In a shocking turn of events, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has this week disowned its role of civic and voter education to the public. IEC is an independent body which is mandated with conducting the elections in Botswana although it operates under the auspices of Office of the President.
Speaking to Weekend Post this week IEC Principal Public Relations Officer (PRO) Osupile Maroba revealed that educating the public on casting their vote does not form part of their mandate. “If you can look at the Electoral law, it is not the mandate of the IEC to carry out civic and voter education. It is not the legal mandate of the IEC,” he said. He emphasised that there is nowhere in the law where one can come across the civic and public education role for the IEC and there is absolutely no such role.
He told Weekend Post that “like we always say to you, talk to the law, and challenge the legal framework and whether it is adequate.” Maroba explained that IEC is an organisation that only conducts elections as per the law while stressing that “what we do we just implement the law and nothing else. We can only make recommendations to those who are making the law who being the Members of Parliament (MP’s).
The IEC mouthpiece further pointed out to this publication that the Electoral Act cap 02:09 section 3 clearly explains the duties and parameters of the IEC and that certainly civic and public education does not make part of their duties. The relevant section states “the Secretary shall… (a) exercise general direction and supervision over the registration of voters;
(b) exercise general direction and supervision over the administrative conduct of elections and enforce on the part of all election officers fairness, impartiality and compliance with the provisions of this Act; (c) issue to election officers and registration officers such instructions as he may deem necessary to ensure effective execution of the provisions of this Act; and (d) exercise and perform all other powers and duties conferred and imposed upon him by this Act.”
Maroba also drew this publication to the constitution of Botswana section 65A (12) which specifically states that the “Commission shall be responsible for – (a) the conduct and supervision of elections of the Elected Members of the National Assembly and members of a local authority, and conduct of a referendum; (b) giving instructions and directions to the Secretary of the Commission appointed under section 66 in regard to the exercise of his or her functions under the electoral law prescribed by an Act of Parliament; (c) ensuring that elections are conducted efficiently, properly, freely and fairly; and (d) performing such other functions as may be prescribed by an Act of Parliament.”
The IEC spokesperson further took a swipe at IEC critics stating firmly that the IEC, although under the OP, remains independent adding that legislatures have to take a fair share of blame on the current ‘inadequate’ IEC frame work. He averred: “you also like saying that IEC is not independent and that the commission is a child of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). But you will realise that clearly you are barking the wrong tree. If IEC is not independent who has the right to amend that? It is surely the lawmakers who can amend the constitution and the Electoral law.”
According to the IEC spokesperson “people should be talking to the legislatures as they are the ones whom come with such laws and try to advocate for improvement of the law.” As to the IEC the PRO emphasised that their powers are limited and that “we apply the law to the letter.”
Why IEC registered low turnout in 2018
By the time of going to print, Maroba has confirmed to this publication that approximately 750 000 electorates have registered. “It’s a very small number. In case of the absence of a supplementary, it will easily come as the lowest number of registered voters recorded bearing into mind that today the population has grown and people are more sophisticated,” he pointed out.
He further stressed therefore that it is an average lower participation of registration as a good number of people are knowledgeable about democracy. He said however some did not turn out because they are not interested. “Some people are just not interested while others say they are not sure of the candidates in their polling areas. Others say they are fed up about how the political parties are conducting themselves in Botswana (the infightings).
They say the parties don’t take them seriously as voters but they are more into their personal interests.”According to the IEC spokesperson, others point out that the electoral system is tiresome as it forces them to register only where they are going to vote and as such those in far distant areas have to incur travel costs to go register and to vote as well later. “So it’s costly. Distance and cost of travel have a bearing in other people s decisions to register and ultimately vote (or to participate or not).
Electoral system is very clear that you register where you are going to vote and we cannot change it until there is an amendment of the legislature.” We believe if there are some inconveniences stifling the electorates to register, lawmakers should motivate its amendments, Maroba highlighted. He continued “they believe technology is also one of the ways that simplify the election process so we have to introduce technology in the electoral process like computerisation of the electoral process. Where there are no cues. Most of our system is still manual and that needs to change as well.”
The other reasons that electorates give for shunning registration and voting is that they believe that it has been the same since independence as only one party has been winning elections since then turning Botswana into a defacto one party state. “Some say we have turned into a defacto one party state. So their vote cannot make a difference. But they forget that if one person says that possibly thousands are also saying the same.”
Some were saying there was not enough publicity by the IEC, Maroba said adding that but he doesn’t agree with them, “it’s more of a personal decision by an electorate as Motswana with your experience of what is happening in the country or based on your individual analysis.” He also learnt that people are saying that IEC should introduce online registration.
IEC to carry out extensive and informative voter apathy study
In light of the low turnout, the commission have pointed out that they will carry out extensive researches on voter apathy very soon particularly as they now have a research unit in place. “We have to do a study to establish the cause of this. We are currently using the 2001 voter apathy study that was carried by Democracy research project. It’s the one that informed most of the education programmes that were developed between then and now.”
Former Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Member of Parliament for Gaborone North, Haskins Nkaigwa has confirmed his departure from opposition fold to re-join the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
Nkaigwa said opposition is extremely divided and the leadership not in talking terms. “They are planning evil against each other. Nothing much will be achieved,” Nkaigwa told WeekendPost.
“I believe my time in the opposition has come to an end. It’s time to be of value to rebuilding our nation and economy of the country. Remember the BDP is where I started my political journey. It is home,” he said.
“Despite all challenges currently facing the world, President Masisi will be far with his promises to Batswana. A leader always have the interest of the people at heart despite how some decisions may look to be unpopular with the people.
“I have faith and full confidence in President Dr Masisi leadership. We shall overcome as party and nation the current challenges bedevilling nations. BDP will emerge stronger. President Masisi will always have my backing.”
Nkaigwa served as opposition legislator between 2014-2019 representing Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) under UDC banner. He joined BMD in 2011 at the height public servant strike whilst Gaborone City Deputy Mayor. He eventually rose to become the mayor same year, after BDP lost majority in the GCC.
Nkaigwa had been a member of Botswana National Front (BNF), having joined from Alliance for Progressives (AP) in 2019.
Botswana has received assistance worth over P100 million from Japanese government since 2019, making the latter of the largest donors to Botswana in recent years.
The assistance include relatively large-scale grant aid programmes such as the COVID-19 programme (to provide medical equipment; P34 million), the digital terrestrial television programme (to distribute receivers to the underprivileged, P17 million), the agriculture promotion programme (to provide agricultural machinery and equipment, P53million).
“As 2020 was a particularly difficult year, where COVID-19 hit Botswana’s economy and society hard, Japan felt the need to assist Botswana as our friend,” said Japan’s new Ambassador to Botswana, Hoshiyama Takashi.
“It is for this reason that grants of over P100 million were awarded to Botswana for the above mentioned projects.”
Japan is now the world’s fourth highest ranking donor country in terms of Official Development Assistance (ODA).
From 1991 to 2000, Japan continued as the top donor country in the world and contributed to Asia’s miracle economic development.
From 1993 onwards, the TICAD process commenced through Japan’s initiative as stated earlier. Japan’s main contribution has been in the form of Yen Loans, which are at a concessional rate, to suit large scale infrastructure construction.
“In Botswana, only a few projects have been implemented using the Yen Loan such as the Morupule “A” Power Station Rehabilitation and Pollution Abatement in 1986, the Railway Rolling Stock Increase Project in 1987, the Trans-Kalahari Road Construction Project in 1991, the North-South Carrier Water Project in 1995 and the Kazungula Bridge Construction Project in 2012,” said Ambassador Hoshiyama.
“In terms of grant aid and technical assistance, Japan has various aid schemes including development survey and master planning, expert dispatch to recipient countries, expert training in Japan, scholarships, small scale grass-roots program, culture-related assistance, aid through international organizations and so on.”
In 1993, Japan launched Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) to promote Africa’s development, peace and security, through the strengthening of relations in multilateral cooperation and partnership.
TICAD discuss development issues across Africa and, at the same time, present “aid menus” to African countries provided by Japan and the main aid-related international organizations, United Nations (UN), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.
“As TICAD provides vision and guidance, it is up to each African country to take ownership and to implement her own development following TICAD polices and make use of the programmes shown in the aid menus,” Ambassordor Hoshiyama noted.
“This would include using ODA loans for quality infrastructure, suited to the country’s own nation-building needs. It is my fervent hope that Botswana will take full advantage of the TICAD process.”
Since then, seven conferences where held, the latest, TICAD 7 being in 2019 at Yokohama. TICAD 7’s agenda on African development focused on three pillars, among them the first pillar being “Accelerating economic transformation and improving business environment through innovation and private sector engagement”.
“Yes, private investment is very important, while public investment through ODA (Official Development Assistance) still plays an indispensable role in development,” the Japanese Ambassador said.
“For further economic development in Africa, Japan recognizes that strengthening regional connectivity and integration through investment in quality infrastructure is key.”
Japan has emphasized the following; effective implementation of economic corridors such as the East Africa Northern Corridor, Nacala Corridor and West Africa Growth Ring; Quality infrastructure investment in line with the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment should be promoted by co-financing or cooperation through the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Japan.
Japan also emphasized the establishment of mechanisms to encourage private investment and to improve the business environment.
According to the statistics issued by Japan’s Finance Ministry, Japan invested approximately 10 billion US dollars in Africa after TICAD 7 (2019) to year end 2020, but Japanese investment through third countries are not included in this figure.
“With the other points factored in, the figure isn’t established yet,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
The next conference, TICAD 8 will be held in Tunisia in 2022. This will be the second TICAD summit to be held on the African continent after TICAD 6 which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016.
According to Ambassador Hoshiyama, in preparation for TICAD 8, the TICAD ministerial meeting will be held in Tokyo this year. The agenda to be discussed during TICAD 8 has not yet been fully deliberated on amongst TICAD Co-organizers (Japan, UN, UNDP, the World Bank and AU).
“Though not officially concluded, given the world situation caused by COVID-19, I believe that TICAD 8 will highlight health and medical issues including the promotion of a Universal Health Coverage (UHC),” said Hoshiyama.
“As the African economy has seriously taken a knock by COVID-19, economic issues, including debt, could be an item for serious discussion.”
The promotion of business is expected to be one of the most important topics. Japan and its partners, together with the business sector, will work closely to help revitalize private investment in Africa.
“All in all, the follow-up of the various programs that were committed by the Co-Organizers during the Yokohama Plan of Actions 2019 will also be reviewed as an important item of the agenda,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
“I believe that this TICAD follow-up mechanism has secured transparency and accountability as well as effective implementation of agreed actions by all parties. The guiding principle of TICAD is African ownership and international partnership.”
Directorate on Intelligence Services (DIS) Director General, Brigadier Peter Magosi is said to be hell-bent and pushing President Mokgweetsi Masisi to reshuffle his cabinet as a matter of urgency since a number of his ministers are conflicted.
The request by Magosi comes at a time when time is ticking on his contract which is awaiting renewal from Masisi.
This publication learns that Magosi is unshaken by the development and continues to wield power despite uncertainty hovering around his contractual renewal.