Swaziland’s rotten elections: pro-democracy forces vindicated

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Statement by the Communist Party of Swaziland

October 1, 2013 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Information received by the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) indicate that the party and all other pro-democracy forces that wholly opposed the September 20 elections of the King Mswati regime did the right thing by calling on people not to be fooled by the sham poll.

Only just over 100,000 people voted in the primary elections. There was less than that voting in the second round. This is about 500,000 fewer voters than the Mswati regime trumpeted as likely to pack the voting stations. This is much less than in the previous elections, suggesting that popular dissatisfaction with the regime is increasing.

Mswati has no mandate to govern. This much is certain from the ban on political parties and organisations working for democracy. But skewed, closed and unfair elections with no other aim than to renew Mswati’s support base wholly failed to deliver. Mswati cannot even get enough people behind him when he rigs his own polls.

Among other things the CPS has information through its own election boycott campaign that:

  • candidates’ campaigns were financed by the regime to the tune of E30,000;
  • this money was used to buy alcohol and food parcels to bribe voters to vote; civil servants were threatened with dismissal if they didn’t register to vote;
  • most ballot papers were spoiled – partly because the depictions of the candidates were unclear; there was official vote rigging: the regime used army trucks to transport voters from one area to another to cast votes fraudulently for favoured regime candidates;
  • to attract voters there was a sudden surge on election days in the distribution of food parcels used by the World Vision "Work for Food" program –- a blatant misuse of the program;
  • the regime has failed in its pretence at gender equality by failing to attract women candidates to have 30% women in the assembly. At most 17% will be women, and only if the king’s direct appointees are all women.

This information was presented at a meeting of the CPS central committee held at the end of September.

The positions of Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) concerning the regime’s elections were wholly focused on technical aspects, such as the supply of ballot boxes. The CPS hopes that the reports by these organisations on the elections will have something to say about their undemocratic nature, in addition to the fact that the elections quickly degenerated into a corrupt shambles.

The CPS also hopes that the governments of individual states in the Southern Africa region will pluck up the courage to say something about the lack of democracy highlighted by Mswati’s election charade.

The CPS stresses that statements made by the British think tank Chatham House in the run-up to the second round of the elections attempted to give people the false impression that the elections offered a window of opportunity for reforming the absolute monarchical regime. Using the pretence of academic objectivity, Chatham House essentially presented the regime as open to change.

The CPS views this insidious intervention, and the support it garnered from reactionary analysts in South Africa, as a slippery attempt by the British to block the efforts of pro-democracy forces opposing Mswati and his elections.

Chatham House and the US Freedom House produce reports that rightly highlight some elements of the terrible suffering imposed by the absolute monarchy on the Swazi people. But their concern is to ensure that a progressive, anti-capitalist, pro-people democracy does not replace the Mswati regime. They go out of their way to isolate progressive Swazi voices, and of course are dead against the CPS and its programs.

Similarly, the CPS is concerned at reports that the European Union intends to establish a permanent mission in Swaziland. We do not think that the scale of Swaziland’s economy or export portfolio warrants a EU presence in the country.

Nor does the CPS think that the development work carried out by the EU will improve things in the country. The developmental disaster that afflicts the Swazi people is systemic. It is engineered and sustained by the regime.

It is important that if the EU does set up shop in Swaziland that it does not interfere with Swazi civil society or the pro-democracy movement in the time-honoured imperial way of twisting political developments to Western wishes.

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Mon, 11/04/2013 - 22:35


Statement of the Communist Party of Swaziland


31st October 2013

The report of the Commonwealth Observer Mission (COM) to Swaziland to monitor the national elections is yet another whitewash of the anti-democratic and dictatorial regime of King Mswati III, one of the world’s last absolute rulers.

The COM report presents the elections that took place in Swaziland in September this year as bona fide democratic elections. It fails to scrutinize in any way the fact that political parties advocating free and fair multi-party elections were banned from taking part in the elections, and that they are anyway banned from openly operating in the country.

The COM report represents a concerted effort by forces outside Swaziland, and with guidance from the UK government, among others, to sustain the Mswati regime and ward off thorough social and political change to bring about democracy, the equal distribution of wealth, and equal opportunity for all.

Both the Commonwealth (an offshoot of British imperial rule and a base for continued British interference internationally) and the London-based Chatham House depict Swaziland as a place where incremental democratic reform is taking place.

They either ignore or condemn the pro-democracy movement in Swaziland for its opposition to the undemocratic elections staged by the Mswati regime. The British have an interest in Swaziland for historical reasons and because Mswati is a close friend of the British royal family.

The only reasons the elections in Swaziland were performed were to revamp Mswati’s power base and to present a mask of democracy-in-the-making to a credulous – or cynical – international community.

The only reasonable conclusion the COM should have made after witnessing the electoral farce in Swaziland is that elections cannot be held in an environment where there is a total absence of democracy.

Instead, the Commonwealth mission mendaciously states in its report that it has abided by the International Declaration of Principles (IDPs) on election monitoring.

But the IDPs unequivocally define their applicability as relating to “genuine democratic elections” as an “expression of sovereignty” providing “the basis for the authority and legitimacy of government.”

The IDPs stress the need for election observation to monitor the “right to vote and the right to be elected.” The principles state that monitoring must scrutinise “discrimination based on political or other opinions.”

In the Swazi context, these principles underscore the undemocratic nature of the Mswati regime’s elections. It is deceitful of the Commonwealth Observer Mission to depict itself as bound by the International Declaration of Principles.

It is also deceitful of the Commonwealth to suggest that Swaziland has embarked on a process of democratisation, of which the elections are the latest, heart-warming manifestation.

The Communist Party of Swaziland and others in the pro-democracy movement have consistently pointed out that this process is an illusion, designed to maintain absolute control by Mswati and his family over all aspects of public life and the economy in Swaziland.

That the Commonwealth and Chatham House so consistently ignore or denigrate the pro-democracy movement in Swaziland is ample testimony as to where their true interests and sympathies lie.

It is time to put an end to the whitewashing of the Mswati regime by outside forces.


Kenneth Kunene

General Secretary

Mobile: +2772 594 3971

Email: ken.manze@gmail.com


Felix Mabaso

International Organizer

Mobile: +2774 922 8277

Email: felixmabaso@gmail.com