GOOD FEL­LAS STEAL­ING ELEC­TION WHILE EBC YAWNS

Swazi Observer - - FEATURES & OPINION -

IT is not so much the cit­i­zen who with­holds his/her vote in a na­tional elec­tion, but the one who sways the elec­tion process to his/her ad­van­tage in bla­tant break­ing of the elec­toral law that is the cause of a sham elec­tion.

Al­ready, cer­tain sec­tions of the elec­toral law are be­ing vi­o­lated in the very same fash­ion the last mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion pro­duced frauds who are cur­rently craft­ing the destiny of our ur­ban ar­eas but those en­trusted with en­forc­ing it, courtesy of Elec­tions and Bound­aries Com­mis­sion, de­lib­er­ately look the other way.

The law suc­cinctly pre­scribes that there must be proof of res­i­dence at reg­is­tra­tion, but the EBC has been in­flat­ing fig­ures of reg­is­tered vot­ers in the coun­try’s malls and pop­u­la­tion cen­tres with­out re­quir­ing proof of res­i­dence.

Re­quire­ment

This is de­spite that the com­mis­sion is equipped with a hefty bud­get, big enough to com­pare with such giants as com­mer­cial banks or Swazi MTN that are able to, with all ease, re­quire proof of res­i­dence be­fore is­su­ing loans or reg­is­ter­ing sim cards through the VELA pro­gramme. For such an im­por­tant un­der­tak­ing as a na­tional elec­tion, the EBC is not able to en­force the re­quire­ment of this law and leaves it to the wolves to do as they please and hopes to clean the mess fur­ther down long af­ter non-qual­i­fy­ing el­e­ments have in­fil­trated the elec­toral process.

The fig­ures have now been in­flated with non-qual­i­fy­ing el­e­ments reg­is­ter­ing to vote, all be­cause there is no ef­fi­cient sys­tem to prune out the frauds, as a re­sult the EBC, in an an­nounce­ment never heard in the his­tory of an elec­tion the world over, claims 97 per cent voter reg­is­tra­tion! It is at these stages that an elec­tion loses its cred­i­bil­ity and this is the area in which in­ter­na­tional elec­tion ob­servers will look, they will au­dit the work of the EBC by em­ploy­ing the elec­tions law as the bench­mark to mea­sure whether the com­mis­sion in­deed rep­re­sented the as­pi­ra­tions of the Swazi peo­ple.

We were told early this month that 18 000 reg­is­tered dur­ing the voter reg­is­tra­tion’s 12 days ex­ten­sion pe­riod, rais­ing the fig­ure to 544 310 el­i­gi­ble vot­ers.

When the ex­er­cise ini­tially ended on July 17, the EBC had reg­is­tered 526 073 vot­ers, which amounted to 87 per cent of the el­i­gi­ble voter pop­u­la­tion in the coun­try. This, there­fore, means 18 237 vot­ers reg­is­tered dur­ing the ex­ten­sion pe­riod. In to­tal, 253 932 men have reg­is­tered and 290 378 women, also 18 686 of the peo­ple who reg­is­tered are dis­abled.

Any elec­tion is by and for a peo­ple of that coun­try as the law safe­guards and any­thing out­side that law means the elec­tion is no longer ex­pected to pro­duce out­comes wanted by the peo­ple who own it. An elec­tion is not for in­di­vid­u­als or or­gan­i­sa­tions but for the peo­ple and, there­fore, can­not af­ford to have a sur­name that res­onates with an in­di­vid­ual or an or­gan­i­sa­tion, be it a po­lit­i­cal party or not. This na­tion can­not, there­fore, be mea­sured by those who boy­cott the elec­tion, nei­ther can it be judged by the frauds who hi­jack it.

Ver­i­fi­ca­tion

Says Sec­tion 13 of the law: In the case of reg­is­tra­tion at ur­ban or in­dus­trial ar­eas, the per­sons ap­ply­ing for reg­is­tra­tion as vot­ers shall pro­duce ev­i­dence or their Swazi cit­i­zen­ship or per­ma­nent res­i­dence. Noth­ing of this re­quire­ment was met at the reg­is­tra­tion points around the malls and shop­ping com­plexes through­out the coun­try. There were no at the Bhunu Mall or the SNPF or Pres­i­dent Cen­tre in Manzini, who must be part of this process of ini­tial ver­i­fi­ca­tion to at least make sure this re­quire­ment of the law is met, for in­stance: says the law, a per­son shall not be reg­is­tered as a voter in any inkhundla− (a) un­less the per­son has ac­tu­ally resided in that inkhundla for a con­tin­u­ous pe­riod of at least three months im­me­di­ately pre­ced­ing the date of com­ple­tion of the ap­pli­ca­tion; or (b) if the per­son did not re­side as re­quired un­der sub­sec­tion (1), un­less the per­son re­tained a home in that inkhundla for a con­tin­u­ous pe­riod of at least three months, im­me­di­ately pre­ced­ing the date of com­ple­tion of the ap­pli­ca­tion.

Now this has opened flood­gates to the elec­tions mafia who are able to ma­nip­u­late these loop­holes by reg­is­ter­ing as many for­eign­ers as pos­si­ble, es­pe­cially im­pov­er­ished Mozam­bi­cans who freely roam Eswa­tini with­out re­quir­ing any papers to re­main in the coun­try.

Sim­i­larly, the Asian com­mu­nity has joined the band­wagon to push up the fig­ures, not to men­tion the South Africans from por­ous bor­ders in the north, south and west, who come in and out as they wished to cast a vote in ex­change for a beer or two.

We also saw this with South Africa when elderly women from Eswa­tini were ar­rested and tried in a court of law in Phon­gola for reg­is­ter­ing to steal grant money from the neigh­bour­ing coun­try, by fraud­u­lently reg­is­ter­ing as South Africans. Eswa­tini can do the same to those who have reg­is­tered not just to steal grant money but to steal the elec­tion of Eswa­tini and charge them, not with theft but with trea­son.

Fraud­u­lent

The daunt­ing task now to re­sume is ver­i­fi­ca­tion of the vot­ers’ roll and the in­di­vid­ual ci­ti­zens do not pos­sess the abil­ity and re­sources to un­der­take the cum­ber­some task of iden­ti­fy­ing each in­di­vid­ual voter in a par­tic­u­lar area whether au­then­tic or fraud­u­lent. Even the EBC does not have the re­sources, skill and time to do this, oth­er­wise they would have pre­vented the crises at reg­is­tra­tion.

But the law equips EBC with a very long and strong stick in Sec­tion 33: A per­son who− (a) know­ingly makes a false state­ment in or in con­nec­tion with an ap­pli­ca­tion to have that per­son’s name in­cluded in a reg­is­ter; (b) by the use of force or threats pre­vents or at­tempts to pre­vent a per­son from ex­er­cis­ing that per­son’s right to reg­is­ter as a voter, com­mits an of­fence and is li­able, on con­vic­tion, to a fine not ex­ceed­ing twenty thou­sand info@ob­server.org.sz Emalan­geni or to im­pris­on­ment for a term not ex­ceed­ing two years or both and shall, for a pe­riod of five years from the date of the ex­pi­ra­tion of the per­son’s term of im­pris­on­ment or the date of the pay­ment of a fine, be dis­qual­i­fied from be­ing reg­is­tered as a voter or vot­ing at an elec­tion. EBC, on the other hand, is wor­ried about voter ap­a­thy, some­thing that is not re­flected as part of their man­date to worry about but to de­liver a clean elec­tion.

Can­vass­ing

As the stage for cam­paign­ing nears, al­ready good­fel­las started long time ago cam­paign­ing out­side this win­dow pe­riod, while the EBC watched. This is de­spite the law pro­vid­ing that peo­ple are not al­lowed to un­der­take phil­an­thropic ac­tiv­i­ties that they did not un­der­take around this time last year. So many of them are shin­ing in the news­pa­pers as Good Sa­mar­i­tans, while we know very well that they are in ac­tual fact can­vass­ing for votes or bla­tantly cam­paign­ing by tak­ing ad­van­tage of the doz­ing EBC (ELEC­TIONS ACT ACT No.10 of 2013 from 39-43).

The same hounds will re­turn to chart our destiny and load it upon all of us all be­cause we opted to boy­cott an elec­tion that would have oth­er­wise been as­sisted with the help of a vi­brant civil so­ci­ety and vig­i­lance among ci­ti­zens.

No one can change things, es­pe­cially if the mam­moth task of lead­er­ship and de­ci­sion-mak­ing is left for frauds to re­cy­cle them­selves over and over again, while we stand be­side and look. Those who boy­cott the elec­tions have done it be­cause they have cho­sen to and those who par­tic­i­pate is be­cause they want to change things for the bet­ter for them­selves and for pos­ter­ity, oth­er­wise one day we shall find Eswa­tini in the hands of Mzuthini’s guests.

NB: This is a re­peat of last week’s ar­ti­cle due to its em­pha­sis.

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