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.
High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.
Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana. “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.
As murder cases and violent incidents involving couples and or lovers continue to be recorded daily, Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow has called for more funding of non-governmental organizations and accelerated action from government to come up with laws that could inhibit would-be perpetrators of crimes related to Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Just after Dr Dow had deposited her views on this subject with this reporter, a young man in Molepolole opened fire on a married woman he was having an affair with; and ended her life instantly. While it is this heinous cases that get projected to the public space, the former minister argues that the secrecy culture is keeping other real GBV cases under wraps in many spaces in the country.
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said there is GBV all the time in all kinds of places. “We have become accustomed to stories of rapes, marital rapes, defilement of children, beatings and psychological violence and even killings,” she said.
Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, Dow is worried that there is absolutely no social punishment for perpetrators; they will continue to have the same friends, jobs, wives, homes, as before. Yet another factor, she said, is that there is little or no “justice” for victims of GBV.
The renowned activist said justice for GBV victims is not just the jailing of the perpetrator. “Justice for victims means an agile, victim-friendly, accessible (time, money and procedures) and restorative justice system.”
Asked what could be leading to a spike in Gender Based Violence cases or incidents, she observed that there is no one factor to which this spike can be attributed. “The most obvious factor is stress as a result of economic distress and or poverty. Poverty makes one vulnerable and open to compromises that they would otherwise not make. For perpetrators with anger management issues, economic stress leads to lashing out to those closest to them. Another factor is the disintegration of families and family values,” she opined.
According to Dow, no government anywhere in the world is doing enough, period. “We know the places and spaces where women and girls are unsafe. We know the challenges they face in their attempts to exit those spaces and places.” The former Judge of the High Court said GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in the culture of silence.
Asked what could be done to arrest GBV cases, Dow said it is critical to involve and fund civil society organizations. She observed that much of the progress done in the area of women’s human rights was during the time when Botswana had strong and funded civil society organizations.
“The funding dried up when Botswana was declared a middle-income country but unfortunately external funding was not replaced by local funding,” she acknowledged.
Further Dow said relevant government institutions must be funded and strengthened.
“Thirdly, create a society in which it is not okay to humiliate, rape, beat or kill women. You create this by responding to GBV the same way we have responded to livestock theft. We need to create agile mechanisms that hear cases quickly and allow for the removal of suspected perpetrators from their homes, work places, boards, committees, etc.”
The former Minister said the much anticipated Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender Based Violence will have its work cut out for it. According to Dow, GBV is not just a justice issue, it’s not just a gender issue, but rather an issue that cuts across health, education, labour, economic, housing and politics. “As long as any one believes it is someone else’s problem, we will all have the problem,” she said.
In her view, Dow said every work, educational and other place must have a GBV Policy and/or Code of Conduct. “It is important that we acknowledge that the majority of men are law-abiding. The problem is their silence, in the face of injustice,” she observed.
The State has chosen to ignore intents by kingpins in the P100 billion scandal to sue for a combined P85 million as tables turn against the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) in the matter.
Key players in the matter; the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Bank of Botswana (BoB) have eroded the prospects of success following the duo’s institutions’ appearance before parliamentary committees recently.