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.”
Former Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Member of Parliament for Gaborone North, Haskins Nkaigwa has confirmed his departure from opposition fold to re-join the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
Nkaigwa said opposition is extremely divided and the leadership not in talking terms. “They are planning evil against each other. Nothing much will be achieved,” Nkaigwa told WeekendPost.
“I believe my time in the opposition has come to an end. It’s time to be of value to rebuilding our nation and economy of the country. Remember the BDP is where I started my political journey. It is home,” he said.
“Despite all challenges currently facing the world, President Masisi will be far with his promises to Batswana. A leader always have the interest of the people at heart despite how some decisions may look to be unpopular with the people.
“I have faith and full confidence in President Dr Masisi leadership. We shall overcome as party and nation the current challenges bedevilling nations. BDP will emerge stronger. President Masisi will always have my backing.”
Nkaigwa served as opposition legislator between 2014-2019 representing Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) under UDC banner. He joined BMD in 2011 at the height public servant strike whilst Gaborone City Deputy Mayor. He eventually rose to become the mayor same year, after BDP lost majority in the GCC.
Nkaigwa had been a member of Botswana National Front (BNF), having joined from Alliance for Progressives (AP) in 2019.
Botswana has received assistance worth over P100 million from Japanese government since 2019, making the latter of the largest donors to Botswana in recent years.
The assistance include relatively large-scale grant aid programmes such as the COVID-19 programme (to provide medical equipment; P34 million), the digital terrestrial television programme (to distribute receivers to the underprivileged, P17 million), the agriculture promotion programme (to provide agricultural machinery and equipment, P53million).
“As 2020 was a particularly difficult year, where COVID-19 hit Botswana’s economy and society hard, Japan felt the need to assist Botswana as our friend,” said Japan’s new Ambassador to Botswana, Hoshiyama Takashi.
“It is for this reason that grants of over P100 million were awarded to Botswana for the above mentioned projects.”
Japan is now the world’s fourth highest ranking donor country in terms of Official Development Assistance (ODA).
From 1991 to 2000, Japan continued as the top donor country in the world and contributed to Asia’s miracle economic development.
From 1993 onwards, the TICAD process commenced through Japan’s initiative as stated earlier. Japan’s main contribution has been in the form of Yen Loans, which are at a concessional rate, to suit large scale infrastructure construction.
“In Botswana, only a few projects have been implemented using the Yen Loan such as the Morupule “A” Power Station Rehabilitation and Pollution Abatement in 1986, the Railway Rolling Stock Increase Project in 1987, the Trans-Kalahari Road Construction Project in 1991, the North-South Carrier Water Project in 1995 and the Kazungula Bridge Construction Project in 2012,” said Ambassador Hoshiyama.
“In terms of grant aid and technical assistance, Japan has various aid schemes including development survey and master planning, expert dispatch to recipient countries, expert training in Japan, scholarships, small scale grass-roots program, culture-related assistance, aid through international organizations and so on.”
In 1993, Japan launched Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) to promote Africa’s development, peace and security, through the strengthening of relations in multilateral cooperation and partnership.
TICAD discuss development issues across Africa and, at the same time, present “aid menus” to African countries provided by Japan and the main aid-related international organizations, United Nations (UN), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.
“As TICAD provides vision and guidance, it is up to each African country to take ownership and to implement her own development following TICAD polices and make use of the programmes shown in the aid menus,” Ambassordor Hoshiyama noted.
“This would include using ODA loans for quality infrastructure, suited to the country’s own nation-building needs. It is my fervent hope that Botswana will take full advantage of the TICAD process.”
Since then, seven conferences where held, the latest, TICAD 7 being in 2019 at Yokohama. TICAD 7’s agenda on African development focused on three pillars, among them the first pillar being “Accelerating economic transformation and improving business environment through innovation and private sector engagement”.
“Yes, private investment is very important, while public investment through ODA (Official Development Assistance) still plays an indispensable role in development,” the Japanese Ambassador said.
“For further economic development in Africa, Japan recognizes that strengthening regional connectivity and integration through investment in quality infrastructure is key.”
Japan has emphasized the following; effective implementation of economic corridors such as the East Africa Northern Corridor, Nacala Corridor and West Africa Growth Ring; Quality infrastructure investment in line with the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment should be promoted by co-financing or cooperation through the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Japan.
Japan also emphasized the establishment of mechanisms to encourage private investment and to improve the business environment.
According to the statistics issued by Japan’s Finance Ministry, Japan invested approximately 10 billion US dollars in Africa after TICAD 7 (2019) to year end 2020, but Japanese investment through third countries are not included in this figure.
“With the other points factored in, the figure isn’t established yet,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
The next conference, TICAD 8 will be held in Tunisia in 2022. This will be the second TICAD summit to be held on the African continent after TICAD 6 which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016.
According to Ambassador Hoshiyama, in preparation for TICAD 8, the TICAD ministerial meeting will be held in Tokyo this year. The agenda to be discussed during TICAD 8 has not yet been fully deliberated on amongst TICAD Co-organizers (Japan, UN, UNDP, the World Bank and AU).
“Though not officially concluded, given the world situation caused by COVID-19, I believe that TICAD 8 will highlight health and medical issues including the promotion of a Universal Health Coverage (UHC),” said Hoshiyama.
“As the African economy has seriously taken a knock by COVID-19, economic issues, including debt, could be an item for serious discussion.”
The promotion of business is expected to be one of the most important topics. Japan and its partners, together with the business sector, will work closely to help revitalize private investment in Africa.
“All in all, the follow-up of the various programs that were committed by the Co-Organizers during the Yokohama Plan of Actions 2019 will also be reviewed as an important item of the agenda,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
“I believe that this TICAD follow-up mechanism has secured transparency and accountability as well as effective implementation of agreed actions by all parties. The guiding principle of TICAD is African ownership and international partnership.”
Directorate on Intelligence Services (DIS) Director General, Brigadier Peter Magosi is said to be hell-bent and pushing President Mokgweetsi Masisi to reshuffle his cabinet as a matter of urgency since a number of his ministers are conflicted.
The request by Magosi comes at a time when time is ticking on his contract which is awaiting renewal from Masisi.
This publication learns that Magosi is unshaken by the development and continues to wield power despite uncertainty hovering around his contractual renewal.