The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Secretary, Gabriel Seeletso has said that the Commission is only executing its mandate by implementing electronic voting. The IEC Chief says they are not responsible for the new electoral amendments, instead those with questions should direct them to the law making body- parliament.
IEC has been heavily criticised for failing to consult the nation on the electoral reforms, brought about by the new amendments passed by Parliament. But Seeletso has maintained that it was only proper for him to do consultation after the bill was turned into law because the changes were brought about by parliament and not the IEC.
“IEC would not have conducted consultation about the machines because it was not a law yet. It is only now, when the bill has become a law that we will engage citizens about the changes because we’re compelled to do so by the Act,” he said in a press conference this week.
The introduction of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), as made into law by the amended Electoral Act, will cost the Commission an additional P150 million.
The Electoral amendment bill, which was passed by the National Assembly during the closing day of the 3rd meeting of the 2nd Session of Parliament, has been signed into law by President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama.
Seeletso told the media that, as a result of the new law, IEC will execute its mandate as required by the law, and will embark on a countrywide public education campaign, which will cost the commission P150 million. IEC is scheduled to address 490 ward meetings, and 57 constituency meetings countrywide.
The electoral reforms come in the back of deliberations at the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), at which key resolutions were reached, including cancellation of supplementary registration. BDP had diagnosed supplementary registration as one of the factors which contributed towards the party’s dismal performance in the last general election.
According to BDP, the abolishment of supplementary registration will also bring to an end trafficking of voters which has been prevalent among candidates during election campaigns.
Seeletso has downplayed the gravity of the decision to abolish supplementary registration as he contended that the new development will mean that, stakeholders have to intensify public education in an effort to change people’s mindset.
“As IEC our duty is to do what the Act says we should do. We do not make laws, but if there is a new law, we have to do as it says,” said Seeletso.
Seeletso has however not disputed nor confirmed that the executive is compromising the integrity of the elections body, by introducing reforms that only serves its interest, as he noted that “there is nothing he can do about it since the changes were done by parliament and IEC only offers recommendations, which can be rejected or approved.”
Ahead of the 2014 general election, the initial registration known as the general registration attracted only 487 000 of the P1.4 million who were eligible to vote. Subsequent to the two supplementary registration periods, the number rose to 824 432.
There are fears that the new law will create a crisis in which many people eligible to vote will be disenfranchised. IEC has previously complained of voter apathy in Botswana, which has not improved over the years. Since the introduction of the IEC ahead of 1999 General Elections, it has had to conduct more than two registration periods to attract an acceptable number of people to participate in the general elections.
Seeletso has also revealed that part of the reforms introduced by the amendment of the bill is the extension of the Secretary’s duties to include the promotion of civic and voter education. This, however, IEC has been doing but without legal backing.
Seeletso revealed the kind of machine which the IEC is looking for, as he noted that, because of elections’ sensitivity the IEC will be looking to maintain credibility in the elections.
“We are looking for machines which are not computer and network based, machines which are water resistant, can be able to withstand various weather conditions and are easy to use,” he said.
Seeletso said the machines which they are looking for will also not require electricity to function since the machine will be battery powered. The machine could also be used across the country including places without power from the national grid.
“The battery is envisaged to last for 20 hours of continuous use; it must be reliable, simple to use or user friendly, secure and meet Botswana’s adverse geographical conditions,” he said.
The IEC boss further noted that some procedures will remain the same, despite the introduction of electronic voting.
“The voters roll as we know it will continue to be used. The EMV therefore will only replace the conventional voting from the point of issuance of the ballot paper to depositing it into the ballot box while other activities of voting process will remain unchanged,” he noted.
Meanwhile Seeletso also expressed that IEC met with political parties to brief them about the new development, and the opposition is now happy about it. However Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) are preparing a legal bid against President Lt Gen Ian Khama for assenting and signing the bill into law.
Seeletso also informed the media that, the IEC will go on benchmarking missions to countries which are currently using the electronic voting machine as well as those who previously used the machined but reneged afterwards.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) has indicated concern about the ongoing trend where the general public falls victim to criminals purporting to be police officers.
According to BPS Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, the criminals target individuals at shopping malls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where upon approaching the unsuspecting individual the criminals would pretend to have picked a substantial amount of money and they would make a proposal to the victims that the money is counted and shared in an isolated place.
“On the way, as they stop at the isolated place, they would start to count and sharing of the money, a criminal syndicate claiming to be Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer investigating a case of stolen money will approach them,” said Motube in a statement.
The Commissioner indicated that the fake police officers would instruct the victims to hand over all the cash they have in their possession, including bank cards and Personal Identification Number (PIN), the perpetrators would then proceed to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.
Motube also revealed that they are also investigating a case in which a 69 year old Motswana woman from Molepolole- who is a victim of the scam- lost over P62 000 last week Friday to the said perpetrators.
“The Criminal syndicate introduced themselves as CID officers investigating a case of robbery where a man accompanying the woman was the suspect.’’
They subsequently went to the woman’s place and took cash amounting to over P12 000 and further swindled amount of P50 000 from the woman’s bank account under the pretext of the further investigations.
In addition, Motube said they are currently investigating the matter and therefore warned the public to be vigilant of such characters and further reminds the public that no police officer would ask for bank cards and PINs during the investigations.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership walked out of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this week on account of being targeted by other cooperating partners.
UDC meet for the first time since 2020 after previous futile attempts, but the meeting turned into a circus after other members of the executive pushed for BCP to explain its role in media statements that disparate either UDC and/or contracting parties.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Tymon Katlholo’s spirited fight against the contentious transfers of his management team has forced the Office of the President to rescind the controversial decision. However, some insiders suggest that the reversal of the transfers may have left some interested parties with bruised egos and nursing red wounds.
The transfers were seen by observers as a badly calculated move to emasculate the DCEC which is seen as defiant against certain objectionable objectives by certain law enforcement agencies – who are proven decisionists with very little regard for the law and principle.