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.
President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has identified at least 12 cabinet ministers who form part of his long-term plans owing to their loyalty and tenacity in delivering his vision. Masisi, who will see-off his term in 2028 — provided he wins re-election in 2024 — already knows key people who will help him govern until the end of his term, WeekendPost has learnt.
Despite negative criticism towards ministers from some quarters over a number of decisions and their somewhat cold deliberations and failure to articulate government programs, Masisi is said to be a number one cheer leader of his cabinet. He is said to have more confidence in his cabinet and believes going forward they will reach the aspired levels and silence the critics.
The outgoing President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ian Kirby, shares his thoughts with us as he leaves the Bench at the end of this year.
WeekendPost: Why did you move between the Attorney General and the Bench?
Ian Kirby: I was a member of the Attorney General’s Chambers three times- first in 1969 as Assistant State Counsel, then in 1990 as Deputy Attorney General (Civil), and finally in 2004 as Attorney General. I was invited in 2000 by the late Chief Justice Julian Nganunu to join the Bench. I was persuaded by former President Festus Mogae to be his Attorney General in 2004 as, he said, it was my duty to do so to serve the nation. I returned to the Judiciary as soon as I could – in May 2006, when there was a vacancy on the High Court Bench.
Botswana’s civil society is one of the non-state actors that could save the country’s democracy from sliding into regression, a Germany based think tank has revealed. This is according to a discussion paper by researchers at the German Development Institute who analysed the effects of e-government usage on political attitudes In Botswana.
In the paper titled “E-government and democracy in Botswana: Observational and experimental evidence on the effects of e-government usage on political attitudes,” the researchers offer a strongly worded commentary on Botswana’s ‘flawed democracy.’ The authors noted that with Botswana’s Parliament structurally – and in practice – feeble, the potential for checks and balances on executive power rests with the judiciary.