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BCPs EVM court case affecting 2019 preparations – IEC

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.

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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.

Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”

Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.

On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.

He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”

President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.

“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”

When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.

“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”

He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.

“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:

He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”

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Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.

“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”

In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.

It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.

Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.

President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”

In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”

He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.

“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”

Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”

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Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV

24th March 2023

Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.

“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”

Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.

“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”

He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.

In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.

Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.

Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”

“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”

Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.

“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”

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