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.”
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.