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.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.