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MBABANE – “There is no longer a reason for progressives not to allow their members to contest for elections.”

These were the words the Deputy Chairperson of PUDEMO’s Mafucula-Tsambokhulu area branch, Sicelo Vilane, which he used to describe the stand by the political organisation to boycott elections. In previous reports, it had been stated that PUDEMO was against their members registering to vote or even standing for elections under the current system of governance. Vilane, who is also the former Secretary General of the Media Workers Union of Swaziland (MWUS), said telling members not to vote, was ‘outdated’. He was also the once in the executive of the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO), where he was the information and publicity secretary.

PUDEMO was formed on July 7, 1983 and has consistently maintained a stand not to participate in the country’s elections. Vilane’s statement comes a few weeks after the National Organising Secretary (NOS) of the PUDEMO Women’s League Bonakele Metfula said she had resigned and that she would support her brother in the upcoming elections. Eswatini uses a system known as Tinkhundla, whereby there is no political party registration allowed, but candidates stand for parliamentary elections as individuals. In other countries such as the United States of America (USA), candidates stand as party representatives while independent ones are also permitted. However, neighbouring Republic of  South  Africa (SA), previously only allowed political party representatives but also recently included individual candidates to stand.


Under Tinkhundla, there is no law barring a political party member from registering for elections on individual basis. “I am aware of my organisation’s stand when it comes to participating in the upcoming elections. However, I decided to take a community-centred ground decision to contest this year’s elections,” he said. He said he was advised by the community to contest for elections and that it would have been a great mistake not to contest. Vilane said the wishes of his community was to ‘send him wherever they wished so’. He said he was 100 per cent ready for this position and that his community, once they elected him would enjoy non-ending service delivery.

Vilane said he was a member of his community before he became a member of PUDEMO. “My community comes first, not the political party,” he stated. He said it is expected that there could be a few hiccups by joining parliament, but this could be adjusted. Vilane said these hiccups could be sorted in future. He said shunning elections was no longer viable. “I do not buy into the boycott of elections principle,” he added.  Vilane said the organisation had many brave and intelligent citizens who were members of progressives and that preventing them from standing for elections would be like denying the country bright minds, and courageous minds in the leadership. He said because of the stand taken by some political organisations not to contest, the country would be deprived of youth that could contribute positively. “Who will suffer by these selfish tendencies?” he asked, responding that it would be the citizens of this country who would suffer.


Also, he said the international community was looking at how Eswatini would handle the elections. He said they were checking if political parties would contest the elections. He said it would not be in the interest of the government to commit political mistakes because the international community was watching. “So, let us join the elections,” he said. Vilane was also asked if his organisation was aware that he had taken the stand to participate in the elections. He said he had not indicated formally but that some of the members within the organisation already knew about his plans.
He insisted that he believed that democracy was about the people and that if they want you to represent them, you should do so. He also revealed that it appeared that while most PUDEMO members would not participate in the elections, there was also a large number of those who believed in contesting.

Vilane also said the positive side of allowing political party members to participate in the elections was that it would mean the elections would run smoothly. He also urged that even the authorities should not discourage those progressively who want to join the race to parliament because could be good for the country. “Instead of the violence we saw, this will not happen because the will be able to debate the issues instead of causing violence,” he said.