Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has distanced its office from the procurement of the Communications and Intelligence Machine that was to be used in the upcoming general elections and further confirmed that the equipment will not be used in the polls.
This comes after the leader for the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Duma Boko interdicted through the courts, equipment that was to be purchased by Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS). The machine that was to be procured from a Switzerland based company was solely the DIS brainchild with the election custodian IEC pushed away. The machine could be used to intercept elections data processes and can be programmed to advance the interest of a given client. This raised eyebrows of most key players, including political parties and IEC.
This week, IEC through its spokesperson Osupile Maroba, confirmed that this year’s elections will follow the traditional manual way of voting and counting. “We have never been in the process of procuring any machine as the IEC and I can tell you that for this elections, will be doing the same way we have been doing in the past elections. We know nothing about the machine you are referring to as the commission” he revealed in an interview with this publication.
Before Boko interdicted the purchase of the machine there was a growing concern by his party that it could be used by the ruling party for undue illegal surveillance purposes. This, it was argued that the BDP which enters the 23rd October elections, unsure of the election outcomes, could organize electoral fraud by mixing up the Identity cards related equipment with possibilities of opposition voters not allowed to vote as their ID numbers might not tally with what is in the voters roll. The machines were to be useful in opposition stronghold constituencies, those in the know have told this publication.
For IEC, they were not bothered by the purported acquisition of the machine. “Since the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM), was repelled by parliament there is no machine that will be used for the elections. It has to go through process and we had to be taking part in that, so there is nothing of that sort,” Maroba stated.
Any usage of machine on this year’s polls was always going to meet with resistance from stakeholders as evidenced by the intensive rejection of the EVM. What could have made it more difficult for Surveillance and Intelligence Equipment to see the light of the day is the timing and process it was intended to be used. “IEC is also aware of the significance of this year’s elections so they would not want to upset people like that. Machine has not been bought and it will not,” one observer revealed to this publication.
ADVANCED POLL REGISTER 25,044 VOTERS
Meanwhile 1,044 ballot papers have crossed the border as the IEC will today carry elections for Batswana outside the country. “The process has been going very well and the last box of paper flew on Wednesday to its destination”, Maroba shared. Batswana voters will only be allowed to cast their vote in countries where this nation has diplomatic missions. After this election, police officers and IEC staff will also cast their vote on the 19th. “Police and IEC staff who will be working on the day will vote early. The total number we have registered is around 24, 000.”
OBSERVER MISSIONS FLOCK BOTSWANA AHEAD OF ELECTIONS
With only 10 days left before the Election Day, various election observer missions have shown interest in observing this year’s polls. Already, Maroba says, seven international organisations have illustrated interest to observe the local elections which are normally described as free and fair. “We have seven organisations that have shown intent to see our elections including African Union, European Union and other bodies that normally observe our elections.”
The number of observer mission organisations are nothing strange as it is the same number IEC usually accredit despite the intensity of this year’s elections. However, the number could rise because interested parties apply through the Ministry of International Affairs with IEC only focused on accreditations.
“A number of bodies apply through the ministry and we do accreditations. For now I can’t state the numbers we are expecting because we don’t deal with applications. As for the SADC observer mission, which normally arrive before others, I guess they are looking at their budget to see for how long they would come but for now we have not accredited them but they have sensitized us about their intentions to be here on election date,” said Maroba.
In the past elections international observers have noted with concern, low turnout by the local observer groups but this has been corrected. Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO), will be leading the local observer mission for the first time, with Botswana Council of Churches also on the mix.
Access to and achievement in education in Botswana is said to be unequal. This is revealed in a new study by the United Nations, collaborating with other development partners and stakeholders. The report indicates that twenty thousand children in Botswana are not in school.
Children in marginalized communities have less access to education than their more affluent, urban peers. While primary education is free and compulsory under the Children’s Act, primary education is not free for children of foreign nationality. Moreover, cost barriers such as transport costs and materials such as textbooks place a higher burden on poorer families.
This report has been stated that limited awareness of the importance of Early Childhood Education (ECE) among policymakers has contributed to a lack of appropriate funding mechanisms, infrastructure, and equipment for ECE. The study indicated that only 30 per cent of children aged 3 to 6 years have access to preschool education, which remains driven by the private sector and therefore unaffordable for the less privileged. Children in remote areas especially have limited access to ECE.
This unequal access directly affects children’s (impoverished children’s) equal learning and cognitive development opportunities. The burden of unpaid childcare indirectly affects women’s ability to start a business, enter the labour force and access decent employment and professional training opportunities. Further, the poor and rural youth are more susceptible to dropping out of school or not registering for school.
It was also stressed that forty-nine per cent of the poorest youth finish school between ages 15–18 compared to 36 per cent among the richest. Distance from the school is a factor that limits the ability of children in rural areas to access education. Cost-sharing may be another factor for children in poor and rural families, the UN study said. Cost-sharing fees were introduced in 2006 and set at a level equivalent to 5 per cent of the cost to the Government of providing secondary education, with a provision for exemption for children from destitute families, orphans, students in need of care and registered with the Social Welfare Services and students whose parents are terminally ill and incapable of caring for the student materially low-income households.
Fees per child were set at BWP 300 a year for Junior Secondary and BWP 450 a year for Senior Secondary schools. Students from households whose total earnings are less than BWP 550 per month receive a partial exemption if they have more than one child in secondary school. UN highlighted that poorer students also fare less well in educational attainment: students from the wealthiest 25 per cent of households score on average 23 per cent higher than their peers from the poorest 25 per cent of households in reading and 15 per cent higher in math. Compared to other countries in the region, Botswana has a more significant gap in attainment across income groups.
In the three rounds of the international assessment programme carried out by the Southern and Eastern African Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ), the difference between the average score and the score for the poorest quarter of students was only 17 points in Swaziland, 19 points in Lesotho, and 39 points in Namibia. However, it was a high of 68 points in Botswana, not far behind the 72 points in South Africa. Statelessness is another challenge for children accessing the education system since the lack of appropriate documentation makes it harder to register for school.
A significant number of children, the UN report stated, particularly children in remote areas and nomadic communities, refugee and asylum-seeking children, abandoned children and children living in alternative care institutions, face barriers in accessing birth registration, which negatively affects their right to a nationality and subsequently impedes the realization of other rights.
To prevent statelessness and reach universal registration, Botswana has been recommended to address administrative obstacles, expand health facility-based birth registration centres and mobile registration campaigns and raise awareness regarding the importance of birth registration. Asylum-seeking and refugee children face challenges in access to and attainment within education.
Children in the Dukwi camp receive basic education but cannot access higher learning institutions because the Government does not provide funding or support. There has been an increase in failure rates at secondary education final examinations since youth lack motivation about their future. Parents are prohibited from engaging in any form of work and are unable to provide funding for their children’s further education.
“There have been instances where students have forfeited scholarships offered outside Botswana due to the inability to access travel documentation. Children from minority groups in Botswana face challenges in accessing education, partly due to the absence of mother-tongue education,” reads part of the report. The report of the Special Rapporteur on minority issues highlights that despite the adoption of the system of hostel accommodation for children from minority groups, many of these children still ran away or performed poorly. Therefore, it was recommended that the Government adopt new educational policies allowing the teaching of minority languages and their use as a medium of instruction in private schools.
The report further recommended, “the development of policies for public schools to teach and use minority languages as the medium of instruction where this is reasonably possible and where numbers warrant, to the degree appropriate and applying the principle of proportionality”. Lack of trained educators and support workers, geographical distance to school, and social norms and stigma contribute to excluding children with disabilities from school.
One-tenth of students with disabilities in Botswana reported stopping attending school because of difficulty in getting to school. Integration of children with disabilities into mainstream schools is limited, and children with disabilities are usually segregated into specific schools. When students with disabilities attend mainstream school, learning support, including appropriate teaching material, can be inadequate: primary school students with disabilities in Botswana who attended mainstream schools reported that, although they appreciated being in inclusive classrooms, parts of the curriculum were inaccessible to them.
Adolescent girls and young women are also at risk of exclusion from education, mainly because of early pregnancy. Female dropout exceeds that of their male counterparts across Forms 3–5. Higher rates of female dropout are found in the Central, Southern, North West, Kweneng and South East Regions. Pregnancy tends to be the main reason for female youth dropout and also accounts for the higher level of grade repetition among female youth across Forms 3–5. In 2015, the highest number of repeating students recorded were in Central and North West Regions.
The ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a blow to the economic stimulus package and national development projects – it has forced the Government to halt some projects earmarked for the current national budget.
The Government has also decided to reduce budgets running into millions for ongoing national projects and those of the ambitious economic stimulus programme (ESP), introduced in 2015 to ‘stimulate the economy. The funds would now be reallocated to finance COVID-19 expenses. This revelation is contained in a document released recently by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, which for the first time gives a breakdown of how most of the development project budget would be either halted or cut and their earmarked funds reallocated to fight COVID-19.
The Government says the money needed to halt and cut budgets from ministries and reallocated to COVID-19 amounts to P2.3 billion. Some of the projects that would be affected by this decision fall under the economic stimulus package programme. Already political and economic experts warn that the adjustments, if not well managed, may deal a big blow to Masisi’s legacy. According to the document, the annual budget for the Ministry of Basic Education will be reduced by P380 000 000 from P1 317 000 000 to P937 000 000 in the 2021/2022 Financial Year.
“Specifically, the budget for the following projects are being reduced as follows: Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) Expansion by P50 000 000, ESP Staff Houses by P50 000 000; ESP Maintenance by P50 000 000, Maintenance of Senior Secondary Schools by P75 000 000 and Secondary School Expansion – COVID Classrooms (ERTP) by P155 000 000. Most of the project activities have not started,” states the document.
The Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry, the infrastructure development proposal will reduce the Ministry’s Infrastructure Development project budget by P25 000 000 from P26 400 000 to P1 400 000 in the 2021/2022 Financial Year. The funds are earmarked for SSKIA SEZ -Design & Construction of 4 Investors Advance Factories, which has not started.
Another proposal is to reduce the Ministry’s computerisation project budget by P1 500 000 from P9 500 000 to P8 000 000 in the 2021/2022 Financial Year. The funds are earmarked for the Design and Development of the Internal MITI Trade and Industry Statistics Database, which has not started.
The other proposal is to reduce the Doing Business Reforms project budget by P2 000 000 from P26 400 000 to P24 400 000 in the 2021/2022 Financial Year. The funds are earmarked for the Development of an e-Commerce Strategy for Botswana, which has been delayed. The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development would have to reduce its social welfare programme budget for the 2021/2022 Development by P120 000 000 from P591 809 298 to P471 809 298 to meet Government’s urgent needs relating to COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing.
“The budget for the following programmes: Ipelegeng programme (P100 000 000), Destitute Housing – Remote Area Development Programme (RADP) (P10 000 000) and Countrywide Destitute Housing (P10 000 000) are proposed for reduction,” reads the document. The Ministry of Local Government Infrastructure Investment and Services’ 2021/2022 Development budget is to be decreased by P170 200 000 from P528 609 298 to P428 609 298 to meet Government’s urgent needs related to COVID-19 and Tertiary Education financing.
“The affected projects are Gaborone Transfer Station and Waste Sorting Centre (P10 200 000), Legolas Road (P40 000 000), Mopane-Block 8 Road (P40 000 000), Tlokweng Internal Roads (ERTP) (P40 000 000), and Mogoditshane Internal (ERTP) (P40 000 000),” the document says. The Development of Primary Education Services for the 2021/22 Development budget is to be decreased by P145 000 000 from P554 000 000 to P409 000 000 to meet Government’s urgent requirements related to COVID-19.
“The proposal is to reduce the provision for the following programmes; Primary Schools Facilities Backlog Eradication Project- ERTP – All Districts (P45 000 000) and Construction of New Primary Schools ERTP 7- Districts (P100 000 000),” the document reads in part. The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development Corporation, which drafted the document, would have its Statistical Survey and Studies programme annual budget reduced due to delays in starting the 2021 Population and Housing Census. According to the document, the programme’s yearly funding decreases by P100 000 000 from P279 294 304 to P179 294 304.
The Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs’ Computerisation programme for 2021/2022 budget need to be decreased by P26 200 000 from P27 200 000 to P1 000 000; the funds were allocated for two projects being Integrated System Project as well as Upgrading of the National Identification System (NIS) and Births & Deaths Registration System whose implementation has been delayed and currently at consultation stage with various stakeholders.
The document also shows that the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security’s 2021/2022 Revision Agriculture Support Schemes budget is expected to be decreased by P200 000 000 from P580 000 000 to P380 000 000 in the 2021/2022 Financial Year. The affected programmes are: (a) Livestock Management and Infrastructure Development II reduced by P50 000 000), (b) MOA Support reduced by P50 000 000 and (c) Agriculture Infrastructure Development (ERTP) reduced by P100 000 000, to meet Government’s urgent needs relating to COVID-19 pandemic containment and shortfall under the Tertiary Education Financing.
The Ministry’s annual budget would be reduced by P64 500 000 from P313 500 000 to P249 000 000. The affected projects are reduced as follows: upgrading the Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources by P50 000 000, Semele Infrastructure by P10 000 000, Refurbishment of Moan Headquarters by P1 500 000 and Refurbishment of Moan Buildings at Extension areas by P3 000 000. Most of the project activities have not started.
The Ministry’s annual Research Support Programme needs to be reduced by P20 000 000 from P40 000 000 to P20 000 000 under the National Agricultural Research and Development Institute (NARDI) project to meet Government’s urgent needs relating mainly to COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing. The Ministry of Mineral, Resources, Green Technology and Energy proposal is to reduce the Mineral Resources Exploration programme budget by P5 000 000 from P25 347 911 to P20 347 911 in the 2021/2022 Financial Year. The funds are earmarked for the Rehabilitation of Old Mines, which has been delayed.
“The 2021/2022 Development budget is to be decreased by P4 000 000 from P63 556 400 to P59 556 400 to meet Government’s urgent priorities mainly related to COVID-19 and Tertiary Education financing. The proposal is to reduce the provision for the Energy Efficiency project as some activities have not started,” the document shows.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness’ annual budget for this programme needs to be decreased by P2 000 000 to cater to ongoing government commitments largely under COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing. The proposal is to reduce the Health Care Standard project budget as the project has not started. It says the annual budget of this programme is being reduced by P26 000 000 from P138 900 000 to P112 000 000. The proposal is to reduce the funding for the construction of a new Health post in Borotsi in (Sefhare-Ramokgonami Constituency) (P3 000 000), Upgrading of Maunatlala Clinic (P3 000 000), Construction of Mini-Health Centres (P10 000 000) and Public Officers’ Housing Initiative (POHI) (P10 000 000). The available balance is sufficient to carry out the implementation of the projects this financial year.
The Ministry’s budget document says the Maunatlala clinic, which falls under the Ministry portfolio, is being reduced by P100 000 000 from P278 350 000 to P178 350 000 from the ministry’. “The proposal is to reduce the budget for Upgrading of Gumare Hospital (70 beds) (P30 000 000), which is currently at the design stage. The other project is the Upgrading of Tutume Hospital (70 beds) (P70 000 000). The drawings for the project are currently being assessed for adequacy and functionality by the Ministry,” it says.
Concerning the Ministry’s computerisation, the document says the annual budget of this programme is being reduced by P12 000 000. The proposal is to reduce the Quality Information Management System (P10 000 000) and e-Health (P2 000 000) projects. The project has not started yet. The document says the facilitation of elections under the Independent of Electoral Commission (IEC) was reduced by P4 000 000 from P10 612 440 to P6 612 440. The proposal is to reduce the Review of electoral processes (P2 000 000) and Automation of Records Management (P2 000 000) projects. The project has been delayed for Botswana National Archives and Records Services (BNARS) to assess automation rollout readiness.
The document speaks to the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research Science and Technology (MOTE) ‘s Research and Development Programme. It says the 2021/2022 annual budget provision for the programme will need to be reduced by P10 000 000 from P43 500 000 to P33 500 000 to meet Governments’ urgent needs related to COVID-19 response. “The funds were allocated for the Provision of Staff Residential Accommodation for Directorate on Corruption, and Economic Crime (DCEC) project and construction has not yet started,” the document states.
For the Ministry of Presidential Affairs Governance and Public Administration computerisation programme, the document says, “the E-Cabinet project entails digitising Cabinet proceedings and records. The project’s 2021/2022 annual budget provision is P4 000 000”. However, the project has not started pending a detailed scope of the Ministry of Transport and Communications. The project is being delayed to augment funds for COVID-19 related costs.
The document says the annual budget of the Social Protection and Preparedness programme is being reduced by P11 500 000 from P53 500 000 to P42 000 000 to augment funds for COVID–19 related costs. It says the available balance is sufficient to complete the ongoing projects under this programme.
The annual budgeting for strengthening the counter-terrorism and fusion agency programme is reduced by P42 620 000 from P46 396 130 to P3 776 130 to augment funds for COVID–19 related interventions. The document states that the document adds that the project implementation for procurement of ICT Infrastructure has not started.
As for the Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, one of them dubbed broadening the base adding that the annual budget of this programme is being reduced by P7 000000 from P77 900 000 to P70 900 000 to meet Government’s urgent needs largely elated to COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing.
It says the proposal is to reduce the provision for the Development and Marketing of a Swapping Tourism Trail (P1 000 000), District Monuments Development Programme (P1 000 000), Botanical Garden (P5 000 000) and Development of Campsites in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) and Chutes Game Reserves (P2 000 00).
For the Ministry of Minerals project, the document says that one of the programmes is being reduced by P80 000 000 from P181 000 000 to P101 000 000 to meet the Government’s priority needs primarily related to COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing. The proposal, the report says, is to reduce the provision for the Kasane Kazungula Redevelopment Project.
It says that under the Wildlife Management Species project, the annual budget of this programme is being reduced by P4 000 000 from P47 250 000 to P43 250 000 to meet the Governments’ new objectives related to COVID-19. The proposal is to reduce the Water Reticulation (P2 000 000) and Anti-Poaching Unit (APU) Camps (P2 000 000) projects.
The document says Environmental Protection under the same Ministry. The annual budget of this programme is being reduced by P6 500 000 from P31 000 000 to P24 500 000 to meet the Government’s urgent commitments primarily related to COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing. The proposal is to reduce the Greening of MENT (Ministry of Environment Natural Resources and Tourism) and DMS headquarters building (P2 000 000), Establishment of a Centralised Hazardous Waste Treatment & Disposal Facility (P2 500 000) and Botswana Early Warning Hydrological system (P2 000 000).
The document shows that the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture will have to reduce its budget earmarked for its infrastructure development. “The annual budget of this programme is being reduced by P33 000 000 from P41 145 000 to P8 145 000. The proposal is to reduce the Francistown Stadium Roof project. The Ministry has written to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing (MIH) to assist in the facilitation of the project,” the document shows.
As for infrastructure maintenance, the Ministry of Housing and Development budget will also have to be reduced. The document says that the annual budget of this programme is being reduced by P20 000 000 from P157 079 930 to P137 079 930. “The proposal is to reduce the provision for the following projects: The Mahalapye Department of Facilities Management (P3 500 000), Refurbishment Gaborone Industrial Department of Facilities Management office (P3 000 000), Refurbishment Shake Department of Facilities Management (DFM) office (P4 500 000), Refurbishment Broad Hurst DFM office (P3 000 000) and Government Building Consultancy (P6 000 000),” shows the report.
It says the annual budget of the computerisation programme is being reduced by P14 000 000 to meet Government’s priorities related to COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing in the main. The proposal is to reduce the provision for the ICT Equipment (P5 000 000), Automation of MIH Services (P1 000 000) and Local Area Network (LAN) Upgrade (P8 000 000) projects.
The Ministry of Transport and Communications’ infrastructure budget would be reduced, which would lower the annual budget of this programme P247 000 000 from P1 338 356 000 to P 1 141 356 000 to meet the Government’s urgent needs related principally to COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing. “The proposal is to reduce the provision for the Nata-Kasane road (P20 000 000), Francistown-Nata-Maun Mohembo (P80 000 000), Gaborone Eastern-By-Pass (P50 000 000), A1 Dulling (P50 000 000), Palapye-Matins Drift (P32 000 000), Mmathethe-Bray-Werra road (P15 000, 000),” according to the document.
It says the railway infrastructure’s annual budget of this programme is being reduced by P247 000 000 from P1 338 356 000 to P 1 141 356 000 to meet Government’s priorities mainly related to COVID-19 and Tertiary Education financing. The budget would be reduced for the following projects: Trans- Kalahari Railway Link (P15 000 000), Mmamabula-Lephalale Railway Link, Optimal Utilisation of the Dry port at Walvis Bay (P20 000 000) and Development of the Inland Dry Ports (P20 000 000). Some of the projects have experienced delays in implementation due to COVID-19 protocols that continue to be enforced.
The Ministry of Defence Justice and Security’s project that will be affected is the strengthening of Botswana Police Services as the 2021/22 Development budget is being decreased by P65 000 000 from P411 900 000 to P346 900 000 to meet Government’s urgent needs related to COVID-19 and Tertiary Education financing.
The document is to reduce the proposal is to reduce the budget for the following projects: Construction of Posts and Base Camps (P10 000 000), Provision of Staff Houses (P40 000 000), Block 10 Police Station (Office Block) (P5 000 000) and Letlhakeng Police Station and Houses (P10 000 000).
“The 2021/22 strengthening of prisons services development budget is being decreased by P25 000 000 from P155 505 587 to P130 505 587 to meet Government’s binding commitments under the national COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing in the main. The proposal is to reduce the budget for the following: Fencing for Prison Facilities (P10 000 000); Staff Houses – Department of Prisons (P10 000 000); and Construction of High-Security Wing at Thane Prison (P5 000 000),” the document reads.
As for the Ministry of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development facilities programme needs to be decreased by P21 000 000 from P99 654 000 to P78 654 000. “The proposal is to reduce the budget for the Rapid Skill Centres (P12 000 000) and Construction of Emergency Evacuation Access at Botswana National Productivity Centre (BNPC) Hostels (P9 000 000). BNPC is at the initial stages of procurement.
The annual budget of the computerisation programme needs to be decreased by P1 800 000 from P21 937 000 to P20 137 000. These funds will be sourced from the BNPC Computerization project (P1 800 000), whose implementation has been delayed due to COVID-19 protocols,” the document says.
The Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research Science and Technology will also have its annual budget for the research programme to be decreased by P10 000 000 from P112 473 300 to P102 473 300 to cater for Government’s urgent needs mainly related to COVID-19 national response and Tertiary Education financing.
The document says the proposal is to reduce the Implementation of Research, Science, Technology (RST) and Innovation (Plan) – Science Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP) Review; Technology Foresighting; Square Kilometer Array (SKA); and Space Science Strategy, whose implementation has been delayed. Apart from the more than P2.3 billion requested from Government, the Government had announced that it had set aside P2 billion and other funds from the private sector and other donors, which amounted to millions of Pula to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi is scheduled to meet Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) elders to discuss the state of the party upon his return from the 76th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in the United States. The purpose of the meeting is to establish the President’s relationship with his cabinet and what he knows about the reported burgeoning factions within the party.
There is an air of disunity within the ruling party, with some senior ministers said to be pulling in different because of numerous unexplained transactions. The faction, reportedly led by three ministers, is said to gain traction in the party, with most backbenchers closing ranks with them. BDP veterans, also known as the Elders’ Council, are a recognised structure in the party. Article 24.2 of the BDP constitution says the mandate of the Elders Council include investigations, arbitration, and reconciliation of differences and disputes where necessary within the party structure and or members.