Yes the, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has won but the numbers are appalling! The low voter turnout in the Moshupa/Manyana constituency by-election should be a wakeup call on the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), experts say.
The fact that President Mokgweetsi Masisi is the immediate former Member of Parliament for the constituency of Moshupa/Manyana and that the BDP candidate, Karabo Gare is his supposed blue eyed boy, the general expectation was that multitudes will throng the polling stations. Instead the bye-election went on to record one of the lowest voter apathy rates ever recorded in the country. This comes on the backdrop of IEC planned voter registration that starts September 3rd to November 11th this year. The IEC is targeting 1.5 million eligible voters to register.
According to IEC official documents turned out by WeekendPost, the constituency has so far registered the lowest voter turnout in successive bye-elections since 2014 General Elections. Out of a whooping 14 849 constituents who registered to vote in the 2014 General Elections in the area, only a handful of 5 662 cast their vote at last weekend’s bye-election.
While it is common cause that a lesser number of electorates are always recorded in bye-elections, the number was unexpectedly lower in Moshupa/Manyana, particularly because it is the president’s former constituency and he had made a call for constituents to come in numbers to vote in his chosen successor.
Only 38.1% of eligible electorates cast their votes in last weekend’s bye-election. The bye-election was necessitated by the elevation of the area legislator, Masisi to the highest office in the land. While the low turnout in numbers was apparent in the election, the results indicate that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) continues to dominate, having garnered 4 039 votes against a paltry 1 530 of the opposition conglomerate, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
The UDC numbers are inclusive of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) which contended and, Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Botswana Peoples Party (BPP). The results suggest that voter apathy continues to be a thorn in the flesh with Moshupa/Manyana standing at a worst recorded level for the country since 2014 despite the sitting president being the area ex immediate MP. Some observers therefore believe it may be attributed as a vote of no confidence on the president as he campaigned vigorously, together with his party, and implored all the residents to vote in large numbers.
While only 5 662 voted in the by election at the said Masisi backyard, the previous 2014 General Elections indicate that 12 619 voted. Masisi, in the elections beat Ngaka Monageng who was representing UDC by 6 831 to 3 231 while BCP’s Benny Stegling managed 2557 votes. Prior, in the 2009 General Elections, also only 9 244 electorates cast their vote with the ruling BDP being voted by 6 374, BCP 1 519 and 1 219 of the BNF. Two independent candidates got 60 and 72 respectively.
When zooming into the intra party affairs, especially the BDP which has won Moshupa/Manyana constituency since independence; in the 2007 party primary elections, Masisi defeated Bobby Tlhabiwe by 2 141 votes to 923 out of the 3 064 party faithful who took part in the election. Following Masisi, Gare also won the primaries earlier this year by 2 841 against Lentswe Mosanako’s 767, Stephen Kganela’s 514, John Boikhutso Disele’s 182 and Benjamin Mogodi’s 50. A total of 4 354 democrats cast their votes.
There are seven wards in the constituency being; Lotlhakane West, Manyana/Mogonye, Moshupa-East, Moshupa-South, Moshupa-North, Pitseng and Ralekgetho. Meanwhile, IEC documents also indicate that Moshupa/Manyana which registered the lowest voter turnout at the bye-elections since 2014 is followed by Mochudi East at 38.57%. In the area, 20 460 registered but only 7 892 did actually vote.
UDC’s Moagi Molebatsi emerged triumphant at the constituency by election by 4 402 while Mpho Moruakgomo of BDP got 3 284 and 130 for independent candidate Japhta Radibe. The constituency fell vacant following the murder of Isaac Davids early this year. The third lowest voter apathy in the by elections was in Tlokweng with 49.39%. A total of 6 875 voted out of the 13 919 registered electorates. The area has seen Masego Segokgo of the UDC garner 4 634 against BDP’s Elijah Katse with 2 157 while Shirley Segokgo trailed behind with 57.
Masego succeeded Same Bathobakae who died in 2016. The last area which recorded a better voter turnout is Goodhope-Mabule standing at 69.04% compared to 85.86% for the 2014 General Elections. In Goodhope-Mabule, out of the 15 991 that registered to vote in 2014, 11 040 cast their vote with Lotlaamoreng Montshiwa winning the area. He attained 6 152 as opposed to Eric Molale’s 4 372 and 385 by Comfort Maruping of the BCP after the area was ditched by James Mathokgwane for a lucrative post at Selibe Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU).
When speaking to WeekendPost this week, Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Spokesperson, Osupile Maroba expressed his unease with regard to voter apathy in the country. “Voter apathy remains a serious concern to us, we are not happy at all especially in the recent by election lowest record at Moshupa/Manyana,” Maroba pointed out. Maroba said all, as custodians of democracy should be equally discontented as democracy is mostly defined by participation and the more the participation the merrier.
“We, as IEC also often ask ourselves why people are not voting. Is it the IEC? Is it political parties? Or just that the electorates are not interested?” he asked rhetorically. Apart from low turnout in Moshupa/Manyana, and while conceding that it’s the nature of by elections, he said other areas are really worrisome like the recent Mochudi-East bye-election where UDC emerged triumphant.
The IEC mouth piece on the other hand justified that voter apathy sometimes may be as a result of transfers where other workers are moved to other places, and that young people are naturally mobile and/or they move willy-nilly. However he told this publication that since they are concerned by voter apathy, they even plan on carrying out a new study for voter apathy to see if there are new challenges and new factors to address the complicated issue.
According to Maroba, currently there are so many aspects of voter apathy. He stated that they have social media platforms to reach out to everyone especially the youth, including through radio and TV programmes as well as adverts. On his part, UDC Publicity Secretary Moeti Mohwasa told this publication briefly that, naturally bye-elections attract low number of electorates but in providing an adequate answer they await a full report from the elections team in Moshupa/Manyana and therefore will not comment further.
On the other hand, BDP Secretary General Mpho Balopi said they are equally worried about the low turnout in Moshupa/Manyana bye-election. He said that there are many dimensions to the issue including the short span of time, other electorates could not locate their registration cards, and that some other electorates’ omang cards were expired. He added that more voter education should be instilled.
Meanwhile, a Political Analyst and lecturer at the University of Botswana (UB) Leonard Sesa said in light of what transpired at Moshupa/Manyana, the IEC must go back to the drawing board and look at the recommendations after 2014 with regard to curbing voter apathy and apply them. He partly attributed the low turn out to the winter season saying that electorates might have felt lazy to join long queues and cast their votes.
The Political Analyst added that IEC should have the power to come up with a writ of elections as opposed to a writ by the president, but within a stipulated bye-election period. He said parties should also look at the calibre of aspiring candidates and vet them thoroughly before being presented to the electorates. Another professor of Political Science at University of Botswana, Zibani Maundeni in his research paper “Voter education and some electoral issues in Botswana: 2004 and 2014 compared” says voter apathy is entrenched in our elections.
He stated in the paper that “in 2004, the nation united behind the IEC in tackling voter apathy and the results were encouraging. In contrast, voter education has hugely slowed down, nobody seems to be leading, and voter apathy is mostly likely to entrench itself again in the coming elections. Joint efforts are hardly visible, there is no leading institution spearheading voter education, and civil society movement is almost dead. There is neither a woman’s manifesto nor youth’s manifesto, and political development is hardly visible.”
While it takes a lot to penetrate and thrive in the male dominated political space in Botswana, Block 3 Ward councillor Motamma Horatius, is one of the few females defying the odds.
Driven by passion, Horatius has always worn many hats and today she has become one of the few women who are thriving in the political space in Botswana. Prior to pursuing politics, she was an active participated in the creative space.
Horatius, a beauty queen, notably famous for her reign as Miss World Tourism Botswana represented Botswana in a television show famously known as Big Brother Africa. During her stay in the house, she got termed darling of the continent for an outstanding performance that promoted unity, humility and culture.
After serving for some time in public space, and making a name for herself as well as serving as a brand ambassador she decided to step in a career that will forever challenge her. This was after she had travelled the world and demonstrated her unique leadership skills and brilliance.
“I stopped and asked myself why am I not incorporating this brilliance back home. And wherever you go worldwide Botswana with all her faults is a beacon of hope in everything. And even successful countries came here to benchmark and implemented our policies and are flourishing such as Rwanda. So I decided to join active politics and go straight to the ruling party to add a youthful feel to an already existing force and help modernise it to serve better not from afar but from within,” she clarified.
“So my ample experience in civic leadership across countries around the world catapulted me to join active politics because I wondered, if I can do as much as an individual even across nations, how much can I do whilst in office, locally. And I chose to start from the ground up, in order to avoid leaving the locals behind.”
The stern and tenacious young leader, currently sit as the Chairperson of Finance Committee at Gaborone City Council, and also chairs Performance Monitoring Committee.
While a typical girl would dream of becoming either a nurse or choose a ‘girl’ orientated deemed career, she had a heart for politics from a very young age. By the time she left the creative space, she had already made a name for herself, that she needed no introduction.
“I had to acknowledge first that I am a woman, and being a woman means you have to work 200 percent more than your male counterparts. So it took sleeplessness nights, and a massive amount of working smart to win legitimately,” she said.
She acknowledges that she faced a lot of challenges during the 2019 elections which she had to overcome through the assistance of her loved ones and family.
“Politics is expensive but I managed by God’s grace, family, friends, acquaintances and good Samaritans but my mind helped. I am a very good planner when it comes to execution,” she said.
“Another hurdle is, being a young woman, I had conceived during the time of primary elections; so campaigning whilst expectant, managing your emotions through betrayals, insults, stress, house-to-house then giving birth and having to hit the ground in less than two weeks having given birth via C-section, was a hurdle I overcame by God’s mercy and I am thankful to my family for helping me with the kids because politics means a lot of time away from home.”
“Another hurdle was to portray an all rounded culturally grounded Motswana woman soft but yet stern, respectful but can articulate issues well. Because even though we are civilized our society still upholds unwritten yet practiced values of what a woman is and what a man is, and if you defy societal expectations, it judges you harshly. But thankfully I remained focused on who I was and didn’t try alternate anything When I lost some of the original members of my campaign team. The pain was deep. But I wiped my tears. Soldiered on, and God increased twice the initial number.”
At some point she had to face demeaning words from other male contestants, but the best to do at the time was to shun negativity and stay focused. Male intimidation never tugged her down.
“My experience with 2019 elections was rather inclined to learning as it was my first time running for office as a politician, so I wanted to see if really hard work has results because I always hear stories of how people are bought,” she said.
“So since I was not buying anyone, I was on a learning curve to test my hard work style of delivery against what is believed out there. So it was exciting and again I say it was a learning curve as most NGOs fighting to increase women participation in politics were continuously training us.’
Despite everything she feels women political participation in Botswana is still low. She has pleaded with the media to cover them more often as she believes maybe it will help more women to run for office.
Botswana has few women in parliament, giving men dominance in policy decisions. In a 63-seat parliament, Botswana has only seven female MPs, four of them being specially elected lawmakers.
According to the 2019 edition of the biennial Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Map of Women in Politics. Among the top African countries with a high percentage of women in ministerial positions are Rwanda (51.9%), South Africa (48.6%), Ethiopia (47.6%), Seychelles (45.5%), Uganda (36.7%) and Mali (34.4%).
The lowest percentage in Africa was in Morocco (5.6%), which has only one female minister in a cabinet of 18.
Other countries with fewer than 10% women ministers include Nigeria (8%), Mauritius (8.7%) and Sudan (9.5%).Other African countries with high percentages of women MPs include Namibia (46.2%), South Africa (42.7%) and Senegal (41.8%), according to the report.
Though a slight increase, Botswana is still lagging behind when it comes to women political participation.
According to a report made by IEC for the 2019 elections, there is 11.1% women representation in parliament. There has been a 1.6% slight increase from the 2019 election compared to the 2014 elections.
According to United Nations, there are two main obstacles that prevent women from participating fully in political life.
These are structural barriers, whereby discriminatory laws and institutions still limit women’s ability to run for office, and capacity gaps, which occur when women are less likely than men to have the education, contacts and resources needed to become effective leaders.
As it stands though, Botswana has continued to recognize gender equality as central to socio-economic, political and cultural development through its National Vision 2036.
Following the adoption of the National Policy on Gender and Development in 2015, the National Gender Commission was established in September 2016, to monitor implementation of the policy.
Government ministries and departments have moved to cut expenditure in the last quarter of financial year in order to survive the economic hardship occasioned by the covid-19 pandemic. Since the outbreak, Government and the private sector have been hard hit financially due to limited economic activity brought about by government response to fighting the pandemic.
In an urgent savingram by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Molefi Keaja addressed to all council secretaries and town clerks, the government informs that it is facing unprecedented budgetary challenges for Financial Year 2020/2021.
“This has necessitated measures to be put in place to conserve cash and ensure that government is able to honour its financial obligations in the remaining (3) months of the financial year,” said the savingram dated 24 December 2020.
The Government has cut all travel by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) including State owned entities (SOEs) and Local Authorities until the next financial year in April 2021. It has also taken a decision that all meetings, interviews, seminars, workshops, conferences, retreats, annual ceremonies and hospitality events should be conducted virtually, which save on the cost of securing venues, conference facilities and meals/refreshments.
“No replenishment of refreshments for the Executive Cadre (E2 salary scale and above) until the end of the financial year,” Keaja directed. Last year government also resolved that due to the financial effects of Covid-19 the government will no longer recruit for any jobs during the 2020/2021 financial year.
The Cabinet directed that the 2020/2021 provision for vacancies be withdrawn from Ministries, Departments and Agencies recurrent budgets to cater for supplementary estimates. According to the saving gram then by the Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM) said the country faces fiscal challenges which have been accentuated by the emergence and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amongst key ministries and departments affected were the Botswana Defence Force, National Strategy Office, Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), Commissioner of Police, Commissioner of Prisons, Clerk of National Assembly and the Directorate on Corruption & Economic Crime (DCEC).
It further deliberated that all various institutions that had begun recruitment for existing vacant positions be frozen for the remaining period of the 2020/2021 financial year. “Since funds for the vacancies will only be recruited in the next financial year 2020/20121, Ministries, Department and Agencies are advised to discontinue recruitment into such vacancies until 1st April 2021. Those who are already at an advanced stage of recruitment process are advised to withhold appointments until further notice.”
The Director of Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM), Goitseone Mosalakatane, told the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in September that despite the high unemployment rate, they cannot hire for the posts because part of the funds have been withdrawn to fight the Coronavirus.
With just a few days into the New Year, Covid-19 seems to be taking its toll and its effects will be felt vastly in the long run. Countries worldwide, including Botswana are injecting in millions of money in the fight against the deadly virus therefore placing immense uncertainty on country’s economy.
When delivering his speech at last year’s State of Nation Address President Mokgweetsi Masisi said during 2020, the domestic economy was expected to contract by 8.9 percent indicating that this is attributed to an expected sharp decline in major sectors such as mining, (minus 24.5 percent); trade, hotels and restaurants (minus 27.4 percent); construction (minus 6 percent); manufacturing (minus 3.9 percent); and transport and communications (minus 2.5 percent).
However, he assured that the economy is expected to rebound during 2021, with overall growth projected at 7.7 percent. The anticipated recovery will be driven by a rebound in growth of some major sectors such as mining (14.4 percent), trade, hotels and restaurants (18.8 percent), and transport and communications (4.2 percent).
Furthermore, Masisi pointed out that the recovery will also be supported by the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan currently being implemented by Government. “It is critical to note that these projections are dependent on, among others, the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions.
These containment measures have the effect of reducing spending by firms and households and causing supply-chain disruptions. Beyond this, the recovery phase will be influenced by confidence effects on households and businesses; sectoral transformation and changes in work patterns; as well as prospects for the recovery of global financial markets and commodity prices.”
Emphasising this, he explained that despite the challenges of COVID-19 there still remains the delicate balance of opening the economy whilst containing the disease burden. “Inflation according to the latest data from Statistics Botswana, inflation fell significantly from 2.2 percent in September 2019 to 1.8 percent in September 2020, remaining below the lower bound of the Bank of Botswana’s medium-term objective range of 3 to 6 percent,” he said.
The significant decline in inflation mainly reflects the downward adjustment in fuel prices in June 2020. However, inflation may rise above the current forecasts if the international commodity prices increase beyond current projections and in the event of upward price pressures occasioned by supply constraints due to travel restrictions and lockdowns.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) last year had to cancel its elective congress due to the strict measures that had to be put in place due to Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.
Two other party events Women’s Wing Congress including the much anticipated victorious election celebration were also postponed due to the pandemic as gatherings were cancelled indefinitely. However the BDP is adamant that the party will be able to hold its National Congress and all other events that had been frozen this year.
Speaking to this publication chairman of BDP Communication & International Relations Sub-Committee Kagelelo Kentse said that the party was readying itself for the congress with the main objective being to review resolutions that were taken at their 38th National Congress in Mochudi in 2019. Emphasising this, Kentse said it was commendable that most of the resolutions taken in 2019 have by far been fulfilled.
Moreover, he said it would mean a lot for the party to be able to meet at the congress, this he said would give them the opportunity to introspect and reflect with regards to their manifesto. In 2019 the BDP made about eleven resolutions of which five of these were resolved and gazetted. The abridged resolutions were that the amendment of the law to allow agricultural land owners to use up to 50 percent of their land for non-core purposes, to amend the law to cancel transfer duty on property transferred between the spouses.
President Masisi also passed a law to allow married couples to be independently allocated land and increase threshold for non-payment of transfer on property acquired from P250k to P750k. On the resolution in the tourism sector, Kentse said efforts are very advanced to have local play a part. He said there is ongoing work with the Ministry of Lands on concessions that will be allocated to citizens.
According to the BDP communications chair the Ministry of Tourism has availed more opportunities in dams for tourism thus far, having already issued expression of interest for Letsibogo, Dikgatlhong, and Gaborone dams. Citizens are said to have applied for tenders which are currently under evaluation. There are about 45 campsites set aside for citizens in game reserves and forest reserves for tourism.
The resolution on the declaration of assets and liabilities law which was passed and amended this year, was supported by all legislators including those from opposition. Emphasising this he explained that contentions were on issues to do with valuations, and leaders have started declaring.
With the Congress comprising of the elective congress, the BDP is yet to embark on it an objective Kentse said is on their to do list this year even though the calendar of events has not yet been made. The elective congress has aroused interest, especially the Secretary General position which has attracted a number of participants of which observers believe will accord the incumbent, Mpho Balopi, the current secretary general, the opportunity to buy time if at all he will seek re-election in the position.