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BDP Youth League deserves praise on EVMs!

Publishing Date : 12 June, 2017

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

According to the Botswana Gazette’s edition of 6th June 2017, the Botswana Democratic Party Youth League (BDPYL)’s National Youth Executive Committee (NYEC) has resolved that its Chairman, Simon Mavange, informs the party’s Central Committee (CC) of its opposition to the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).

Not only that. The NYEC is reported to have expressed discomfort, even outrage, at the fact that there are some in the BDP leadership who are so reckless as to make unpopular propositions, putting the party on a back foot.  Reportedly, the NYEC has decried this, stating that the party cannot afford such gaffes, especially in view of the 2019 general elections, where, for the first time in the country’s electoral history, the BDP’s victory is not certain.

This uncertainty is caused by the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)’s admirable performance in the 2014 general elections as well as its continued growth, especially that the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has finally joined it. Indeed, the NYEC deserves commendation for reminding its mother body that it should respect the will of Batswana who have, across the political divide, spoken in unison in condemnation of the BDP’s introduction of EVMs.

In this day and era where such party structures as the Youth Leagues and Women’s Wing have become stooges of the party leadership and seldom challenge party resolutions for fear of being victimized and sidelined, it is commendable for the NYEC to have taken such a decision.

Next door in South Africa, we have seen the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) led by Collen Maine supporting President Jacob Zuma despite such scandals as Nkandla, the Spy Tapes and the current state capture by the Gupta family. Obviously in an effort to be assured of political protection after Zuma’s term ends in 2019, or his early retirement in 2018 as it has been reported, the ANCYL is now supporting Zuma’s ex-wife, Dr. Nkosazana Dhlamini-Zuma, to succeed Zuma ahead of Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa.     

No doubt, in making the resolution, the NYEC members should have been aware of the possible ramification to their political careers, but they, or at least the majority of them, have put country above party and resolved to speak truth to power. This is what Youth Leagues and Women’s Wings are meant to do. They are meant to provide checks and balances in the party and provide alternative views when the party wanders into the wilderness.

Youth Leagues and Women’s Wings who, because of personal political ambitions, fail to bring the party to account have no place in our democracy. Cardinal to the democratic project is strong inner party democracy, an ideal which Youth Leagues and Women’s Wings should strive to promote.  

There is no doubt that if the BDP goes ahead with the use of EVMs in the 2019 general elections it would have betrayed many Batswana, including some of its own current and former leaders. Former president Sir Ketumile Masire, for example, is on record advising the BDP to desist from introducing EVMs.

Given his democratic credentials, I have no doubt in my mind that our founding father, the late Sir Seretse Khama, would be opposed to EVMs. He would be the first to know that though they have the advantage of returning results quickly, they pose a danger to our peace and stability because of their lack of reliability. Former cabinet minister and longtime BDP Secretary General, Daniel Kwelagobe, has also joined the thousands of Batswana, including some in the BDP, who have argued that the BDP’s decision to introduce EVMs is ill-advised and poses a threat to our democracy.

Though as Secretary General Botsalo Ntuane is obliged to defend the party position with respect to the EVMs, knowing his liberal thinking, I am convinced that he too is personally opposed to EVMs, at least with respect to the manner in which it was introduced. I am also certain that there are many more BDP stalwarts who are opposed to EVMs, but have not expressed themselves publicly for fear of political reprisal and being accused of wanting to rule from the grave.

The NYEC is, therefore, not alone in pleading with the BDP to abandon the EVM project. Over and above the condemnation from these stalwarts, there are reports that even the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) itself has, in its report following a bench marking visit to Namibia, noted the pitfalls posed by EVMs. Not only that. According to the reports, the IEC did not, in its report, make a recommendation for the use of EVMs.

If this is true, the BDP’s credibility is brought into question because the party’s Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane, was quoted in Sunday Standard’s 21st May 2017 edition saying “I can confidently tell you that the BDP did not initiate the EVM...” He further stated that “... during the BDP National Council we invited the IEC to come and make presentations about these EVMs.... Delegates asked questions about the EVMs and the President.... stated to the delegates that the BDP did not initiate the EVMs.”

The fact that the NYEC’s resolution is targeted at the BDP and not the IEC proves that the NYEC knows, as many Batswana do, that it is not the IEC which initiated the use of EVMs since it is the BDP which, through the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance & Public Administration, Honourable Eric Molale, tabled the Bill in Parliament.

The NYEC knows, as many Batswana do, that it is the BDP and not the IEC which, under the cover of darkness, used the certificate of urgency procedure to table the Bill, effectively denying opposition MPs and Batswana the opportunity to debate the Bill and expose its malafides.

The NYEC knows, as many Batswana do, that it is the BDP government which has allocated funds for use by the IEC in the implementation of the EVM project. They know that the IEC is not independent from government in as far as funding and administration are concerned.

The NYEC knows, as many Batswana do, and as Ntuane admitted that there was no need to rush the Bill through a certificate of urgency. He has been quoted as saying “we recognize that the passage of this Bill into a law was a bit controversial. Perhaps things could have been done differently. The elections are three years away. Was there need to rush the Bill really...?  

The NYEC knows, as many Batswana do, that if the BDP government wants it can use its Parliamentary majority to repeal the Act which introduced EVMs, bringing an end to the divisions currently obtaining among our people.  Some issues are so integral to our democracy and national security that we should all put our political differences aside and act in the public interest to champion them. Opposition to EVMs is one such issue, hence the need to commend the NYEC for championing it despite the political risks attendant thereto.

One can only hope that the NYEC will go beyond presenting its position on EVMs to the CC, but will, if the CC refuses to listen to Batswana, take the matter to the forthcoming party congress and lobby party members to vote against it. By so doing, the NYEC will not only be acting in the best interest of the country, but will also be acting in the BDP’s best interests since if the BDP abandons the EVM project, it may be saved from losing the votes of some who would vote against it in 2019 in protest to the EVM project.

The Women’s Wings is implored to rise above personal and sectarian interests and join the NYEC’s efforts to save the BDP from wandering further into the wilderness. Clearly, the NYEC, Masire, Kwelagobe and so many other Batswana cannot all be wrong.



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