Elections appraisers in the just ended 2019 controversial polls have this week called for enactment of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) Act by Parliament to ensure true independence of the body overseeing elections.
IEC is currently housed under the auspices of the Office of the President with both President and his cabinet being interested parties to elections. The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) won the latest edition of elections with a resounding victory that sparked suspicion of election rigging where the opposition parties led by Umbrella for Democratic Party (UDC) suspected BDP collusion with the IEC to influence the election outcome.
The matter was however dismissed by the High Court on technicality and when the matter reached the Court of Appeal it indicated that they have no jurisdiction to entertain the election petitions. Participants at this week’s National stakeholder evaluation workshop for 2019 General Elections which was themed “stakeholder engagement: key to transparent and efficient elections,” which included the Civil Society representatives recommended for urgent IEC Act.
In terms of the independence of IEC they said the Commission should have an Act of Parliament just like the Police Act, Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Act and other parastatals Acts. “They say the independence of IEC can be enhanced by having such structure to develop into a body corporate,” IEC Spokesperson confirmed this to WeekendPost after the workshop in Gaborone. In addition, in the engagement meeting they also called for the review of Electoral laws being through the referendum, Electoral Act, and the constitution.
“But if you amend the constitution it affects the subsidiary laws like the Electoral law. There is that trickling effect. For example counting of ballots at polling station impact on Electoral Act. They also took this resolution,” the IEC official pointed out to this publication. Although the parties also recommended political party funding, there were some concerns from certain quarters in terms of the model to be adopted for its implementation. Others were wondering what it will be regulated by; the IEC or government or an independent body that may be formed.
At the end it was agreed that there is need for political party funding but it should be motivated that it comes with an independent body to regulate its funds on the basis of it to be agreed methodologies. Another recommendation was with regard to the Principal residence definition and it was said that on the basis of the recent court outcome with regard to Alliance for Progressives President Ndaba Gaolathe, Umbrella for Democratic Change leader Duma Boko and others, which was interpreting the case, that there is already a clear definition of Principal residence.
“The meeting agreed that the constitution is currently adequate in its interpretation and application of the law and therefore it should not be changed but left as it is. The only difference was with regard to when you have an addition residence like most Batswana do. That when as a voter you decide which one you want it to be your principal residence,” Maroba told Weekend Post. Furthermore, there was also an issue on recommendation on having a minimum qualification for Members of Parliament of Councillors and it was thoroughly debated.
Others dismissed it on the basis that some leaders may just have talent and experience to lead and may do it very good without qualifications. Others who were in support wanted the political officers to have such because they deal with issues of Policies and the law which needs some level of understanding. “Without adequate schooling how you will interpret those,” they asked rhetorically before the adoption of the recommendation. The election evaluators also want the term limits for MP’s and Councillors to serve for only two terms and pave way for others with fresher ideas to take over.
Moreover, some recommendations which were also endorsed were to do with counting the ballots papers at the polling stations so that they don’t move to the counting centres where cheating in elections may occur. In regard to using different languages for campaigning purposes to reach out to non-Setswana speaking citizens, others felt that the constitution must be amended first to allow for such development. It was recommended in the meantime that where there are challenges of language barrier, IEC should enable voter education and they should hire local people in the area who can interpret for others.
Meanwhile opposition parties in Botswana have shunned the IEC engagements by coming in insignificant numbers and with no representation from senior members of all the parties. Of all the party representation, only Pius Mokgware was a senior member of his party, Alliance for Progressives (AP). Umbrella for Democratic Party (UDC) had 1 representative, Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) 2, Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), 2 and 1 Independent candidate.
The meeting was intended to partly stimulate the amendment of the law as it was the first meeting of its kind subsequent to the 2019 General Elections. Maroba said the IEC was worried about a no show by the opposition and for bringing mostly junior members from their parties. “I wonder why they didn’t turn up in numbers because in these engagements, they are motivating possible amendment of the law. And when you talk the amendment of the law it is a serious discussion,” Maroba said.
He added that, “So our hope was that they will send members of their parties from the highest levels especially from their Central Committees. We believe at that level they can speak with authority on behalf of their political organisations. But unfortunately that did not happen and we don’t have an answer for that.” According to Maroba, their participation on these engagements would really help IEC to know their concerns and address them and go to the next polls in 2024 on the same level and understanding.
“So we are concerned about their no-show in the sense that, whether one party is happy and the other is not, we are mandated and we are bound by the constitution and the Electoral Act to facilitate elections. If some political parties do not take us seriously and think we are useless that cannot supersede the implementation of the law as is. That can’t stop IEC from conducting elections.” He added that as IEC they are concerned because the parties did not see the importance of the stakeholders meeting but unfortunately that unhappiness will persist.
Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Review of the Constitution held a meeting in Serowe this week. The meeting was to accord Bangwato, just like other tribes, a platform to give their opinions, contributions and what they think is the horse power and limitations of the current Constitution of Botswana.
Bangwato Regent, Kgosi Serogola Seretse said, he is of the understanding that the Commission has not come for anything apart from getting their opinions on how things could be made better. His contribution was that he solely knows of only two social positions in the world; Dikgosi and Pastors. He said other positions are just benedictions. He further urged that, Batswana should respect God’s ordained protocols such as Dikgosi and Pastors.
Seretse pointed out the importance of acknowledging and appreciating Dikgosi as nation builders. He cautioned and warned that, the Commission should ensure that their dealing with Dikgosi is harmonious. He called for an amendment to be made on the ‘National Order of Precedence’ noting that Dikgosi are put at number 11, but should at least be taken a little higher to number 7.
One resident, Tshepo Moloi while giving his contribution said there must be provisions of Social Justice that ensure equal distribution of resources to all citizens. He said this provision should entail an obligation that all citizen have equal opportunities to different Government Initiatives. Moloi substantiated that, all ‘Presidential Commissions’ be engraved on the Constitution
Alfred Thogolwane who is as well a resident of the biggest village in the Central District, pointed out the need for preservation of the country and resources thereof, saying “it must dawn onto all that, the calabash that fetches water for the family cannot fixed once its broken.” Another resident, Keikantsemang Sebedi advocated for Polygamous marriage, saying that men should marry as many wives as they please. She said there is no need for any socioeconomic assessment done on men who wish to marry more than one wife.
She advised that, the country should benchmark from the Zezuru culture that does it, with no complexities. On the other hand, Sebedi said that, there must be considerations done on the Old Age Pension. She said people who earned P4000 should not receive the old Age Pension upon their fullness of age. Forshia Koloi called for amendments on Section 77 and all the provisions that speaks to the subject of Bogosi and the powers infested in them. He said they should be made more detailed and avoid ambiguity in clauses.
Mr Tlhaodi said there must be Land Audits done in the country. Citing an example of the Tati Land as one that should be thoroughly audited. He further advised that, Election Day be put on the Calendar. He said, if it happens that the day be a Saturday, there should be some special dispensation for the 7th Day Adventist Church members to take part in voting without compromising on their day of worship. Tlhaodi added that there must be People’s Complaint Commission in the country.
Speakers emphasized the need for the country to review the exercise of ‘Political Party Funding’. They articulated that lack of funding political parties’ results in political parties resorting to finding funds for themselves. They reiterated that sometimes going to the extent of getting funds through illegal means. Bangwato agreed in one accord that they want the President be tried whilst in office if suspected of any criminal offences. This was revealed in their contributions. They pointed out that, the law should not to wait until the end of their tenure.
For his part, the Deputy Chairperson of the Commission Johnson Motshwarakgole expressed gratitude to the residents of Serowe. He applauded women for their kindness saying it is only them, who always take responsibility for doing things amicably in the society.
Parliament has revealed that it plans to rollout a Community Score Card (CSC) exercise as part of sweeping reforms to its role and mandate among others.
The planed shakeup, along with the rollout of CSC will see creation of new Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Health, HIV&AIDS, Education and Skills Development, Trade and Economic Development, Agriculture, Lands and Housing and Local Governance and Social Welfare. Parliament informed government ministries and departments that the CSC is a participatory, community based monitoring and evaluation tool that enables citizens to assess the quality of public services and interact with services providers to express their concerns.
According to Parliament, the CSC will assist to inform community members about available services and their entitlements and to solicit their opinions about the accessibility and quality of certain services related to the portfolio committees mentioned. It said the main objective is for Parliament through identified oversight committees is to conduct a participatory monitoring and evaluating process that puts ownership and responsibility for delivery of services in the hands of both the Government and the service recipients.
“Through scorecards developed around identified sectors and services, communities and implementing departments remain in touch with progress made through the programme delivery cycle and are able to respond timely to bottlenecks,” the National Assembly said. Some of the measurements and expected outcomes for the rolling out of the CSC include among others, improved monitoring and economic evaluation, to determine the impact of spending, so as to be able to direct resources from where they having the least benefit to those projects and programmes where they will have a larger positive impact.
The National Assembly explained further that this could result in a willingness to close down ineffective programmes and institutions and not to implement projects that do not deliver adequate returns, improved productivity in the public services, especially given the substantial pay increases.
The National Assembly believes that the rolling out of CSC is also expected to result in efficiency savings: many public services and programmes could be delivered more effectively at lower costs, by improving management and accountability, and making use of e-services. “This would yield financial savings that could be used for development programmes or reducing the deficit,” the National Assembly said.
The exercise is also expected to result in “Careful scrutiny of subsidy schemes and termination of those that do not address market failure or assist truly needy Batswana.” The National Assembly revealed that proposed Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Wellness has been established in accordance with the Standing of National Assembly of Botswana. It explained that the mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Health and HIV/AIDS.
“There is need to identify reasons for inefficiency and poor outcomes and ensure that health system reform improve productivity and value for money. Key areas of focus for scorecard, availability of drugs, staffing ratios, accessibility of health services, speciality care and services and sexual reproductively health,” the National Assembly said.
Another proposed Committee is on Local Governance and Social Welfare. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary Oversight and Scrutiny over Government Ministries. Departments and Agencies with Portfolio responsibilities in respect of Local Governance and Social Welfare.
“Strategies under NDP 11 to improve outcomes of social uplifment include; diversiﬁcation of rural economies, development and support of small businesses, provision of social safety nets, eradication of absolute poverty, provision of quality and equitable education and harmonisation of social protection programmes,” said the National Assembly. It said social nets need to be improved so as to target these most in need (at present some social safety nets benefit many people who are not the most needy, but also miss out some of those who are needy).
“Some social development policies more broadly should also aim to reduce household vulnerability to shocks such as those arising from fluctuations in agriculture, climate change, incomes and employment and improve their ability to handle shocks, thereby building household resilience,” the National Assembly said.
Another Committee established is on Agriculture, Lands and Housing. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Institutions, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Agriculture, Lands and Housing.
The National Assembly said the average growth rate of the agricultural sector since the beginning of National Development Plan 11 (NDP11) (i.e. during the 2017/2018 and 2018/19 financial years) was 2.5 percent, making it the slowest growing sector of the economy, in line with its historical performance.
“Over the same period, its share of GDP has been stagnant at around 2 percent. The sector also contributes job opportunities for about 80 000 adults. Food security has become paramount since the onset of the corona virus pandemic,” the National Assembly said. The National Assembly said the Government realises the need to increase food production for products in which Botswana has a cooperative advantage such as beef, grains and other horticulture products.
The Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Development has also been established. One of the mandates of Committee would be to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over government ministries, departments and agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Finance, Development, Trade and Industry.
“The sector is at the core of industrialisation aspirations and strategies for economic development in Botswana. Manufacturing in particular can be the driver of economic growth through technological improvements and innovation,” the National Assembly said. Hence, it said, the development of the sector could also foster export diversification and export led-growth in Botswana while benefitting from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA).
Two senior members of Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) have threatened legal action against Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), it has transpired. The threat is contained in an answering affidavit of Director General of DCEC, Tymon Katlholo in which he is seeking an interdiction from High Court to stop the DIS from accessing investigation files at his office.
After the DIS detained DCEC officials Joao Salbany and Tsholofelo Bareetsi on December 16, 2021, they filed an official complaint against DIS and some officials. They complained about abuse of office by DIS and five officers. Salbany and Bareetsi also complained about unlawful detention by DIS and unlawful dissemination of classified information contrary to Section 44 of Corruption and Economic Crime Act. “The DIS interviews were premised on information divulged during the course of official DCEC work product, that is the Monday media brief meeting,” they wrote.
They further requested leave to institute a civil suit against the DIS and its officers, and invariably the State for inhuman and degrading treatment they suffered and unlawful detention. They also pondered a declaratory seeking a sanction against the DIS and Botswana Police Service (BPS) and clarification of the role of BPS officers seconded to DIS.
“The envisaged suit against BPS and DIS officers and the DIS will inevitably centre on investigations done by the DCEC and the scope of the protection availed to DCEC officers for conduct done in the course and scope of DCEC official duties.” The duo said it was self-evident from the conduct of the DIS officers that there was nothing urgent about the information required by the DIS, justifying their detention at its Sebele facility from 08:30 hours on December 16, 2021 until 02:00 hours on December 17, 2021.
They reasoned that the information required by the DIS could have been obtained by a simple request to DCEC Director General. “What the DIS did was to seek to intimidate officers of the DCEC whom they knew were carrying out investigations against some of the DIS officers who were part of their investigation team. This turn of events has a chilling effect not only on the functioning of the DCEC but also on the official conduct of officers of the DCEC as to how they conduct their official duties.”
They concluded by stating that in the event the request is granted, they would further request to be advised as to the provision of legal representation as the unalwful detention and the degrading and inhuman treatment by the DIS was in relation to matters conducted by and on behalf of the DCEC.