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Electronic Voting Machines: Gov’t should avoid a political explosion by all means

Publishing Date : 16 May, 2017

Author : Dr Edward T Maganu

Dr Edward T Maganu

I have resisted for a long time to give my views as a citizen on the introduction of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) because I keep away from direct involvement in politics. I have however developed some motivation to comment on the subject after quite some reflection, and after I saw Sir Ketumile’s comments.

I wish to fully support the comments that appeared in one newspaper this week (The Guardian) and were attributed to Sir Ketumile. The introduction of EVMs is certainly the most controversial decision relating to our political processes that has ever been taken by a Botswana Government since independence in 1966. The negative reaction to EVMs has been so widespread that it would be extremely unwise and dangerous  for the Government to ignore it.

When the relevant act was passed a few months ago, many of us thought the opposition was opposing it just to play to the gallery as is commonly the case. After all politics thrives on rhetoric and polemics! But it has since become evident that the law has evoked a very negative reaction in a significant proportion of the Botswana population. For the first time there is talk of boycotting elections or causing disruptions to elections. And it is obvious that many people are quite emotional about the matter.

It is now a widespread belief, among the youth, and among quite some grown-ups and veteran politicians, that the BDP sees that it is going to lose elections in 2019 and it is introducing EVMs so that it can rig the elections. These may be just perceptions, but they seem to have become widespread among the people, and it seems to be only those who directly support the ruling party who do not hold these perceptions. And we all know that the world is ruled by perceptions.

According to the newspaper article referred to above, Sir Ketumile believes that BDP is putting itself in a no-win situation by introducing these machines when there is such widespread suspicion about its intentions- if it wins the general elections it will be accused of cheating, and if it loses the election  the general feeling will be that the party has lost despite cheating.

Obviously if the EVMs are introduced for the 2019 general election a sizeable proportion of the people of Botswana will lose confidence in the election process and its outcome. Our politics will never be the same; the spectre of instability will loom high, and this will mark the end of our highly respected democracy.

I think that the Government should seriously rethink this matter of EVMs. Certainly they should not be introduced in the 2019 elections; the risks to us as a nation are too high. I know a lot of my peers share this view as we talk a lot about it. It would be very wise for the Government to shelve this decision for now, together with the law that was passed to actualize it, and give itself time for extensive consultations with the nation on the matter. In that way it would be a win-win situation. If the Government goes ahead with the EVMs we will be all losers as a nation, because our legendary democracy and peace and stability will be gone.



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