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.
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.