New survey

Swazis want democracy not just elections

Swaziland will hold national elections on Friday amid waves of strikes and protests. A new survey from Afrobarometer shows that few Swazis believe that they are free to speak their mind or that Swaziland is a proper democracy.
18. september 2018

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Swaziland could be heading for its lowest turn-out ever at a national election on Friday, with only a little over 25 percent of eligible voters voting in the first round of elections in August.

The run-up to elections was also marred by waves of strikes and protests from teachers, nurses and other public employees who are demanding higher wages.

A new survey published Monday by Pan-African research network Afrobarometer shows that dissatisfaction with the political system and conditions generally in Swaziland runs deep. The main problems for the 1200 people surveyed were unemployment, bad management of the economy and poverty.

Not a real democracy
The Afrobarometer survey asked an array of questions on matters ranging from democracy and elections to food security and internet connections.

Only 4 percent believe that conditions in Swaziland are very good and a further 17 percent that they are fairly good. Perhaps because over half had gone without food and over two thirds had experienced having no money during the last year in a country that Oxfam called the most unequal in the world last year.

Regarding Swaziland’s political system, where political parties are in effect banned and King Mswati controls the economy and judiciary and appoints the Prime Minister and government, only 7 percent believed that Swaziland is a full democracy and 21 percent that they are completely free to speak their mind.

After the last national elections in Swaziland in 2013, reports from the Commonwealth Observer Mission said that elections had shown “major democratic deficits” and the EU elections Experts Mission that there were “fundamental problems [with] the system of government”.

Be careful what you say
As for possible solutions to Swaziland’s democratic deficit, 49 percent of those surveyed by Afrobarometer believed that multi-party democracy is a pre-condition for political choice and 60 percent that they should be able to join any such organization of their choice.

Nevertheless, 61 percent believed that the ban on political parties should be maintained and only 6 percent said that they had participated in a demonstration of protest in the past year. 78 percent agreed that they would “never do this” and 48 percent said that they trust King Msati “a lot” (only 20 percent showed the PM the same curtesy).

Perhaps the reason for this discrepancy is that nearly two thirds said that they believed that you have to be careful what you say about politics in Swaziland (two thirds even thought that you have to be careful how you vote in an election).

And because nearly half mistakenly thought that the survey was carried out by the government.


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