Botswana Congress Party (BCP)’s impeding court case against Attorney General (AG) over the use of Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) is affecting preparations for the 2019 General Elections, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has revealed.
The Deputy Secretary for the IEC, Doreen Serumola told councillors in Selebi Phikwe on Wednesday that BCP VS AGC and another similar court case lodged by the National Amalgamated Local and Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union (NALCGPWU) and Johnson Motshwarakgole are together affecting the commission’s preparations for next year’s General Elections.
Serumola noted that the union and Motshwarakgole’s case has the possibility of delaying the disposal of the matter further. The BCP vs. AGC court case in which BCP approached the courts contesting the constitutionality of the Electoral Amendment Act of 2016 with an amendment to provide for the use of EVM in the next General Elections is still before Francistown High Court. Serumola made this revelation when presenting on IEC’s state of preparedness for the 2019 General Election at a full council meeting in Selebi Phikwe.
The Commission’s Deputy Secretary explained that following the 2014 General Elections, the commission conducted a National Stakeholder Evaluation Exercise which resulted in recommendations aimed at enhancing the electoral process, hence the proposed use of EVM. “These recommendations were submitted to the executive for consideration and the process led to the Electoral (Amendment) Act of 2016. The Electoral Act of 2016 however has no commencement date as yet but the IEC continues to sensitise stakeholders and the general electorate on the amendments,” said Serumola.
Serumola said following the sensitisation on the electoral reforms and out of the initiative of the Commission, a proposal was made to the executive which gave rise to the Electoral Amendment Bill of 2017. The Bill, Serumola explained, took into consideration suggestions to include a paper trail for verification. This Bill has therefore included the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) as a component of the EVM and the Bill awaits to be tabled before parliament during the winter session.
BCP’s Spokesperson, Dithapelo Keorapetse who was present during the presentation says that as the BCP, their intention is to ensure that EVM will not be used in the General Elections. The Selebi Phikwe West legislator noted that the Electoral Amendment Bill of 2017 has been gazetted and as the BCP they intend to propose further amendments.
VOTER REGISTRATION FOR 2019
Serumola said that because Botswana uses a periodic voters’ roll which means voters are registered afresh for every General Elections, the Commission has set the 3rd September to 11th November 2018 as the period for general voter registration. She explained that despite the impeding court cases, registration has to go on. She further explained that the registration period has been lengthened to provide enough window for registration in case the amended Electoral Act of 2016 comes into effect. The 2016 Electoral Amendment Act has abolished the provision for supplementary registration period.
She also stated that the Commission is going to engage out-of-school youth in their respective localities as Registration Clerks and Supervisors. The recruitment process has commenced and is facilitated by the 25 IEC offices across the country. Serumola also said that appointment of registration officers for diaspora registration for Batswana living in foreign countries to register to vote has also commenced.
VIOLATION OF ELECTORAL ACT BY JOURNALISTS
Serumola also shared the Commission’s concerns over violations of Section 149 of the Electoral Act which talks of the need to maintain secrecy of what is happening in polling stations or counting centres. The IEC official said live broadcast or communicating of counting updates on various media platforms is illegal as per Section 149 of the Act. “Journalists and the general public at counting centres communicate counting updates on various platforms and this is illegal,” she said. The offence if convicted, one is liable to a fine not exceeding P1000 or six month jail term or both.
The same Section is also violated by Polling Agents who give out names of voters who have voted in order to determine those who have not voted. Serumola also said that voters similarly violate this particular Section by taking photographs of their marked ballot papers and publish them on Social Media.
She also revealed that they have observed in by-elections that candidates and their agents kept the voters’ registration cards and National Identity cards until election day as way of ensuring that they turn up to vote. She warned that this is also illegal as it contravenes Section 141 of Electoral Act. The offence, she said it carries a fine not exceeding P1000 or six months jail term or both. The Commission says they have also observed in recent by-elections that voter turnout has been low compared to that of 2014 General Elections.
The Commission’s Deputy Secretary emphasised the need for robust efforts from both the IEC and political parties to promote participation. She gave an example of five by-elections all which recorded a low turnout as compared to 2014. Sekoma by-election recorded voter turnout of 83.1% compared to 90.6% in 2014, Goodhope-Mabule recorded 69.4 % as opposed to 85.9% voter turnout in 2014. Rasesa by-election had a turnout of 63.3% compared to 86.4% in 2014, Mochudi East recorded low turnout of 39% as compared 86.1% recorded in 2014. Ralekgetho and Moselewapula by-elections had a voter turnout of 68% and 43.2% as compared to 86.6% and 76.4% respectively at the 2014 General Elections.
There has been 13 by-elections conducted since 2014. Two of these by-elections were for parliamentary seat while 11 were for Local Government. Two more by-elections are pending, being Moshupa-Manyana to fill a vacancy left by the promotion of former area Member of Parliament and Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi who ascended to the presidency while the other one is for Local Government in Ramokgwebana which awaits the issuance of the election writ. Moshupa-Manyana by-election is scheduled for June 16, 2018.
Serumola also spoke of the need for more sensitisation about safekeeping and relevance of the voter registration card which she explained it remains valid for the whole electoral cycle or for five years and therefore must be kept safe until the next registration for a new electoral cycle.
High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.
Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana. “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.
As murder cases and violent incidents involving couples and or lovers continue to be recorded daily, Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow has called for more funding of non-governmental organizations and accelerated action from government to come up with laws that could inhibit would-be perpetrators of crimes related to Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Just after Dr Dow had deposited her views on this subject with this reporter, a young man in Molepolole opened fire on a married woman he was having an affair with; and ended her life instantly. While it is this heinous cases that get projected to the public space, the former minister argues that the secrecy culture is keeping other real GBV cases under wraps in many spaces in the country.
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said there is GBV all the time in all kinds of places. “We have become accustomed to stories of rapes, marital rapes, defilement of children, beatings and psychological violence and even killings,” she said.
Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, Dow is worried that there is absolutely no social punishment for perpetrators; they will continue to have the same friends, jobs, wives, homes, as before. Yet another factor, she said, is that there is little or no “justice” for victims of GBV.
The renowned activist said justice for GBV victims is not just the jailing of the perpetrator. “Justice for victims means an agile, victim-friendly, accessible (time, money and procedures) and restorative justice system.”
Asked what could be leading to a spike in Gender Based Violence cases or incidents, she observed that there is no one factor to which this spike can be attributed. “The most obvious factor is stress as a result of economic distress and or poverty. Poverty makes one vulnerable and open to compromises that they would otherwise not make. For perpetrators with anger management issues, economic stress leads to lashing out to those closest to them. Another factor is the disintegration of families and family values,” she opined.
According to Dow, no government anywhere in the world is doing enough, period. “We know the places and spaces where women and girls are unsafe. We know the challenges they face in their attempts to exit those spaces and places.” The former Judge of the High Court said GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in the culture of silence.
Asked what could be done to arrest GBV cases, Dow said it is critical to involve and fund civil society organizations. She observed that much of the progress done in the area of women’s human rights was during the time when Botswana had strong and funded civil society organizations.
“The funding dried up when Botswana was declared a middle-income country but unfortunately external funding was not replaced by local funding,” she acknowledged.
Further Dow said relevant government institutions must be funded and strengthened.
“Thirdly, create a society in which it is not okay to humiliate, rape, beat or kill women. You create this by responding to GBV the same way we have responded to livestock theft. We need to create agile mechanisms that hear cases quickly and allow for the removal of suspected perpetrators from their homes, work places, boards, committees, etc.”
The former Minister said the much anticipated Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender Based Violence will have its work cut out for it. According to Dow, GBV is not just a justice issue, it’s not just a gender issue, but rather an issue that cuts across health, education, labour, economic, housing and politics. “As long as any one believes it is someone else’s problem, we will all have the problem,” she said.
In her view, Dow said every work, educational and other place must have a GBV Policy and/or Code of Conduct. “It is important that we acknowledge that the majority of men are law-abiding. The problem is their silence, in the face of injustice,” she observed.
The State has chosen to ignore intents by kingpins in the P100 billion scandal to sue for a combined P85 million as tables turn against the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) in the matter.
Key players in the matter; the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Bank of Botswana (BoB) have eroded the prospects of success following the duo’s institutions’ appearance before parliamentary committees recently.