access to information by all citizens; and acceptance of and respect for the election results by all candidates,” the body said.

It added that in order to promote electoral integrity, electoral justice, good governance, peace, and stability in the SADC region and to give effect to the commitment contained in the SADC Principles and Guidelines, the launch of the SEOM on September 22, will include various election awareness activities for the electoral stakeholder to learn and appreciate the work of the SEOM.

The observation mission will stay in the kingdom until October 5, 2023, but its preliminary report about the elections will be released on October 1, which is two days after the voting.

The elections in the kingdom come amid calls to King Mswati III to release two jailed pro-democracy MPs, Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube.

The two were charged with allegedly leading a rebellion to unseat the controversial king and convicted amid cries from the US embassy in the kingdom that the trial was not fair.

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