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Khama holds IEC at ransom

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of Botswana has implied that it is at the mercy of the contentious Electoral Act which bestows President Lt. Gen. Dr. Ian Khama with enormous powers to set an election date, either in a General Election or by-election.

Khama has the sole prerogative to set a date for the Tlokweng constituency by-election, which was left without a Parliamentary representative following the demise of the area legislator, Same Bathobakae last December. In the by-election Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)’s Masego Segokgo will lock horns with Elijah Katse of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party.  

In the 2014 general Elections, Same Bathobakae of UDC garnered 6442 votes against Olebile Gaborone of BDP’s 3867 and Jacob Zachariah representing the BCP only got 1195. UDC contests the by-election in cooperation with the BCP. According to IEC Public Relations Officer (PRO), Osupile Maroba, they can only await Khama to set the date as is espoused by the Electoral law of the country. Maroba highlighted that the Electoral Act is the main legal document that guides the operations of IEC.

“Our job is simple, we just execute the law as is, the president issues the writ of election and he can do that at the time he sees fit, the law states that, as IEC we just apply the law,” he insisted to this publication. He continued to point out that: “but the Electoral Act is silent when it comes to the time frame subsequent to the occurrence of a vacancy of the office of the Member of Parliament (MP)” and therefore only the president discerns the date at a convenient time.  

Khama gets powers from the Section 34 of the Electoral Act which posits that (1) “for the purpose of a General Election to the National Assembly or of a by-election to fill a vacancy therein caused by death, resignation or otherwise, the President shall issue a writ under the public Seal of Botswana, addressed to the Returning Officer of each constituency for which a member is to be returned, fixing – a) the place and day at and on which, and the hours between which, the returning officer nominations of candidates for elections; b) the day for the taking of any poll which may become necessary.”

Just like the parliamentary procedure, the Act also states that it is the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development who shall issue an Election Instrument fixing the place, day, and hours between which the Returning Officer will receive nominations of candidates and the day for taking any poll in case of elections, of representatives of local government, which may become necessary. When reached for comment, the BDP Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane, highlighted that the said section of the Act attracts controversy in his judgement.

“Personally I don’t think it’s advisable for the president to exercise sole prerogative of issuing election date because he is then unfairly accused of pulling rank and favouring his own party as is the case now with Tlokweng. But the law is as is until it is changed,” the outspoken BDP SG told WeekendPost.

Ntuane further mentioned that they too, as BDP do not know the set date yet. He continued: “but presumably that will be done when the President has consulted with the IEC. The best people to speak to are the OP and IEC. We are anxious like everyone else.” In his assessment, the UDC Publicity Secretary, Moeti Mohwasa, said the delay of the issuance of the writ of election in Tlokweng by Khama is simply tantamount to undermining the electorates of the area.

“The Tlokweng constituents currently still don’t have a legislator. How will their voice be heard if they don’t have a representative, more especially for this long? This is the 4th month the area dwellers go without an MP. We can only conclude that Khama does not see it fit and necessary for them to have a representative,” Mohwasa fumed.   

He added that it is clear that Khama’s delay to issue a writ borders on his own party interest than Tlokweng constituents as he possibly wants to prepare and put his own house in order first before announcing the election date. “As we have been saying, this trickles down to prior calls made by opposition that the president must not set the dates of elections at all, particularly by-elections, precisely because he is also an interested party as the leader of BDP!” Mohwasa pointed out.

The UDC mouthpiece also maintained to this publication that Khama is clearly undermining the democracy as well as Batlokwa and their parliamentary representation. Meanwhile observers have contended that if the IEC is to fulfil its primary objective of ensuring free and fair elections, then it should be the IEC, and not the State President or a minister, who should issue writ of elections. They point out that the Executive would obviously have a vested interest in the outcome of such elections.

“The choice of the election date by the Executive gives the ruling party undue advantage, as this amount to using inside information.” A classic case in point is said to be in relation to 2013/14 Francistown West by election in which president issued a writ of elections a day before the by-elections, he invoked section 46 of the Electoral Act, and postponed the by-election from 23 November 2013 to 25 January 2014 on what many say was for political reasons.

Internal court fights ensued within the BDP following a primary election, consequently delaying the party to field a candidate before IEC closed for submission of nominations. The by-election was later won by Dr. Habaudi Hobona of BCP. The reasons advanced then was that it was in the public interest to do so following a controversial petition requesting for the postponement, as the relevant section states that if the President is satisfied that it is in the public interest, he may by proclamation adjourn the poll to some other day.

It also said that President Khama alone has the powers to withdraw the by-election writ and issue a new one at his will. The proclamations are not helped by the fact that IEC is currently seen as not entirely independent as it is placed under the auspices of the Office of the President, a ministry in a government – emanating from a ruling political party’s triumph.

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BDP roots for State of Emergency Extension

29th September 2020

The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is forging ahead with the extension of the State of Emergency (SoE) next week amid resistance by some sections of the populace, WeekendPost has established.

This comes after Members of Parliament (MP’s) were summoned this week to an emergency meeting to discuss the State of Emergency.

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Cabinet tiptoes on GBV Ministerial Committee

29th September 2020
Minister Annha Mokgethi

With Gender Based Violence (GBV) cases worsening by the day, cabinet is still moving at a snail’s pace in setting-up an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) as agreed by parliament last month.

Parliament made a resolution that the President should set-up a Special Inter-Ministerial Committee of inquiry on GBV, rape and other sexual offences as a matter of urgency. The establishment of the IMC is aimed at dealing with GBV by gathering information and making recommendations that would assist in amending the current laws.

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Botswana’s development agenda in jeopardy

21st September 2020

Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.

The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.

The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh

The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.

It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.

The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.

Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.

Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.

For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.

Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.

The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.

The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.

In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.

This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.

The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.

These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.

Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.

Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.

According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.

It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.

Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.

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