The SADC Observer Mission has noted areas of the electoral process that require improvement in Botswana. While declaring the 23rd October 2019 elections Free and Fair, the Mission also observed areas of the electoral process and system that require perfection.
Interestingly they also touched on the role of Traditional Leaders in politics urging the Government to institute national consultations to review the role that traditional leaders may play in politics given their current multiple roles. According to Lt. Gen. (Retired) Dr. Sibusiso Moyo, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of the Republic Of Zimbabwe and Head of the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM), the Mission observed that traditional leaders, particularly the Chiefs, have multiple roles which include an overlap between executive, judicial, and legislative powers.
“Above this some traditional leaders are also politicians, and even where they are not politicians they exercise a significant influence in the political/voting choices of their subjects, which may not be desirable in the democratic context,” he said. The Mission also commented on counting of votes imploring that consideration should be given to amending the Electoral Act to make provision for polling station-based counting and displaying of results at the polling station.
“The Electoral Act provides for polling station-based voter registration and voting, and once polling is closed, for the transportation of ballot boxes to counting centres across the country. The Mission noted that this procedure exposes the ballot boxes to insecurity in the process of movements between polling stations and counting centres. The Mission noted that the Electoral Act does not make provision for the less risky and more transparent system whereby ballots are counted at each polling station and provisional results are posted outside polling stations for the benefit of all stakeholders,” observed Lt. Gen. (Retired) Dr. Sibusiso Moyo.
On the hot subject of Regulation of Political Parties funding, the Mission called on Government and all stakeholders to consider consultations on the possible regulation of political party financing, particularly in the context of regulating private foreign funding and the safeguards that may be adopted in the national interest. According to the SADC team, “the Electoral Act limits campaign expenditure to a maximum of P50,000 per candidate. In reality, however, the law and the limits imposed therein are not reflective of the existing dynamics observed in the current financing of political party campaign activities. The injection of foreign money has the potential to cause undue influence and external interference in domestic politics thereby compromising the sovereignty of the country.”
The Mission also urged the IEC is urged to enhance its communication with stakeholders and the public, especially by reviewing and updating the content on its information communication technology platforms. The Mission took note that given modern dependence on information and communication technology, access to critical electoral information from the IEC is generally limited. Furthermore, the Head of SOME said there is need for the IEC to develop and implement general standards on how the polling staff can assist and prioritise voters who require assistance, such as the disabled, elderly and expecting mothers.
They advised that polling stations should be located far from bars and other places where alcohol is consumed. The Mission also questioned the lack of use of indelible ink and of translucent ballot boxes. “The Government is urged to amend the Electoral Act to make provision for the use of indelible ink to minimise the possibility of double or multiple voting and the use of translucent ballot boxes to enhance the transparency of the electoral process.”
The SADC OEM touched on the issue of Voter registration and education. According to the Mission in order to improve voter registration and voter turn-out during elections, “the Government is urged to amend the Electoral Act in order to make provision for the continuous registration of voters up to the cut-off date before an election; and to legally mandate and financially empower the IEC to conduct voter education. In addition, the issue of voter apathy should be duly addressed by all stakeholders.
The Mission noted that the total population of Botswana is 2.2 million, of this 1,592, 350 are eligible voters and the IEC targeted to register 1,273, 880 voters. The actual figure achieved for the 2019 elections was 925, 478 registered voters. The total voter registrations in 2019 were marginally lower at 73%, than in 2014 where it was 77% of the total eligible voters. This is reflective of voter apathy.
“The Mission noted that the Electoral Act does not make provision for the continuous registration of voters up to the cut-off date before an election. Further, the IEC has no legal mandate to conduct voter education, and consequently lacks dedicated funding for this purpose; it is the observation of the Mission that more could have been done by the IEC and all relevant stakeholders in conducting voter education.”
On Gender representation the SADC Observer Mission called on all stakeholders and the Government are urged to take measures to address the gender imbalances in elected political positions, particularly at the level of the National Assembly. “Although this may require comprehensive constitutional amendments, political parties are also urged to take the lead and implement affirmative measures. This will be in conformity with the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development (2016) and the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections (2015).”
Giving background information on Gender representation Lt. Gen. (Retired) Dr. Sibusiso Moyo said while women account for 55% of registered voters in Botswana, the 2019 elections represent a downward shift in the representation of women in political leadership, particularly at the National Assembly level. “In the 2014 elections Botswana registered five female Members of Parliament, four of whom were elected at their constituencies, and one was specially elected. This brought the percentage of female parliamentarians after the 2014 elections to 8.7% of the total. Furthermore, in the 2014 elections, out of a total of 192 Parliamentary candidates, 17 were female, representing 8.9%,” he said.
He noted that in 2019, however, only 11 out of 210 Parliamentary candidates were women, representing 5% of the total, which demonstrates a downward shift from the gains of 2014. This requires national reflection to address the gender imbalance in politics, he observed. The SEOM observed that the pre-election and voting phases of the 2019 General Elections were well organised and were conducted in a peaceful and free atmosphere, and the environment enabled the voters to express themselves in a transparent manner.
“The Mission commends the IEC for the professional manner in which they conducted the elections, and the people of Botswana for the political maturity demonstrated during the electoral process. The Mission urges Batswana to maintain this spirit until the conclusion of the process when the results of the elections are announced, and after, and to implement the above recommendations in preparation for the next electoral cycle.”
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.