The Bridge Elections Analysis Series

Imagine an aspiring Member of Parliament (MP) “X” addressing a starving, naïve, apolitical, and gullible community in the far-flung areas of eSwatini, saying:

“Please vote for me. I want to be a true representative of the people and influence the process of enacting legislation around tax collection issues, competition and communication issues, environmental sustainability, and labour issues. I want to address the legislative deficiencies around the protection of women and children, and the rise in domestic violence. As soon as I get into parliament, I want to make it a priority that the executive is held accountable, and that resources are allocated to the right programs that will benefit our people – I want to make sure that parliament plays its key role of being a custodian of the National Treasury and be completely in charge of the nation’s finances through making sure that the executive does not raise, borrow or spend money without parliament’s thorough scrutiny and thoughtful approval. The men and women at Hospital Hill in Mbabane will never relax as long as I am in parliament; I will always raise the toughest of questions in order to protect you, the people. I will bring forward life-changing motions that lead to tangible progress in the lives of the ordinary people of this country. Ladies and gentlemen, please vote for me.”

Then, right after aspiring MP “X”, another candidate, aspiring MP “Y”, stands up to say:

“Ladies and gentlemen, I stand here because I feel like crying each time I see our youth wandering in the village, around spaza shops, and along cattle tracks, without a sports ground. When I am elected into parliament I will build a sports ground right across the local secondary school. We will build a proper road to the nearest town. We need a college here. A new and proper bridge will be built; I have observed how our children struggle to get to school during rainy days. Those days are over. The time has come for factories to be built here in our community and get the unemployed youth to have a source of income. I will build a clinic and ensure that the elderly get their medication in the comfort of their community, without having to travel kilometres to town. I can assure you that clean and running water is coming here. Please vote for me.”

Obviously, your guess is as good as mine in terms of who would get the highest number of votes. Candidate “X” is less likely going to make it, and “Y” will enjoy a resounding victory and get himself or herself a seat in the eSwatini Parliament!

Now, the truth of the matter is that “Y” is a liar and will never deliver the things he/she would have promised the people, because he/she is not campaigning to head the executive (read government) and preside over the state for him or her to deliver things like healthcare, education, jobs, roads, and bridges. But, because of the gullibility, naivety, and lack of consciousness on the part of the ordinary masses, Candidate “Y” will win, go to parliament, and fail to deliver those things.

The people will get disappointed in this MP (read Candidate “Y”) and be stuck with him/her for the next five years! It goes without saying that the chances of this person being voted back into office are as slim as the eSwatini National Soccer Team winning the COSAFA tournament, never mind qualifying for AFCON. When this person loses the election or decides not to contest, the same way Minister Harries ‘Madze’ Bulunga did, because of failure to deliver what you promised the people, a new person will stand up, deceive the people, and get elected for five years. Again, this MP will not deliver as promised and the lives of the people will get worse. Poverty, hunger, unemployment, disease, and lack of educational scholarships will define the conditions of the people. Such is the cycle of the elections in eSwatini.

The sad part of it is that the Tinkhundla elections result in a situation whereby those who are appointed wield real and serious power, and those elected by the people will go to parliament and be useless, disappoint the masses, be punished by losing the next election, and suffer the insults of the people as if someone else would have done better. That is why the return rate of an elected MP in eSwatini is highly unlikely. Those who make it have to dig deeper into their support coffers to try and do something for the community by themselves and through self-hustled support from business friends, or at least get promoted by the government by supporting his or her community developmental projects. And that is why the system will rarely ever have a career politician – someone whose job is politics.

Anyway, the country is in an election mode and the 29th of September is Secondary Elections Day. New elections, new faces, fresh promises, and more disappointments for the next five years!