Swaziland
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EBC EXPECTS 650 000 EMASWATI TO REGISTER FOR ELECTIONS

LOBAMBA – At least 650 000 emaSwati are expected to register for the 2023 national elections.

These figures were shared by the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) Communications Officer, Mbonisi Bhembe. In the 2018 national elections, a total of 547 426 people registered for the elections, while 414 704 registered in 2013. Bhembe stated that the figures were informed by data they received from the National Statistics Department, under the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development. Today, the country will officially start the national registration for the elections. The officer said all voter registration centres would be opened at 8am today.

Exercise

Yesterday, when this reporter visited the EBC Offices at Nkhanini, officials were busy packing the equipment that will be used for the voter registration exercise. It was said that over 1 200 officials, who were hired to conduct registration were ready to kick-start the process. To ensure that the registration is not affected by the communication network, Bhembe said network providers were engaged to ensure full network coverage. “We engaged Eswatini MTN, Eswatini Mobile and Eswatini Posts and Telecommunications Corporation to ensure that there were no network glitches,” he said. He was responding to a question posed by this reporter following that in the 2018 elections, some places in rural communities experienced network glitches, caused by poor network coverage.

Registration

Bhembe stated that the new system had an offline option, which meant registration would not be halted, should the network signal be weak. He went on to urge people to partake in the registration process. Worth noting, the 2023 national elections are taking place at a time when there are calls to boycott the elections by pro-democratic groups. On the other hand, some are calling for a national dialogue before the elections.  Bhembe warned that people were not supposed to influence others to boycott the elections. He mentioned that the Elections Act stated that people who disrupted elections, either by uttering words or performing certain actions, were liable to a E20 000 fine or two-year jail sentence. He went on to explain that people could register at a voting station near them. They do not need to register in stations under the constituencies where they will be voting.

To ensure that everyone was included in the registration, Bhembe said they had also organised a provision for all emaSwati in diaspora. He added that companies were welcome to contact the EBC and invite them to conduct registrations at their working premises. “Those in the diaspora will be able to register in embassies or sites that will be availed to them,” he said. However, the diaspora community will not have an opportunity to nominate but can only vote. When he was asked on how they would ensure that there were no disruptions, more especially from people who were against the national elections, Bhembe said they banked their hope on the country’s national security services. “I cannot divulge much information on security, but I can promise that the State intelligent agencies have everything under control, people will be safe during the entire exercise,” he said.

Yesterday at the EBC offices, officials were busy packing the equipment and loading it into cars that will be used for the registration. Technicians were testing the equipment and packing it in boxes, as well as stationery and furniture that will be used at the registration sites. Vehicles were all over the EBC yard loading the machinery, among the other items, for transportation to the registration centres. Bhembe explained that they had partnered with organisations of people with disabilities, and would conduct nationwide campaigns, where they would ensure that they also had the chance to register and participate in the entire exercise. He added that they would also have Sign Language interpreters to ensure inclusivity.