Mxolisi Mkhatshwa – Swaziland

Mxolisi Mkhatshwa – Swaziland

Date: June 7, 2010
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Chairperson Mxolisi Mkhatshwa of the Mtsongwaneni Inkhundla asked, “When an Inkundhla has no women, who then takes up women’s issues? The answer is sadly – no one….There have been no women in this Inkundhla and it does not look like it is ever going to happen. This is the situation despite the fact that women do run for elections. Part of the challenge is the fact that this is a rural area and so the challenges around gender issues are greater. As it is, men are already planning ahead for the 2013 elections.”

While he has seen some changes in his time as chairperson, he is still very upfront about the challenges Swazi women face trying to enter politics, particularly through the electoral system. “There was a time when women were not participating that actively in debates but now that has changed and women are now participating freely and confidently. The main reason, I suspect, for them not participating freely at first was because women were not familiar with this new institution as most of them are used to the private sphere of the home.”

In order for more women to enter government, Mxolisi thinks there need to be more women appointed than elected, as it is through appointments that women have a greater chance of accessing government rather than competing with men in elections. For instance, he claims that the work done by the women who ran against him was great, but the chances of them being elected still remained low.

The people on the campaign trail were not very interested in anyone’s plans for the future; they wanted to be paid for casting their vote in any candidate’s favour. Both men and women were paying for votes and were not focusing on service delivery issues. The women who were able to pay, got the votes. Candidates are judged by their money and financial muscle and their education rather than their capabilities. Because of money politics, even the people who end up succeeding are not the most committed to transforming and developing the country.

In addition, women need to be empowered regarding electioneering and campaigning in general in order to increase their own chances of success during elections. Mxolisi pointed to the need for women to be more strategic in their campaigns. “The women who decided to stand for elections decided as part of their campaign strategy to target mainly women in communities more than men. For example, these women did not target the youth in their attempt to get elected.”

The focus on women through such campaigns as the Vote for Women campaign can be problematic. For example, during the campaign, men who were running for elections used the campaign to discredit women and to discourage men from voting for women. Men perceived this campaign as threat to them.

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