The Observer on Sunday, a newspaper in Swaziland in effect owned by King Mswati III, misled its readers when it reported that neigbouring South Africa was considering adopting the kingdom’s political system.
King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. His newspaper has been making concerted efforts recently to mislead its readers that the King and his undemocratic regime has support from outside the kingdom when it does not.
Last week it claimed that US President Barack Obama had backed the King’s statement that he would personally rid Swaziland of AIDS by 2022. No such support had been given.
In the latest misinformation the Observer reported that civil rights groups in South Africa were advocating for a change in the republic’s electoral system, ‘to incorporate a constituency-based method’.
The Observer added, ‘This is the same system of government practised in Swaziland and described in the kingdom’s constitution.’ In Swaziland the system of government is called tinkhundla.
In Swaziland political parties are banned from taking part in elections. Only 55 members in the 65-seat House of Assembly are elected by the people. King Mswati appoints the other 10. None of the kingdom’s 30 senators are elected by the people. The King chooses the government.
At Swaziland’s most recent national election in September 2013, international observers reported the poll was not fair. The Commonwealth and the African Union separately called for the Swazi Constitution to be rewritten.
Nobody in South Africa is advocating that this system. Nonetheless, the Observer quoted Swaziland Government Press Secretary Percy Simelane wishing the South Africans well, ‘as they push for the electoral reform’.
The newspaper reported Simelane saying, “The destiny of South Africa is in the hands of its people. Unless asked to assist, we shall not interfere nor influence their decision with a comment save to wish them all the best in whatever they want.”
Unlike in Swaziland, where people who wish to discuss the kingdom’s electoral system are harassed and arrested, in South Africa political debate is allowed.
At present in South Africa there are open discussions taking place about the suitability of the present system of proportional representation. Some people are saying that a system where people are elected to represent a single area or constituency might be better.
Nobody in the debate is advocating that political parties should not take part in elections, or that the head of state should personally select members of parliament or the government, as is the case in Swaziland.