Joint CSO Eswatini elections statement

> Freedom of Expression, Assembly and Association, Human Rights > Swaziland, Eswatini
Salc : Staff Writer

Elections took place in Eswatini on the 21 September. According to both the African Union Observer Mission (AUEOM) and SADC Observer Mission (SEOM) preliminary statements, the electoral process was conducted in a generally calm and peaceful environment. While the AU statements notes the wage related workers protests during the week preceding elections, it concluded that the electoral process was peaceful, despite the violence directed at striking workers by the police in Manzini. According to the Public Order Act of 2017, police may only intervene in a gathering if it is in line with the law and only if failure to do so would create an immediate danger to public order or safety. This was not the case in the pre-election crackdown on protesting civil servants who were seemingly attacked for daring to protest.

The AUEOM encourages the Government of ESwatini to consider reviewing the 1973 decree to allow for the formation, registration and participation of political parties in elections in accordance with the provisions of the 2005 Constitution, and in compliance with the country’s international commitment. The SEOM statement failed to make any recommendations with respect to the participation of political parties in elections; failed to acknowledge the context within which elections took place and commented exclusively on the election process. The AUEOM also urges the ESwatini authorities to consider entrenching the principle of separation of powers between the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary in accordance with the 2007 African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. The AUEOM noted that canvassing for votes during primary elections is prohibited and concluded that the prohibition of campaigning during primary elections does not allow for thorough scrutiny of potential candidates to be elected to parliament.

Following the elections, the Swazi Industrial Court on Sunday 23 September ruled that the three day Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) strike which was planned for this week should be postponed until a new government is in place.  The court confirmed however that the strike was legal. The court also ruled that the National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU) which commenced last week could not continue because the union had not given sufficient notice of the intention to continue. Both unions are seeking pay increases. This limitation of the rights of unions to protest is a concern. It is also a concern that the Swazi courts have refused to recognise and permit unions to organise protest action on frivolous grounds.

Neither of these election monitoring reports comments on the fact that the 2005 Constitution which introduced significant reforms, continues to ensure that the King maintains far more power than the electorate, making it very difficult for the electorate to hold parliament accountable. The King personally appoints the Prime Minister, the cabinet and two-thirds of members of the Senate. The Constitution provides for the right to freedom of association. However, section 79 of the Constitution has been interpreted to exclude political parties from the electoral process, although individual members of political parties are able to contest the elections in their personal capacities. Lack of political opposition in parliament means that there are limited checks on the powers of the executive. Lack of opposition also heightens possibilities that key legislative decisions, including decisions relating to the need to improve human rights, are taken with little debate. Swaziland is signatory to the AU Elections Protocol and the SADC Elections Protocol, which have not been adhered to, yet this non-adherence was not commented on by either the AUEOM or the SEOM.

The full AU Observer Mission preliminary statement is available here:

https://au.int/en/pressreleases/20180924/african-union-election-observation-mission-2018-general-elections-kingdom

The full SADC Observer Mission preliminary statement is available here:

https://www.sadc.int/files/7915/3771/6210/SEOM_-Eswatini_-_Final_Interim_Statement-_23_SEP_2018_-_2018_General_Elections.pdf

Issued jointly by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), COSPE ONLUS Swaziland and Foundation for Socio Economic Justice (FSEJ).

This statement has been endorsed by the following organisations:

Swaziland Rural Women’s Assembly (SRWA)

Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF)

Political Assembly (SWADEPA and NNLC)

Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT)

Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA)

The Swaziland Concerned Church Leaders (SCCL)

Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS)

Swaziland Domestic Workers Union (DU)

Swaziland Community Multi Media Network (SCMN)

Rock of Hope – ROH

Luvatsi Youth Organization