Swaziland
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ANOTHER LOCAL GOVT ELECTIONS CANDIDATE WANTS FRESH START OF ELECTIONS

MBABANE – Yet another Local Government Elections candidate has taken the court route to seek a fresh start of the elections.

Sifiso Trevor Nhlengethwa of Nhlangano has followed in the footsteps of former Mbabane Mayor Zephaniah Nkambule and Lawyer Mxolisi Dlamini who lost to Maphevu Dlamini in the elections under the Municipal Council of Mbabane Ward 1 (Mahwalala) on June 24, 2023.
Nhlengethwa wants the High Court to set aside the Local Government Elections results of Nhlangano Town Council Ward 2. He also applied for an order that the elections under Ward 2 be started afresh. Nhlengethwa’s contention is that his name, Sifiso Trevor Nhlengethwa, was allegedly recorded as Ndumiso Treasure Nhlengethwa on the list of candidates.

In his application founding affidavit, Nhlengethwa told the court that he first registered as a voter, and upon inspection of the voters roll, his name appeared, but upon inspection of the candidates list, he discovered that his name was recorded as Ndumiso Treasure Nhlengethwa. He informed the court that he drew the attention of the Returning Officer, Sandile Mahlalela, to the anomaly.

Assured

He alleged that he was assured that the error would be rectified. Nhlengethwa also told the court that on the day of the elections, June 24, 2023, he received various calls from his supporters who complained that his name did not appear in the ballot papers. “I must mention that some of my prospective voters did not know me personally but my agents had done a good job and I was expecting a good turnout. “Further compounding the issue was the fact that one of my rivals, the third respondent (Ndumiso Khumalo –the eventual winner) to be precise, was also named Ndumiso although he has a different surname.

Some of my prospective voters also mentioned that due to the confusion, they made random votes as they were not sure of the rightful candidate.
“Even those who know me had difficultly as the name was different, so with pictures one is never sure. “Upon realising the nature and extent of the plunder, I approached the second respondent (returning officer) and drew his attention to the error. Unfortunately he told me there was no way the elections could be stopped and my best option would be to take up the matter with the first respondent,” Nhlengethwa alleged. The veracity of these allegations is still to be tested in court. The respondents, Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Prince Simelane, returning officer, the winner and attorney general have filed a notice of intention to oppose the application. Melusi Simelane of Piliso, Simelane and Partners are yet to file their reasons for opposing Nhlengethwa’s application.

Response

The applicant stated that he wrote to the principal secretary (PS), however, he allegedly did not get a response until June 30, 2023, when he was advised to approach the court. “It is my humble submission from the foregoing that the results of Ward 2 for the elections were not free and fair as most of my prospective voters could not identify me in the ballot papers, resulting in me losing votes which could have changed the result.
Accordingly, it is my humble submission further that the above honourable court is entitled to nullify the results and order fresh elections to be held for the ward to reflect the correct outcome,” Nhlengethwa pleaded with the court. The applicant said it would be prudent if the matter was finalised before the town council resumed serious business. On June 24, 2023, Nhlengethwa wrote to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and raised the issue of alleged ‘spoilt elections’ for Ward 2.

He stated in the letter that he was one of the candidates for the Local Government Elections under Nhlangano Town Council. “I am writing to you about a challenge and confusion in the voting place which could be detrimental to my election. “My name did not appear at all and yet I represent a lot of people in my ward and community, who popularly know me by my name.

Most of the people who want to vote for me are complaining that they cannot see my name, which can manipulate the votes that I can get.
“I have spoken to the presiding officer, Mr. Mahlalela, about my concern. I know there is a process to follow in order to request a referral for evaluation and holding fresh elections for Ward 2. “I would like to know how to do this. Can you please call me as soon as possible because I want to know what the stand is as I do not know the outcome of this mistake, either Sifiso Nhlengethwa would be voted out or Ndumiso Nhlengethwa would be voted out. (sic)”

Celebrate

After the elections were concluded countrywide, Prince Simelane, when briefing members of the media, said the ministry would not celebrate just yet. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development is responsible for, among other things, conducting Local Government Elections in the country.
Last Friday, the High Court declared the elections results under Ward 1 in Mbabane a nullity and disqualified the winner under Ward 1, Maphevu, from the elections held on June 24, 2023.
Maphevu’s disqualification was on the basis of acts of electoral malpractice, bribery and commission of offences under the Urban Government Act of 1969.
The court also ordered that the Local Government Elections under Ward 1 should start afresh. Alternatively, the court ordered that the Municipal Council of Mbabane should allocate one day to allow voters who did not vote, a chance to vote under Ward 1.
The court further ordered a recount of votes under Ward 1. The recount, which was ordered by Judge Sabelo Masuku, was carried out by the Municipal Council of Mbabane in its chambers on Thursday.
Maphevu still emerged with the most votes, ahead of Nkambule and Lawyer Mxolisi Dlamini. Judge Masuku had ordered that the recounting process should follow all the protocols in place for that stage of the elections.
Judge Masuku went on to order the municipality council to file a report of the votes recount, together with an affidavit for the work conducted, and serve it on the parties involved in the matter.
The orders issued by the court operate on an interim basis and the matter will be argued on July 14, 2023, when the respondents are expected to tell the court why it should not confirm them.
The judge said the report would assist the court in determining the relief sought by former Mbabane Mayor Nkambule and Lawyer Mxolisi.
Mxolisi and Nkambule, among other prayers, want the elections under Ward 1 to start afresh.
The court further interdicted the Municipal Council of Mbabane from swearing in Maphevu as a Ward 1 councillor and this order was issued in the interim, to operate with immediate effect pending finalisation of the application filed by Mxolisi and Nkambule.
Grant
Hasso Magagula of Dynasty Inc Attorneys, who represents the applicants, informed the court last Friday that if the court did not grant the interim orders he was seeking, his clients would suffer irreparable harm.
He argued that it was not known yet when the swearing in of the newly-elected individuals would take place. Magagula informed the court that any order that they would be granted after the swearing-in would be academic.   
Acting PS in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development Makhosi Simelane told the court that the Local Government Elections were conducted in the right and correct manner.
In his opposing affidavit, the acting PS admitted that the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Prince Simelane, may have made a few utterances about the elections, but he denied that those utterances applied to Ward 1.
The minister, according to the acting PS, spoke of ballot papers arriving late in some wards and said this was not the case in Ward 1.
“There were enough ballot papers, polling stations opened on time. There was no disarray of any nature with this particular ward.
Relevance
“Therefore, the utterances made by the minister in question are of no relevance in the matter at present,” he said.
Simelane told the court that granting the orders sought by the applicants (former Mayor Nkambule and Lawyer Mxolisi) would halt all operations in Ward1 (Mahwalala) and affect those of the city.
He denied that the Local Government Elections held on June 24, 2023 were invalid. He said the elections were conducted in accordance with the Urban Government (Elections) Regulations of 1969.
According to the acting PS, there is no council in office at the moment and most, if not all, operations in the ward in question require the signature of a councillor.
He also informed the court that the date of swearing in the winner under Ward 1, Maphevu, had not been announced yet.
The Returning Officer, Bhekithemba Matsebula, denied that there were any violations of the elections regulations.
Matsebula, in his answering affidavit, said nobody reported that a Mahindra and Ford motor vehicles were transporting unknown people to the polling station.
He told the court that he did not see any of the mentioned motor vehicles.
He submitted that Mxolisi and Nkambule should have reported this to him and the police who were in the vicinity.
Both matters are pending in court.