Swaziland: Tinkhundla electoral system

Updated September 2008

Swaziland's unique tinkhundla electoral system requites some elucidation (for other aspects see Electoral system). An inkhundla (singular of tinkhundla) was originally a grouping of chiefdoms devised by King Mswati II (ruled c1840-c1865) for administrative and military mobilization, but was revived by King Sobhuza II as part of his revival of the regimental system in the 1930's and used by him in World War II for recruiting labour for the war effort.

Initially, the tinkhundla did not form part of the electoral system. In the 1967 election that proceeded independence was conducted according to a block vote system in an arrangement that was enshrined in the Swaziland Independence Order 1968, which then also governed the House of Assembly election of 1972. The country was divided into eight large constituencies, delimited by independent Delimitations Commision, that each returned three members to the House of Assembly. Each voter had three ballots and the three candidates with the highest number of votes in each constituency were elected by plurality. These elections were both overwhelmingly won by King Sobhuza's monarchist party, the Imbokodvo National Movement (INM), but a clear trend emerged of growing support for the opposition Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC), which alarmed the King and the aristocracy. Consequently, the independence Constitution was abrogated by Sobhuza in 1973 by The Kings Proclamation to the Nation on 12th April, 1973 and political parties were banned .

When non-party elections for the House of Assembly were held in 1978 they were conducted under the Establishment of the Parliament of Swaziland Order of 1978, which first employed the tinkhundla as electoral constituencies determined by the King, and established an Electoral Committee appointed by the King to supervise elections. Until the 1993 election voters were not registered, voters did not directly elect representatives and the ballot was not secret. Instead voters elected an electoral college by passing through a gate designated for the candidate of choice while officials counted them.

The Election Order, 1992 issued by King Mswati gave the system the form that was eventually taken up into the Constitution of 2005 (see Constitution for a summary of its provisions); a Delimitations Commission was established, voter registration was reintroduced, secret ballot was restored and representatives were directly elected by plurality. The chief innovation of 2005, as far as elections are concerned was the establishment of the Election and Boundaries Commission (EBC), which included in its mandate the delimitation of tinkhundla.

Currently, in terms of Article 80 of the 2005 Constitution, an inkhundla is established by the King on the recommendation of the EBC to serve (amongst other things) for the election of members of the House of Assembly. Elections take place in two phases, both by secret ballot, using the first past the post system:

    In the primary phase the individual constituent chiefdoms hold elections to nominate members to stand as candidates at inkhundla level in the secondary phase. At this point, according to Article 87(5), no campaigning is permitted.
  • In the second phase candidates are permitted to campaign and each inkhundla elects a member to the House of Assembly on election day.


CONSTITUTION OF THE KINGDOM OF SWAZILAND 2005, [www] http://aceproject.org/ regions-en/eisa/SZ/CONSTITUTION%20OF%20THE%20KINGDOM%20OF% 20SWAZILAND%202005.pdf [opens new window] (accessed 8 Mar 2010).

ELECTIONS ORDER 1992; Voter Registration Order, 1992.


SWAZILAND INDEPENDENCE ORDER 1968, Articles 41, 53-55 [www] http://www.southernafricalawcenter.org/files/tbl_s5107SAPublications%5CFileUpload5913%5C16%5CSwaziland.pdf [PDF document, opens new window] (accessed 23 Feb 2010).