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2019 Elections assessors call for IEC independence

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.

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Fighting vulture poisoning in KAZA region.

3rd February 2023
As a response to avert vulture poisoning currently going on in Botswana and KAZA region, Birdlife Botswana has collaborated with three other partners (BirdWatch Zambia, BirdLife International & Birdlife Zimbabwe) to tackle wildlife poisoning which by extension negatively affect vulture populations.

The Director of Birdlife Botswana, Motshereganyi Virat Kootshositse has revealed in an interview that the project which is funded by European Union’s main goal is to reduce poisoning related vultures’ death and consequently other wildlife species death within the KAZA region.

He highlighted that Chobe district in Botswana has been selected as a pilot site as it has experienced rampant incidents of vulture poisoning for the past few months. In August this year at least 50 endangered white backed vultures were reported dead at Chobe National Park, Botswana after feeding on a buffalo carcass laced with poison.  In November this year again 43 white backed vultures were found dead and two alive after feeding on a zebra suspected to have poisoned.  Other selected pilots’ sites are Kafue in Zambia and Hwange in Zimbabwe.

Kootshositse further explained they have established a national and regional Wildlife Poisoning Committee. He added that as for the national committee they have engaged various departments such as Crop Productions, Agro Chemicals, Department of Veterinary Services, Department of Wildlife and National Parks and other NGOs such as Raptors Botswana to come together and find a long-lasting solution to address wildlife poisoning in Botswana. ‘Let’s have a strategy or a plan together to tackle wildlife poisoning,’ he stated

He also decried that there is gap in the availability of data about vulture poisoning or wildlife in general. ‘If we have a central point for data, it will help in terms of reporting and advocacy’, he stated

He added that the regional committee comprises of law enforcement officers such as BDF and Botswana police, village leadership such as Village Development Committee and Kgosi. ‘We need to join hand together and protect the wildlife we have as this will increase our profile for conservation and this alone enhances our visitation and boost our local economy,’ he noted

Kootshositse noted that Birdlife together with DWNP also addressed series of meeting in some villages in the Chobe region recently. The purpose of kgotla meetings was to raise awareness on the conservation and protection of vultures in Chobe West communities.

‘After realizing that vulture poisoning in the Chobe areas become frequent, we realise that we need to do something about it.  ‘We did a public awareness by addressing several kgotla meetings in some villages in the Chobe west,’ he stated

He noted that next year they are going to have another round of consultations around the Chobe areas and the approach is to engage the community into planning process. ‘Residents should be part of the plan of actions and we are working with farmers committee in the areas to address vulture poisoning in the area, ‘he added

He added that they have found out that some common reasons for poisoning wildlife are farmers targeting predators such as lions in retaliation to killing of their livestock. Another common incident cross border poaching in the Chobe area as poachers will kills an elephant and poison its carcass targeting vultures because of their aerial circling alerting authorities about poaching activities.

Kootshositse noted that in the last cases it was disheartening the incidents occurred three months apart. He added that for the first time they found that some of the body parts of some vultures were missing. He added harvesting of body parts of vultures is not a common practice in Botswana, although it is used in some parts of Africa. ‘We suspect that someone took advantage of the availability of carcasses and started harvesting their body parts,’

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Giant in the making: Everton Mlalazi

3rd February 2023

The music industry is at a point where artists are jostling for space because there are so many aspirants trying to get their big break, thus creating stiff competition.

In the music business it’s about talent and positioning. You need to be at the right place at the right time with the right people around you to propel you forward.
Against all odds, Everton Mlalazi has managed to takeover the gospel scene effortlessly.
To him, it’s more than just a breakthrough to stardom, but a passion as well as mission directly appointed by the Lord.

Within a short space of 2 years after having decided to persue a solo career, Mlalazi has already made it into international music scene, with his music receiving considerable play on several gospel television and radio stations in Botswana including other regional stations like Trace Africa, One Gospel, Metro FM in South Africa, Hope FM in Kenya and literally all broadcast stations in Zimbabwe.

It doesn’t only stop there, as the musician has already been nominated 2 times and 2 awards which are Bulawayo Arts Awards (BAA) best Male artists 2022, StarFM listerners Choice Award, Best Newcomer 2021 and ZIMA Best Contemporary Gospel 2022, MLA awards Best Male artist & Best Gospel Artist 2022.

Everton’s inspiration stems from his ultimate passion and desire to lead people into Godly ways and it seems it’s only getting started.
The man is a gospel artist to put on your radar.

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African countries call on WHO to increase funding

2nd February 2023

Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.

“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”

The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.

“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”

According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”

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