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FORMER Chairman of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) Chief Gija once said it would have been a miracle if everything had gone smoothly, as such could only be achieved by Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He had been responding to numerous challenges that had marred the election process back in 2013.

These included illegal campaigns, a lack of transportation in some constituencies and the transporting of textile workers by candidates in other areas. He assured then that his office would resolve these challenges going forward. As the nation treks to the polling stations tomorrow, it expects a seamless process that enables them to enjoy their right to vote freely and fairly. It’s fair to say that some pieces of election legislation have already been violated, with campaigns long underway by aspiring candidates. The EBC has indicated that they have received and are dealing with about 1 000 objections since the voters roll was released, and these need to have been resolved before the opening of the nomination processes tomorrow.
Below are some areas that one hopes will not be spoilers for the nomination process.

-Venue changes and dress codes: In previous nomination processes, last-minute changes in venues affected some voters, so we hope this won’t go down as a nomination spoiler this time around. As nominations are legislated to take place at imiphakatsi (the chief’s residence or royal kraal), the electorate is expected to respect the traditional norms of these venues. Women are not expected to enter wearing pants, while widows in mourning gowns have also found themselves going only as far as the gate. No hats or caps for males too. Some communities changed venues to allow all, particularly widows, to participate without hindrance, but proper notification wasn’t done, resulting in others arriving late or not at all. We can’t afford a repeat of these setbacks tomorrow if we are to evaluate the process as free and fair.

-More women voters, less in office: In 2018 the elections report noted that there were more women nominated under the MP category as compared to bucopho and indvuna yenkhundla in the whole country. However, only 15 per cent of women made it through the primary elections for the MP position, and then dropped drastically to three per cent at the secondary elections. To all the women out there, it’s time to vote for your own – all the way. Take a leaf from thriving Rwanda, where a high number of her parliamentarians are women. The development speaks for itself.

- United and divided communities?: One other important aspect of the elections process, especially at the nomination stage, is that it serves as a survey of how united or divided our communities are. United communities will most likely have a similar representative in mind. In the past, we have witnessed some largely populated chiefdoms with very few nominees, while very small chiefdoms came up with a large number of nominees. While the Elections Act provides for not less than three and not more than 20 candidates, having more than three candidates, in my view, is counterproductive to both the community and country. We will also be witnessing the impact of chieftaincy disputes as the King has recently appointed chiefs to resolve disputes and fill the gaps. Let’s hope we do not get robbed of highly capable or deserving individuals because of the lack of unity in some areas.

- School children nominated: One other highlight from the past is seeing some communities remove pupils from class and want to send them to Parliament by placing them on the nomination list. Yes, they may be over 18 and qualify to vote and be voted for, but do we really expect an individual who is yet to pass Form V to deliver on the expectations of a legislator when even the well-educated find it a struggle? Can we not see a repeat of this. We have said it before, and we will say it again, Parliament involves a lot of reading, research, consultation and articulation to get the best recommendations accepted into law. The pieces of legislation they propose should be ones that make this society function properly through efficient and effective institutions for which Parliament provides oversight to help the country create job opportunities, build more roads, hospitals and clinics, schools, provide water and sanitation, etc, to make our lives better.

One trusts that the EBC has not left it to Jesus Christ to ensure all goes well but has combed through every aspect of previous challenges to ensure that we give the elections the seriousness they deserve. We need not be reminded that the nomination exercise is being held on the birthday of one of the most revered statesmen, which calls upon us to honour his legacy with candidates of his calibre if not better.