IEC says they only implement the electoral law as it is
Cabinet is sitting on a detailed report comprising of recommendations by Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and various stakeholders including the general public that would see Botswana’s electoral laws being reformed.
The report which is extracted from election observer reports and IEC internal evaluation reports was submitted to the executive following the 2009 general elections – for any possible action to effect the reforms.
WeekendPost has established that the executive is expected, under normal circumstances, to discuss the report contents and propel the debate further to parliament. The executive instructs the Attorney General Chambers to draft the bill and then it goes to the parliament floor to be debated where if passed by parliament it becomes law.
Sources at the IEC are concerned that although the 2014 elections evaluation process has commenced, the 2009 recommendations are yet to be attended to. There were submitted way back by the IEC to the executive for action. This according to sources does not help efforts to empower the IEC and make the electoral process credible and as effective as possible. The report recommendations come from vigorous consultations with stakeholders and the general populace across the country.
This publication understands that some recommendations keep coming up after various elections with cabinet taking no action. “It seems the system works for them (executive) and so they may not want to rock the boat on reforms as yet,” the source further told this publication.
Independence of IEC In the report, stakeholders have recommended that Botswana should consider moving speedily to enact the IEC Act as a way of enhancing the status of the IEC as an independent, robust authority able to deliver credible elections. IEC was established by section 65A of the constitution. However, it is not established as an independent legal entity with a legal status separate from government. The recommendation is not helped by the fact that IEC is housed under the auspices of the Office of the president and therefore reports directly to the office.
Furthermore, “there is no provision which states that IEC, in the exercise of functions, shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority (as was the case in the previous section 66 (7) of the constitution relating to the supervisor of elections).” There have been growing concerns from opposition parties and some sections in the society with regard to the institutional independence of the IEC.
Election of the president According to the report, it is in the interest of strengthening Botswana’s democracy and removing any doubts Botswana may wish to consider amending the constitution to provide for the election of the president by popular vote. It further says that although this will add to the cost of the electoral process and will increase the workload of the IEC, it is worth exploring. IEC says that the proposal requires a political decision as it is peripheral to the IEC mandate.
Under section 32 of the Constitution of Botswana, “whenever parliament is dissolved, an election of the office of the president shall be held in such a manner as is prescribed by this section…or under an Act of parliament.”
Political party funding The report suggests that Botswana should consider introducing state funding for political parties. It says: “the failure to do so imposes serious constraints on the consolidation of competitive politics in the country. Countries in the region which make provision for such funding include Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa.”
The IEC is of the view that, similar to the debate on which electoral system is best for Botswana (first-past-the-post, proportional representation, or a mixed system) or the issue of whether or not Botswana should have direct presidential elections – party funding called for a political decision and was therefore beyond the mandate of the IEC.
However the IEC resolved to request cabinet to give serious consideration to the recommendations made by stakeholders on public funding of political parties.
The report observes the importance of political party funding on the basis of the agitation for party funding by small political parties and their candidates. It also argues against the current set up which encourages unfairness promoted by incumbency.
Specially elected members Stakeholders have recommended that the country should explore the formula for nomination of specially elected representatives (i.e who qualifies for nomination, appointing authority, criterion of candidate selection and participation other stakeholders) to make it more inclusive and representative of the country’s political landscape.
Section 58 (2) (b) of the constitution states that specially elected members shall be elected in accordance with the first schedule if the constitution and subject there to in accordance with the provisions of any Act of parliament.
Appointment of Secretary The Secretary to the IEC is appointed by the President under section 66 (2) of the constitution. They argue in the report that since the appointment is not subject to any vetting by an independent authority, there are no checks to ensure that the Secretary will be independent from the appointing authority.
As such the stakeholders recommended that the constitution should be amended to provide for the appointment of the Secretary to the Commission by the IEC. IEC also supports the review of the manner in which the Secretary is appointed, “it should be done in a transparent manner,” they say.
Appointment by the Commissioners Report further states that IEC Commissioners must be appointed by and be accountable to parliament and their appointment being an inclusive and consultative process, taking into account the diverse political interest in Botswana. It says this will enhance the credibility and legitimacy of the electoral process.
Section 65A (4) of the constitution states that: “…appointments of the chairman and members of the commission shall be made at the last dissolution of every two successive lives of parliament.” This means that, just before every second general election, a new IEC is appointed. The new IEC is then responsible for conducting the general election.
Penalties for voter traffickers Various stakeholders who helped compile the report are of the view that electoral law should adequately provide for stiff penalties for politicians and people who perpetrate illegal voter registration in a similar way as it does with voters who illegally register for elections.
The report further states that the electoral Act should be amended to accommodate voting by prisoners; and also says there is a need for a provision in the electoral law on media coverage to enforce equitable and balanced media coverage of election camapaigns.
Meanwhile sources at the IEC also believe that if the executive takes the recommendations seriously they can take the matter to parliament and given the ruling party’s numerical strength, they are likely to pass them into law, if there is the political will – and the IEC will be more empowered by the law to deliver on its mandate.
Meanwhile the evaluation of the 2014 general elections is still underway and another report is expected to be released soon.
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.