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.
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.