Swaziland
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EBC QUESTIONED OVER MTHANDENI, BACEDE ARREST

MANZINI – The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) was questioned over the arrest of members of parliament (MPs).

EBC officials were called to explain the arrest of the MPs, Mthandeni Dube of Ngwempisi and Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza of Hosea, during a civic and voter education exercise at Moneni Umphakatsi yesterday. The residents requested the commission to explain its silence on the arrests of the MPs and to also give assurance that the next MP would not be arrested. At least three community members wanted to know if the commission was able to protect and defend MPs from victimisation. Mbongeni Nxumalo said what happened to the two MPs was most likely to happen to any MP they were going to elect. He alleged that the two MPs were arrested after raising critical issues in Parliament.

elections

“We cannot sit and watch, we want to participate in the elections, but we have a situation here that needs to be attended by the EBC. Can you at least explain to us what happened to the two MPs, why were they arrested and what guarantee we have that the next MP we will elect will not be arrested. We are worried and afraid to even elect anyone because we might be sending that person to jail like the people of Hosea and Ngwempisi. They thought they were electing their MPs only to find out they were sending them to jail,” said Nxumalo. His submission was supported by the residents as more questions were asked around the protection of those who will be elected. Mfanafuthi Khumalo said the matter was very sensitive and the commission should attend to it with urgency. Khumalo said elections were becoming scary and even though he wanted to participate this year, he was not sure if it was safe. “Baboshelweni vele labo MP? What is the use of participating in the election process if the MPs will get arrested and EBC will pretend as if nothing happened?” asked Khumalo.  

EBC Officer Tholakele Sihlongonyane said the matter was beyond the jurisdiction of the commission, as it was now in the hands of the courts. She, however, elaborated that the elections were conducted in a free and fair manner. “People should not be afraid to participate in the election process, it is a free and fair process and we can only assure people that much. We might not be able to give you responses on the issues you have raised, but the role of EBC is to ensure that the election process is conducted properly. The election procedure is very clear and the commission remains committed to the process,” she said.  

committing

It is worth mentioning that, the MPs were charged for allegedly committing crimes under the Suppression of Terrorism Act and murder, among others. They have been on trial for over a year. Sihlongonyane further explained the duties and responsibilities of MPs, indvuna and bucopho. She said MPs were responsible for passing laws as legislators in Parliament and they were further required to play an oversight role to the Executive arm of governance. She added that another role of an MP was to be a conduit for the legislature and the executive to the people. “The role of MPs has been misunderstood for the longest period in history and I want to state clearly that the law does not expect an MP to do more than the three roles I have mentioned. An MP cannot construct bridges for you because that is part of the work of the Executive arm of governance,” she said. Officers from EBC took the residents through the official stages of the election process and the importance of voting. The residents were taught on why it was important for every voter to be registered and how to vote.

information

Civic and voter education excercise means providing citizens of a democratic State with basic information about participating in elections. It is provided by the State through EBC, therefore, it is a politically non-partisan exercise. The commission educated the residents on the laws of the election and later opened the floor for questions. One of the residents, Thuthuka Dlamini questioned the rotation of Owen Nxumalo and Thandi Nxumalo as MPs in the area. Making submission during the voter education, Dlamini said EBC should regulate such instances where only two people change seats in Parliament. He requested that the matter be attended by the commission. Mzwandile Nkambule asked the commission to implement the power of recall so that the voters would be able to withdraw their MPs if they fail to deliver. “Elections have taught us that the MPs only come when they need our vote and after that, they do not come back to us. They make a number of promises which they fail to deliver and, therefore, it is imperative that as voters we should be able to withdraw them,” he said.

Sifiso Mkhonta asked the commission to remove all hostilities and advocate for the dialogue to be moved quickly so that political issues could be addressed. He said it was important for the dialogue to be held immediately before the elections to ensure that hostilities were removed. Mathokoza Lukhele challenged the commission to consider doing the civic and voter education excercise constantly in order to be able to address the questions of the people. He said the people needed answers on a number of issues around the elections, therefore, constant engagement was needed. Lukhele said EBC should also assist in ensuring that the MPs come back to the community to respond to their promises.