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.
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.