President Mokgweetsi Masisi administration has announced this week the reversal of the decision to introduce the controversial Electronic Voting Machine (EVMs) following court battles and resistance from the populace.
Ever since Masisi ascended to the presidency, government had hinted at the possibility of doing away with EVM, a move which was finally enacted this week through a communique from Office of the President. Since 2016 the issue surrounding the use and procurement of the controversial EVMs has been very topical. The debacle and the suspicions involving the use of EVMs by the ruling government was perceived as a move to rig the 2019 general elections.
It was believed that, following the 2014 general election, in which ruling Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) fortunes plummeted, the ruling party had fears that it would lose the 2019 general elections. In a statement that announced the decision government contended that the Electoral (Amendment) Act of 2016 introduced amendments in order to improve efficiency in the electoral process. The 2016 Act introduced changes including electronic voting, abolition of supplementary registration, increased nomination fees and fines, amongst others.
The 2016 Act makes provision for Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) which are machines or apparatus whether or not operated electronically, used for the giving and recording of votes. The Electoral (Amendment) Act of 2016 was passed by Parliament in 2016 but has not been brought into operation. On 1st December 2017, Government published the Electoral (Amendment) Bill of 2017 which proposed to repeal and replace the 2016 Act while at the same time introducing Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail. The Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 2017 was not tabled in Parliament.
Government has concluded that since the Electoral (Amendment) Act of 2016 is not in operation, the 2019 General Elections will be conducted in accordance with the Electoral Act [Cap. 02:09], which does not provide for the use of EVMs, nor prohibits supplementary registration.
The introduction of Act was vehemently opposed by Botswana Congress Party (BCP), which had taken the matter to court arguing through its lawyers argued that the Electoral Act as amended to introduce EVMs for voting is unconstitutional. BCP also argued that the court should declare that EVMs violate the fundamental democratic principles of transparency and openness which are a pre- requisite for elections.
The BCP further argued that EVMs can be tampered with and therefore unsafe to be used for choosing a government. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has on the 23rd March 2017 delivered a notice to abide by the decision of the Court indicating that the IEC shall not oppose the court case and will do as directed by the Court.
The cost of all the 2000 machines that were expected to be used nationwide was P100 million. Given the dynamics Botswana would need a total of 2000 machines to cover all constituencies as each machine can accept about 500 votes.
The former Secretary of the IEC Gabriel Seeletso who now serve as a consultant led the IEC’s EVM Unit on a nationwide tour, addressing 490 ward meetings and 57 constituency meetings during which he educated the public and stakeholders about the EVM. The campaign cost the IEC P150 million.
The BCP also issued a statement which welcomed the move by government to abandon the EVMs. “We are not surprised by the pronouncement because both the Minister in the Presidency and the Vice President have in the recent past mooted the idea of abandoning the use of EVM”. BCP Spokesperson Dithapelo Keorapetse said however, for BCP, the matter remains live before Justice Lot Moroka at Francistown High Court.
“We can’t rely on a press release what if it’s withdrawn. We will seek a consent order to the effect that for 2019, general elections they’ll be no EVM and they’ll be supplementary voter registration. There has to be a legal instrument that binds the government. It is up to the government to legally bind itself to what Batswana want, which is no use of EVMs for 2019 and reinstatement of supplementary election registration. We are waiting for them to approach us before trial dates or we will meet at court on the dates set for trial whereat they’ll properly inform the judge of their decision”.
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.
â€śBotswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,â€ť says Dr. Kwape. He wouldnâ€™t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.
â€śWe 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,â€ś 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 â€śGovernment 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.â€ť
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.
â€śSADC 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,â€ť 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.
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 deceasedâ€™s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.
Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrateâ€™s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.
â€śThe third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,â€ť 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.
â€śYesterday, 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,â€ť 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 12thÂ 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 (Astonâ€™s children) are staying.
â€śThato 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,â€ť 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.
â€śI 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,â€ť 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.
â€śPhillip 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 Mallâ€ť the Investigation Officer told the court.
He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the â€śunknown callerâ€ť and the route of the cell number.
Furthermore, the fourth accused,Â 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 6thÂ of next month
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.
â€śWe 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 â€“ that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,â€ť 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, herderâ€™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,â€ť said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).