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EVMs to be used in 2019 general elections

After several exchanges of letters between the Government of Botswana and the Botswana Congress party (BCP) in connection with the legality of using the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in the next general elections, government still insists BCP is just confused and that the machine is valid – because it is temper proof.

President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama had last year signed into law the Electoral Bill which seeks to introduce electronic voting through EVMs. BCP then took the matter before Francistown Judge Lot Moroka. They filed an application which granted them permission to bring an expert who can prove that EVMs are gadgets that can be easily tampered with.

In December, BCP Secretary General, Kentse Rammidi wrote a declaration to the effect that the matter is of a technical nature as it involves the subject of EVMs which is based on computer technology. He said they therefore endeavor to call an expert in the field.

“EVM are programmable devices which can be programmed with malicious coded viruses such as trogon horses and time bombs, and susceptible to hacking, and therefore would violate the voters and our constitutional rights to efficient, proper, free and fair elections which is a coronary to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual right guaranteed by Section 12, 13 and 67 of the Constitution,” stated Rammidi in his declaration.

WeekendPost   is in possession of a recent affidavit by the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Government and Public Administration Eric Molale dismissing Rammidi’s claims and asserting that the machine is authentic. Molale was confirming the averments by an expert in India currently working as an Information Technology Consult and a software Developer for Immortal Solutions, Anjali Sharma. In her affidavit in support of the government, the expert stated that the Indian EVM is a stand-alone, non-networked based machine.

“It is a one-timer programmable machine which is not computer controlled or connected to the internet. At no point does the EVM receive signals from outside either by wireless, Bluetooth, WI-FI, or any other internet based medium, as the control unit does not have any radio frequency receiver or data decoder,” sated the expert. “Furthermore, the software used is burnt into a one-time chip to avoid alteration or physical tempering.” It is further the expert’s contention that the Indian EVM is temper proof and cannot be hacked.

Confirming the expert’s contention, Molale sated in his affidavit that, “I confirm the correctness of the averments of Sharma and fully associate myself with the contents therein,” said Molale and continued that, “I deny each and every material allegation contained in the affidavit of Rammidi and put him to the strictest proof thereof. BCP’s action is without merit and should be dismissed with cost.” In the last communiqué from the parties dated December 19, BCP wrote back demanding better statements and further particulars of the said manufacturers of the machine in India.

In the last Parliamentary seating the government passed the law that introduced Voter Verified Audit Paper Trail (VV PAT). This means there has to be receipts and or papers when voting, which receipts can be used in cases one protests the outcome. The receipts would be taken and counted physically to see if they tally with numbers on the machine. This means, should the government win the case and continue with the use of the machine next year, they will have to now add the purchase of the VV PAT as they had not included it in the initial budget.

The cost of all the 2000 machines that are expected to be used nationwide is P100 million. Botswana will need a total of 2000 machines to cover all constituencies as each machine can accept about 500 votes. Meanwhile, WeekendPost is also alive to reports that the intention of the government was to test the machine in question in the Moshupa-Manyana bye-election. Sources close to the case also suggest that government is worried at the pace the case is moving with.

Should the case drag for a long time, it will be impossible for the purchase and use of machines as government still have to educate people on using it. While the case is still dragging before the court with several exchange of letters, the IEC has set September 03 to November 11 as registration period.

Government is represented by Deputy Government Attorney Matlhogonolo Phuthego while BCP is represented by Gabriel Komboni.

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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