Parliament has this week approved P1 million budgeted for a voter apathy study to be conducted across the country. In the just ended elections, the registration exercise attracted around 925 478 voters out of the approximately 1.2 million who are eligible to vote in Botswana’s total population of 2.2 million.
The total voter registration in 2019 was marginally lower at 73%, than in 2014 where it was 77% of the total eligible voters. Observers point out that this is reflective of voter apathy. In politics, voter apathy is a perceived indifference among eligible voters towards an election. Voter apathy or lack of interest is often cited as a cause of low turnout among eligible voters in jurisdictions where voting is optional like in Botswana.
When presenting the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) budget estimates for 2020/21, which were entirely approved, Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration Kabo Morwaeng confirmed P1 million has been set aside so far for the task. “In the Development Budget, I request for a total of One Million, Nine Hundred Thousand Pula (P1, 900,000). This amount comprises of Nine Hundred Thousand Pula (P900, 000) for the completion of Tutume office block construction project and One Million Pula (P1, 000,000) for the Voter Apathy Study,” Minister told Parliament this week.
However he observed that the Voter Apathy Study will require additional funding since the approved budget of One Million Pula (P1,000,000) will not be adequate as the project was estimated at Two Million, Five Hundred Thousand Pula (P2,500,000). Morwaeng emphasised that in an endeavour to improve the electoral process, the Commission will conduct a Voter Apathy Study during the 2020/21 financial year, “to determine the causes of low citizen participation.”
The study, he stressed, will provide recommendations and strategies for enhancing citizen participation and inclusivity in the electoral process. This comes after the IEC promised to carry out an extensive and informative voter apathy study to update the 2001 study which is currently being referred to in election researches.
“We have to do a study to establish the cause of this. We are currently using the 2001 voter apathy study that was carried out by Democracy research project. It’s the one that informed most of the education programmes that were developed between then and now,” IEC Spokesperson told WeekendPost recently.
In addition, Lt. Gen. (Retired) Dr. Sibusiso Moyo, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of the Republic Of Zimbabwe and Head of the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) in the just concluded 2019 General Elections, said voter apathy is evident and worrisome in the country. “The issue of voter apathy should be duly addressed by all stakeholders,” he maintained.
The head of SADC observer mission continued: “the Mission noted that the Electoral Act does not make provision for the continuous registration of voters up to the cut-off date before an election. Further, the IEC has no legal mandate to conduct voter education, and consequently lacks dedicated funding for this purpose; it is the observation of the Mission that more could have been done by the IEC and all relevant stakeholders in conducting voter education.”
Meanwhile, the IEC’s overall budget proposals which were approved by Parliament was a total of Seventy-One Million, Eight Hundred and Seventy-Nine Thousand, One Hundred and Thirty Pula (P71, 879,130) for the Recurrent Budget and One Million, Nine Hundred Thousand Pula (P1, 900,000) for the Development Budget as part of the Schedule of the 2020/2021 Appropriation (2020/21) Bill 2020 (No. 1 of 2020).
1 471 voter registration objections recorded in 2019 Elections
Meanwhile Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration also told Parliament that during the build up to the 2019 General Elections, 1 471 voter registration objections were lodged with the Magistrate Courts. “A total of 680 objections were upheld and defendants were struck off the roll,” he highlighted.
24 petitions also lodged with the High Court in the just ended elections
Following the General Elections, he also stated that 24 petitions were lodged with the High Court out of which two were withdrawn before hearing. 15 petitions were dismissed on preliminary points of law while seven progressed to trial. “Out of these seven, four were withdrawn and the remaining three which went for trial were all dismissed with costs.”
Minister Morwaeng continued to point out that the 15 petitions which were dismissed on preliminary points of law were filed with the Court of Appeal and subsequently 14 were dismissed on account that the Court of Appeal does not have jurisdiction over National Assembly election petitions. “One appeal for the Local Government election was allowed to progress but was later withdrawn by the petitioner,” Morwaeng said while adding that “it is worthy to note that all the petitions were disposed of within 90 days as prescribed in the Electoral Act.”
Botswana Police Service (BPS) has indicated concern about the ongoing trend where the general public falls victim to criminals purporting to be police officers.
According to BPS Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, the criminals target individuals at shopping malls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where upon approaching the unsuspecting individual the criminals would pretend to have picked a substantial amount of money and they would make a proposal to the victims that the money is counted and shared in an isolated place.
“On the way, as they stop at the isolated place, they would start to count and sharing of the money, a criminal syndicate claiming to be Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer investigating a case of stolen money will approach them,” said Motube in a statement.
The Commissioner indicated that the fake police officers would instruct the victims to hand over all the cash they have in their possession, including bank cards and Personal Identification Number (PIN), the perpetrators would then proceed to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.
Motube also revealed that they are also investigating a case in which a 69 year old Motswana woman from Molepolole- who is a victim of the scam- lost over P62 000 last week Friday to the said perpetrators.
“The Criminal syndicate introduced themselves as CID officers investigating a case of robbery where a man accompanying the woman was the suspect.’’
They subsequently went to the woman’s place and took cash amounting to over P12 000 and further swindled amount of P50 000 from the woman’s bank account under the pretext of the further investigations.
In addition, Motube said they are currently investigating the matter and therefore warned the public to be vigilant of such characters and further reminds the public that no police officer would ask for bank cards and PINs during the investigations.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership walked out of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this week on account of being targeted by other cooperating partners.
UDC meet for the first time since 2020 after previous futile attempts, but the meeting turned into a circus after other members of the executive pushed for BCP to explain its role in media statements that disparate either UDC and/or contracting parties.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Tymon Katlholo’s spirited fight against the contentious transfers of his management team has forced the Office of the President to rescind the controversial decision. However, some insiders suggest that the reversal of the transfers may have left some interested parties with bruised egos and nursing red wounds.
The transfers were seen by observers as a badly calculated move to emasculate the DCEC which is seen as defiant against certain objectionable objectives by certain law enforcement agencies – who are proven decisionists with very little regard for the law and principle.