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IEC blames fake news for doubtful 2019 elections

Publishing Date : 23 March, 2020

Author : UTLWANANG GASENNELWE

Fake news have caused chaos in the just ended 2019 General Elections and left an egg on the face of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). IEC operates under the auspices of Office of the President (OP), which is under the grip of the governing party, an interested player in the elections of Botswana.


The recent elections have raised questions of integrity and its outcome remains in doubt from certain quarters especially opposition political parties. This led to numerous election protests in IEC, which had tussled in court following petitions and appeals from opposition parties. The election disputes saw 24 petitions lodged with the High Court, in which two were withdrawn before hearing, 15 petitions were dismissed on preliminary points of law while seven progressed to trial.


Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration Kabo Morwaeng had told Parliament that subsequently 14 were later dismissed at Court of Appeal which was said to not have jurisdiction over National Assembly election petitions. IEC has ascribed and attributed these election protests and prevailing state of affairs to fake news era and abuse of social media by among others, media and the public.


IEC Spokesperson Osupile Maroba told WeekendPost that elections are very sensitive and are conducted in accordance with strict compliance to the electoral laws, and therefore any single occurrence of publication of fake news could have far reaching implications. “The disinformation and fake news perpetuated the already existing perceptions on the integrity of the IEC. The public subscribe to what they read on social media and any news, fake or authentic, is considered as the truth by those who read them and influence their response,” he pointed out.


According to Maroba, some of the common fake news during elections included announcing wrong opening and closing polling hours, declaring winning candidates before conclusion of counting, using it to confirm to their candidates or agents that they have voted for and false declaration of polling day prior to issuance of the writs of elections. “These fake news compromised the integrity of the electoral process and further confused the public,” he decried.


He continued to restrain social media users to exercise caution when discussing sensitive processes, while adding that disinformation through fake news may lead to sensationalization of issues and trigger election instability in the country. Meanwhile Leader of Opposition Dumelang Saleshando also expressed his worry in Parliament immediately after last elections that fake news and foul language dominated social media from all quarters.


“You will agree with me that to describe the 2019 elections using phrases like political maturity, tolerance, respect for one another and peace smacks of denialism,” he asserted. According to Saleshando even intraparty contests leading to the national elections were characterised by intense friction leading to court interventions, with some losers being labelled Manyasa after many years of loyal service to the country. “The first election under the leadership of President Masisi has brought to the fore, the weaknesses of our system and how it can be abused for electoral gains,” the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Vice President asserted.

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