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90 days of doubt

Publishing Date : 09 December, 2019


Botswana is known as Africa’s longest standing democracy, venerated for holding free and fair elections successively since 1965 without any blemish. The 23rd October 2019 general elections has however may left a blot on Botswana’s copy book, according to the opposition parties and forensic investigators engaged by the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).

Botswana for the first time, has been plunged into ‘uncertainty’, with the results of 13 constituencies being challenged, as well as 16 council wards. The courts would have to deliver a verdict on Botswana’s future within 90 days, from the day of elections. In a 57 seat parliament, BDP won 38 seats, while UDC, which has brought petitions before the courts, won 15 seats followed by three seats of its ally, Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and a single seat of Alliance for Progressives (AP).  

All the three opposition parties represented in parliament have joined hands to take BDP head on. Currently, BDP has only nine seats superiority, a number which means should UDC succeed in its suits, the ruling party may lose majority in parliament. In an interview yesterday (Friday), a prominent lawyer Uyapo Ndadi has revealed that if at all the courts will establish there was rigging, it will be bad for democracy, but if not it will boost the credentials that Botswana already enjoys.

He was however quick to point out that the UDC is right to seek legal redress if aggrieved. “They are free to seek justice. Anyone can exercise that, it is a constitutional right. But we don’t know the merits of the case but it will really put us on a bad light as a country if it is established that it happened,” he said. Ndadi, who is renowned human rights advocate could not be drawn to discuss whether as a nation we have reached a level where there could be rigging claims. “Unfortunately I don’t know how it is done.”

UDC spokesperson Moeti Mohwasa has told this publication that they are only hoping for “justice” and wants the election declared null and void and re-run be held. Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organization (BOCONGO) Executive Secretary Botho Seboko is also concerned by the petitions. “If indeed it is true that there was rigging, it will be very bad for our democracy. Not only that but it would be bad for the Office of President, it will be a shame. Countries will start to perceive us differently.

Again it would be bad for some of the institutions overseeing elections like Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and District Commissioner (DC) offices,” he said. Seboko, whose organisation was part of election observer missions in the elections, says this country is not yet at the level of rigging. “We are not yet there, Batswana are not violent, soldiers are not intimidating like in countries such as Sudan or DRC.” Another party which has joined the fray is the AP, and they are also going all out to ensure that justice prevails.

“As things stand we cannot downplay and dismiss these allegations. When people lose confidence in the electoral process it could bring the country into chaos. We should have thorough investigations so that we plug suspected gaps.” AP which was initially mute on the alleged rigging, says it has also received reports from their structures over irregularities and in due course they will make their position known. BDP Secretary General Mpho Balopi told this publication last week that the party is concerned by the petitions. Balopi who won the Gaborone North constituency also has his victory challenged in court.

“We are not worried but rather concerned by those Batswana who voted for the BDP to rule are now at a disadvantage because it seems people are questioning their decision to give us the responsibility,” he said. “On the other hand these petitions compromise the integrity of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). Following all the transparent process put forward before all the parties prior to the elections including inspection of the voters roll we are concerned by this.”

While Balopi is dismissing any worries as a party emanating from these petitions, informants say the mood was sombre when the subject matter was presented. The registration exercise had attracted around 933 627 voters who were eligible to vote. In the first voter registration, 753 470 registered; the first supplementary garnered 40 738; and the last having attained 139 354.  IEC had targeted 1 067 218 million voters to register and used close to P134 million for the exercise

The UDC claims of duplicated names, Boko said this compromises Botswana‘s elections which observers have always hailed as free and fair. “Rigging might have already started and we are concerned by the care-free manner demonstrated by the IEC,” he said before elections.
The party says it even sent a letter of concern through their lawyers to the IEC in regard to the matter and the election body conceded that it was a blunder on their side but they have since arrested the situation. But the UDC top echelons were still not convinced and suspected there might be a plan to manipulate the elections.



Do you think the courts will help put the UDC, BMD impasse within reasonable time ahead of the 2019 General Election?