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.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.