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.”
Botswana Police Service (BPS) has indicated concern about the ongoing trend where the general public falls victim to criminals purporting to be police officers.
According to BPS Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, the criminals target individuals at shopping malls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where upon approaching the unsuspecting individual the criminals would pretend to have picked a substantial amount of money and they would make a proposal to the victims that the money is counted and shared in an isolated place.
“On the way, as they stop at the isolated place, they would start to count and sharing of the money, a criminal syndicate claiming to be Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer investigating a case of stolen money will approach them,” said Motube in a statement.
The Commissioner indicated that the fake police officers would instruct the victims to hand over all the cash they have in their possession, including bank cards and Personal Identification Number (PIN), the perpetrators would then proceed to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.
Motube also revealed that they are also investigating a case in which a 69 year old Motswana woman from Molepolole- who is a victim of the scam- lost over P62 000 last week Friday to the said perpetrators.
“The Criminal syndicate introduced themselves as CID officers investigating a case of robbery where a man accompanying the woman was the suspect.’’
They subsequently went to the woman’s place and took cash amounting to over P12 000 and further swindled amount of P50 000 from the woman’s bank account under the pretext of the further investigations.
In addition, Motube said they are currently investigating the matter and therefore warned the public to be vigilant of such characters and further reminds the public that no police officer would ask for bank cards and PINs during the investigations.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership walked out of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this week on account of being targeted by other cooperating partners.
UDC meet for the first time since 2020 after previous futile attempts, but the meeting turned into a circus after other members of the executive pushed for BCP to explain its role in media statements that disparate either UDC and/or contracting parties.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Tymon Katlholo’s spirited fight against the contentious transfers of his management team has forced the Office of the President to rescind the controversial decision. However, some insiders suggest that the reversal of the transfers may have left some interested parties with bruised egos and nursing red wounds.
The transfers were seen by observers as a badly calculated move to emasculate the DCEC which is seen as defiant against certain objectionable objectives by certain law enforcement agencies – who are proven decisionists with very little regard for the law and principle.