The Southern African Development Community (SADC) launched its electoral observation mission to the 2018 General Elections in the Kingdom of Eswatini on 16 September 2018. Honourable Highvie Hamududu, Special Advisor to the Presidency for the Republic of Zambia and Head of the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM), led the launch representing the Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation His Excellency Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia.
In his remarks, Hon. Hamududu indicated that the mission to the Kingdom of Eswatini was at the invitation of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) of the Kingdom of Eswatini, a practice which is in conformity with the SADC Treaty; the SADC Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation and the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections of 2015 and that the mission will focus on observing the pre-election period including the campaigns, the voting day and the process of the counting of ballot papers.
The Head of the Mission stated that the SEOM to the 2018 General Elections consisted of 34 observers from 10 SADC Member States, namely, Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, supported by two experts on electoral processes from SADC Electoral Advisory Council (SEAC). He further indicated that the observers will be deployed to the four (4) administrative regions of the Kingdom of Eswatini, namely, Hhohho, Manzini, Lubombo and Shiselweni.
The Head of the Mission noted that the Kingdom of Eswatini has a unique political and electoral system, the Tinkundla System, whereby political representation is based on the selection of candidates by individual merit as opposed to political parties. Hon. Hamududu said that SEOM recognises the positive strides made by the Kingdom of Eswatini to improve the electoral system through the enactment of legislation, which ensures that women constitute at least 30% of the members of the House of Assembly.
He further commended the Kingdom of Eswatini on efforts made by the EBC to roll out voter education to people with disabilities, particularly with respect to the development and dissemination of voter education material, as well as the ongoing efforts by the EBC to engage the media in order to develop a Code of Conduct for the Media during elections.
He encouraged all stakeholders to ensure that the General Elections are managed in a peaceful, free, fair, transparent and credible manner, and that the electoral process adheres to democratic values and principles envisioned in the SADC Treaty, the Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation; and the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
Representing the SADC Executive Secretary, the Director of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Affairs, Mr Jorge Cardoso indicated that SADC attaches importance to the holding of democratic elections in the region and the Kingdom of Eswatini continues a long established tradition of conducting regular elections. In this regard, he highlighted that it was pleasing to note that the EBC of the Kingdom of Eswatini conducted a successful voter registration process for the 2018 General Elections and that all arrangements have been put in place for the polling day.
Prior to the deployment of SEOM, SADC carried out a number of activities to lend support to the electoral process, notably through the deployment of the SADC Electoral Advisory Council (SEAC) in August 2018, while also conducting training for the observers on various technical aspects of election observation and reporting using Information and Communications Technology (ICT) tools. Further, the training enabled the observers to understand the local context through interactions with stakeholders such as the EBC, Civil Society Organisations, Royal Police and the Ministry of Tinkhundla Administration and Development.
The launch was attended by representatives of the Elections and Boundaries Commission of the Kingdom of Eswatini; heads and representatives of the Diplomatic Missions represented in the Kingdom of Eswatini; representatives from the council of churches, the law society, civil society organisations and the media.
SEOM will issue its preliminary observation statement on 23 September 2018, at the mission headquarters at the Royal Swazi Hotel, in Ezulwini.
Done in Eswatini, 16 September 2018