Swaziland
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GEBENI RESIDENTS THREATEN TO BOYCOTT ENTIRE ELECTIONS IF ...

MBABANE – Gebeni residents have shunned registration for the national elections and threaten to boycott the entire elections exercise, if their demands are not met.

The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), on Wednesday, kick-started the second phase of the national elections, the registration process, which followed the civic and voter education exercise. The commission published over 500 registration sites that people could use to register for the 2023 national elections. The registration is expected to last until June 14, 2023.  While emaSwati in several communities are exercising their right and registering for the elections, residents of Gebeni have opted to shun the voters registration exercise and possibly the entire 2023 elections.

This comes after a meeting the residents had this past Saturday, where the decision was taken as the community was of the view that their chiefdom was not recognised. The community is engulfed in a chieftaincy dispute. The area’s Chief, Nkosini Dlamini, died in 1984 and there has not been a replacement since, but the residents maintained their chiefdom through the inner council (Bandlancane) and headman. The residents mentioned that despite the absence of a chief, they were able to partake in the national elections in the past years.

Registration

Gebeni is one of the communities under Ntondozi Inkhundla in the Manzini Region. According to published list of voter registration sites, Gebeni residents can register at their primary and high schools. However, according to the inner council members, Jerome Kunene and Paul Kunene, residents of the area opted not to partake in the entire elections process unless certain issues were fixed in the community, mainly being that they wanted their chiefdom to be recognised. According to the inner council, they felt sidelined during the entire exercise of the elections. Firstly, they stated that the EBC did not conduct the civic and voter education exercise in their community. Adding, the inner council members said they learnt during the process of selecting people who would be hired by EBC to conduct the registration that a certain chiefdom had already put in names of people who would conduct the registration.
Normally, people who conduct registration in the community are residents who work along senior members of the community, known as imisumpe.

According to the headman, the people who were conducting the registration were from Ndlinilembi, a chiefdom that they learnt recently that they were transferred to. “Imisumpe yaseNdlinilembi nebantfwana bakhona bacashwe kutsi babhalise sive saseBebeni,” said the headman. They said they went to EBC before the entire process started, but no one had the time to hear them out. The inner council, together with the residents, said they took a decision not to partake in the entire elections exercise until the issue was sorted. They said they wanted the people of Ndlinilembi removed from their registration sites. They said they felt that their area was being stolen right under their nose. “We have decided to boycott the entire exercise,” said Jerome, who is also a member of the inner council at Gebeni. EBC Communications Officer Mbonisi Bhembe, when asked about what was transpiring at Gebeni, stated that they were expecting residents of Gebeni to be also registering for elections like any other emaSwati.

When he was asked about the issue of imisumpe and registration officers from Ndlinilembi being deployed at Gebeni, Bhembe stated that there was a feeling that the residents wanted to drag EBC into issues that were outside its core business. He stated that if there were disputes in the area, the residents should take it up with the relevant structures, not EBC. “As far as we know, officers and equipment were deployed and Gebeni registration should be going ahead. EBC shouldn’t be dragged into chieftaincy disputes,” he said. Bhembe also said if people decided to shun the national exercise, they were stripping themselves of their democratic right to choose a government they wanted.