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IEC rubbishes UDC’s rigging claims

Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), has this week not taken kindly to reports that the Commission has, in concert with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP, rigged the just ended 2019 General election.

The main opposition party Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), particularly the affiliate Botswana National Front (BNF), has been decrying and suspecting foul play in the election results on the part of both the BDP and the IEC. The UDC has been insisting that the BDP is sleeping with the IEC, hence raising eyebrows and suspicion that they swayed election results in favour of the ruling BDP.

The misgivings have not been held by the fact that IEC, although presumably independent, is strategically placed under the auspices of the Office of the President (OP).  According to the IEC official information, BDP won with a popular vote of more than 52%, garnering 66% of Member of Parliaments as per the election system of First Past the Post (FPTP).

In most parts of the South, the ruling party won with the widest margins (almost double in many areas), something which has never been experienced in the country in recent intervals. The results have led to talks of a looming court case that will be brought forth by the UDC against the IEC protesting the election outcome as “doubtful.” Speaking to Weekend Post this week, IEC Principal Public Relations Officer (PRO) Osupile Maroba, dismissed the rigging allegations citing that they are impossible and laughable.

“I confirm that elections went very well. The elections, like those that came before, have never been rigged and are not rigged, and therefore are very credible as the law was followed to the letter,” he insisted to this publication. He maintained that the elections were very credible and in accordance with provisions of the Electoral law.

According to Maroba, people never complained from the beginning of the electoral cycle/process as they gave the polling agents the voters roll, to check whether names are written correctly on the roll, whether the numbers tally, to check any voter trafficking suspicion and so forth and they were satisfied with the voters roll hence no complaints were registered. “Everything went in terms of the Electoral Act. It was applied to the core, we are a non-partisan institution. We only implement law as is, simple.” the IEC official maintained.

In terms of the looming court case, Maroba said the IEC remains ready to defend the case and that the party, UDC in particular, are within their rights to do so as law allows them to request for remedy at court on the elections. 
“They have the right to do so. The High Court will mediate us,” he insisted. He therefore dismissed the much talked about Gantsi North rigging case, in which the former area legislator has approach court to protest the results saying they were rigged as there are fears some boxes were not counted.

“I don’t know how the truck from Gantsi with ballot boxes is special or different from the rest of others. I don’t know how this one is peculiar to the other. Procedure was dully followed and nothing is out of line.  Every Returning Officer delivers it to the High Court. And this was the case,” he highlighted. In terms of the law, the IEC mouthpiece cited sections 71, 72 and 73 of the Electoral Act which explains the process of election, and that after counting at elections, ballot boxes are sealed and delivered to the High Court.

“Returning officer can’t count votes without all the boxes being delivered. They know all the wards and boxes and only counts the ballots in front of the polling agents. All the time there are party representatives at polling stations and counting centre,” he explained.He added that the ballot boxes then are sealed in front of the party agents and they don’t let their eyes off the counting process while stressing that the government car also should be followed from polling stations to the counting centres if parties wish to and that polling agents can ride in or follow the car, as it is allowed by law to allay fears of any suspicion of rigging.

Maroba pointed out that after every elections, the IEC always has allegations of election rigging but they haven’t escalated to this level: “why I don’t know.” It’s a normal issue after the elections, he said adding that the “BDP has also accused us of rigging in the past.” Maroba denied that they are sleeping with BDP, as some want to allege and that it is a perception which does not hold water.

He observed that the parties only challenge the election results when they feel disadvantaged or having lost like the UDC, in this case. “BDP clearly has a landslide victory because we are dealing with different people with different minds and voters can promise to elect candidates or parties but end up voting the others, which is why probably we are in this state,” he concluded.  

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de DĂ©veloppement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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