WE HAVE SEEN THE CAMPAIGN POSTERS: WHY NO ASPIRING MP IS CAMPAIGNING ON THE PLATFORM TO RELEASE BACEDE AND MTHANDENI?

The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) has announced September 29 as the day of voting for new parliamentarians in eSwatini. This has meant that those aspiring to be MPs are now allowed, by regulations and laws governing elections, to campaign. T

he political jamboree of our Tinkhundla elections has reached its crescendo and boy it is a painful sight to watch. If the world needed to see what 45 years of depoliticising a nation and denying it multi-party politics has done, then this year's elections have all the ingredients of a badly written comedy show playing to a disinterested audience.

You only have to see the posters of those who want to join parliament to appreciate the scale of the problem. Even by Tinkhundla expectations, the standards have not just gone low, they have disappeared. This is disregarding the very madness of making people campaign for less than a month in a national election. Who died and woke up with the bright idea that people must not campaign and only do so in the last month of the election cycle?

Even though campaign posters are now all over the internet, T-shirts are now plastered with aspiring MPs' faces and walls have pictures of those to vote for the messaging has been disappointing though. If the bar was ever low now we have buried it.

First, our aspiring MPs don't know what exactly must make it into a campaign poster: Their personal attributes or what they will do once they exercise political power? What should constitute a campaign "manifesto" as opposed to local service delivery issues? What will be the role of parliamentarians anyway?

And what are the national issues facing the country and what will they do about them? One may argue that outside of the need to reform the system the key pressing issues facing the country are youth unemployment, the health crisis, grand scale corruption, lack of roads infrastructure (especially in rural areas), legislating nothing below E3500 minimum wage, scholarships for students, the crisis at the university, improving grants for the elderly, disabled, orphaned and a living wage for job seekers.


There are many other issues but these are by far the most pressing. Why have we not seen our aspiring MPs surfacing these issues as campaign points? A casual look at the campaign issues of those intending to go to parliament shows how we lack an appreciation of service delivery issues (that are determined, in the main, by whether one will control the national purse and are often times local—something that again takes us to the need to reform the electoral system) as well as policy issues that affect everyone and must be dealt with at a national level through correct and people-centered budgeting, legislative and policy reform and shifting power to the people. This can be summed up as national agenda versus local agenda.

Some of our aspiring MPs do not even make pretences to dealing with any issues, local or national. They just want people to vote for them because they are "cute, honest, have integrity" or any of those personal traits that have no bearing on the political, economic and developmental crisis we collectively bear. By far the most disappointing is from erstwhile PUDEMO stalwart and now SWALIMO senior official, Sabelo Dlamini, who couldn't even provide his agenda for parliament in his poster. His poster has three campaign points "lwati (knowledge), sibindzi (bravery) and inhlonipho (respect)".

For a man who gave this country Black Wednesday through his outstanding leadership and activism at the university and was once tried for High Treason for daring to imagine a future outside of this system plus his extensive experience in the private sector, one would have thought there would be far more substance to his "manifesto" than the average aspiring MP.

The fact that he is a SWALIMO executive, a grouping we have pinned our hopes to provide "opposition from within" then he has been a dump squib. We look to Dlamini to provide substance where stupidity reigns and to be the shining light in a country lacking in vision and leadership. And this is not to isolate him. No one else has made any national agenda in their campaign.

The one pressing political hot potato is the release of the jailed former MPs, return of the exiled Mduduzi Simelane and a plan on negotiating a transition to democracy. It would have been important for our aspiring MPs to make this a campaign point so we judge the political temperature of the electorate and their readiness for reforms. It is even more disappointing that even those who want to "fight from within" have not been bold enough to use the release of Bacede and Mthandeni, the reform of the system, the return of exiles etc as campaign points.


How then will we know if the electorate agrees with those who want change if even the advocates for such change are not bold enough to sell their politics to the electorate? In a country where the release of the jailed MPs was a big talking point in our politics for almost two years it is indeed disappointing that no one is finding it fit to make it a pressing agenda that the new government must address.

The less said about the banality of the rest of the campaign process the better. Tinkhundla election indeed does feel like an expensive comedy show. Our children shall laugh at us we ever called this thing an election.