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”.
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.