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Vote

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Submitted By Balingene
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Throngs of Swazis living mainly around the border towns were seen taking part in the South African national elections, voting for their favorite political parties on May 7.
In an interview with Sanelisiwe Dlamini a resident of Matsamo* who was spotted by Swazi Mirror in a queue in one of the polling stations near the border post, she stated that she crossed the border together with many others with the sole purpose to “get inked.” She stated that they consider themselves as both South African and Swazi. She explained that the border towns are highly populated yet there are no critical services required by the people residing there as such they find themselves having to cross to the neighboring town for a living.
“The community relies on services accorded by the South African government. We are cognizant of the fact that our history has always been intertwined hence we do feel part of the South African community in any case we once lived together before the installation of the territorial boundaries. ” she said.
Another, Simon Mazibuko was spotted at the Ngwenya border Post in the afternoon excitedly showing off his “inked” thumb and he also reiterated the sentiments of Sanelisiwe in as far as services are concerned. Simon added that his family was divided when the boundaries were enacted leaving them with a dilemma. “My grandparents are in South Africa and my parents settled a few kilometers from the family homestead. When the immigration division was set up my parents’ homestead fell on the other Swaziland side. My grandparents still recognizes themselves as Swazis and what is confusing is the understanding of what it means to be Swazi. We have been thrown in limbo not knowing where we belong exactly.”
Swazis living around the border have been reported to be accessing such services as education, health – hospitals and clinic, shopping, livelihood, social grants, job opportunities etc. in South Africa. Effort by the government to discourage such conduct was futile.
One local Newspaper carried out a report in January revealing that communities around border towns prefer enrolling their children into South African Secondary and High Schools to avoid the high cost of education in the country. A form 1 scholar in South Africa pays about E200 per term including stationary whereas local schools would charge not less than E2000 including stationer especially for the first term alone plus more for the subsequent months. Such children cross the border for education each day.
One elderly, Gogo Mary Sukati stated that she accesses the social grant without guilt because she considers herself a legitimate beneficiary. Sukati said she worked all her life in South Africa as a domestic worker, in the border town, way before the boundaries were installed. She says by the time she came back to Swaziland she was already a pensioner therefore feel obliged to manipulate her “hard earned” investment in the economy of South Africa.” Sukati says she did not hide his identity to the South African officials when registering for the grant but clarified her claim to it and got registered.
According to the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs Anthony Masilela stated that the Ministry is aware of the bizarre situation around the border towns stating that the department is working around the clock to ensure full compliance with immigration dictates as well as the constitution in their day to day operations. He said the government once had an arrangement that sought to formalize and improve on movement of people residing within a certain radius from the border post. However, such efforts were watered down by certain people who misused the gesture to circumvent compliance with the immigration laws.
“The arrangement failed because people from all walks of life started making false claims to be residing around the border so that they could be allowed to travel in and out of the country without the necessary immigration requirements. People started misusing the facility to carry out illegal trade. It is such criminal behavior that failed the efforts of the two governments to improve life around the border. The arrangement had to be discontinued.”
Masilela explained that the issue of the national border is the prerogative of the army. He said he is aware of diplomatic talks between the two parties regarding the matter and hoped that a lasting solution will come out of the talks.
Masilela stated that according to the Constitution of the country, Swazis are prohibited from acquiring foreign citizenship and / or dual citizenship. He therefore warned those living around the border communities against conducting themselves outside the ambit of the supreme law of the country. He said those who consider themselves Swazis should hold just that one Swazi ID otherwise they will be in contravention of the constitution.
Meanwhile the Chairman of the Border Adjustment Committee, Prince Guduza stated that the Committee is aware of the dilemma faced by the communities around the border posts. He said this does not only apply to people living in the Swaziland side but those on the other side of the border. The Prince referred to reports of South African registered Public transporters and private individuals fuelling their vehicles in Swaziland because of the reduced cost of fuel in Swaziland compared to South Africa.
Prince Guduza revealed that his committee has since finalized a strategy to accelerate resolution of the matter in order to liberate the affected people. The Prince stated that currently there is a glaring division of opinion amongst the very affected people. He stated that the committee has a mammoth task to critically assess the sentiments of the people living across the border with a view to ascertain conviction that indeed a large number of the people want to be integrated to the Swazi Community.
The Prince states that the political dynamics between the two countries make it difficult for the communities to view the developments in the same light. The Prince stated that it is usual for communities to be habited by both leftists and rightists. He said the committee is confronted with such a challenge but gave hope that his team has the capacity to deal with the matter to finality.
“ We have articulated the road map as a team on how best to tackle the task and the stratergy was yesterday (Wednesday) presented to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.”

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