News / Africa

Critics Slam Swaziland Polls

Anita Powell
Voters in the tiny African nation of Swaziland are choosing a parliament. But critics say the poll in Africa’s last absolute monarchy is a sham. They include the U.S.-based watchdog Freedom House, which this week issued a scathing condemnation of the system that gives the king full executive powers.

As voters in the landlocked African nation of Swaziland mulled over their ballots Friday, there remained one very important figure whose position they are not allowed to challenge.

Swaziland's King, Mswati III, front, dances during a Reed Dance in Mbabane, Sept. 3, 2013.Swaziland's King, Mswati III, front, dances during a Reed Dance in Mbabane, Sept. 3, 2013.
x
Swaziland's King, Mswati III, front, dances during a Reed Dance in Mbabane, Sept. 3, 2013.
Swaziland's King, Mswati III, front, dances during a Reed Dance in Mbabane, Sept. 3, 2013.
King Mswati the third has led this nation since 1986, and as the nation’s chief executive, has final say over all decisions. After voters choose 55 legislators on Friday, he will choose 10 additional MPs and name a prime minister.  The king is an outsized figure in his tiny country: many Swazis live in dire poverty against the backdrop of the king’s lavish lifestyle.

Swazi activist Kenneth Kunene, who is a harsh critic of the king and head of Swaziland’s banned communist party, is part of a coalition that called for a boycott of the poll. Elections are held every five years.

Kunene spent election day in South Africa - just 100 meters from the border of his home country. He said he had not been able to return since 2005 out of fear of arrest and persecution. He spoke to VOA during an anti-vote demonstration at South Africa’s Jeppes Reef border post.

“We view the elections or the process of the polling as a sham process ... And again further that the world institutions, including SADC and its member countries, must further call them as no elections as in Swaziland, on the fact that they are undemocratic, because political parties are not allowed to participate in Swaziland, political opposition is intimidated, it’s criminalized and their leaders and its activists are being arrested daily,” he said.

But Swaziland’s Electoral Commission spokesman, Sabelo Dlamini, said that the poll was legitimate and that voters were enthusiastic.

Just days before Friday’s vote, U.S.-based watchdog Freedom House issued a report that harshly criticized the country’s political landscape.

“It might be difficult for somebody who lives in a democracy to imagine a situation where all of the powers of the state and quite a large part of the economy of the state is controlled by just one man," said the agency’s Johannesburg-based project director, Cathal Gilbert.

"It’s sort of inconceivable to us who live in developed democracies to think that could happen, but that is in fact exactly what’s happening in 2013 in Swaziland, in what is a small country hidden away on the borders of South Africa, where 1.2 million people survive under a monarchy that has taken all of the powers of the state, that controls the judiciary completely, that rules over a parliament with absolutely no powers, and that has plundered the resources of the country to such an extent that they can only afford to spend $23 dollars a year on healthcare for each Swazi.”

The king - estimated to be worth some $200 million - is often criticized for his lavish lifestyle for himself and his dozen wives, and extravagant annual birthday parties. Freedom House’s report estimates that he controls 60 percent of Swaziland’s economy.

South Africa is Swaziland's main trading partner and may be able to exert financial pressure on the regime. In 2011, the king failed to secure a $240 million loan from South Africa, after he refused to accept some of the loan conditions, such as political reforms. Gilbert said civil society groups within Swaziland lobbied South Africa to impose those conditions -- a clear sign, he said, that Swazis wanted to see democratic transformation.

You May Like

Conflicts Engulf Christians in Mideast

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Chinese Americans: Don’t Call Us 'Model Minority'

Label points to collective achievement, but some say it triggers resentment, unrealistic expectations More

Iran Bolsters Phone, Internet Surveillance

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Polish Ghetto

When the Nazi army moved into the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid