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.”
The Botswana DanceSport Association (BODANSA) has been graced with a financial boon of P45,000 courtesy of Turnstar Holdings. This generous endowment is earmarked for the illustrious Botswana International Dance Sport Grand Prix Championships, which are scheduled to animate Gaborone from Friday to Saturday.
At a media engagement held early today, BODANSA’s Marketing Maestro, Tiro Ntwayagae, shared that Turnstar Holdings Limited has bestowed a gift of P45,000 towards the grand spectacle.
“We are thrilled to announce that this backing will enable us to orchestrate a cultural soirée at the Game City Marque locale, a night brimming with cultural fervor set for March 1, 2024, from 6pm to the stroke of midnight.
This enchanting space will also serve as the battleground for the preliminaries of traditional dance ensembles—spanning the rhythmically rich Setapa to the euphoric beats of Sebirwa, the spirited Seperu, the heavenly Hosana, and more—in a competition folded into the Traditional Dance Groups Category. The ensemble that dances into the judges’ hearts will clinch a grand prize of P10,000,” elaborated Ntwayagae.
He further illuminated that the cultural eve would not only celebrate traditional melodies but also the fresh beats of contemporary dance variants including Hip Hop, Sbujwa, Amapiano, among others, in a dazzling display of modern dance mastery.
Moreover, these championships carry the prestigious recognition by the World DanceSport Federation as a qualifying round for the Breakdance category for the Paris 2024 Olympics. “This is a monumental opportunity for athletes to leap towards their Olympic dreams during one of the penultimate qualifiers,” underscored Ntwayagae.
Looking ahead to March 2, 2024, the festivities will propel into the University of Botswana Indoor Sports Arena for the championship’s climactic showdowns encompassing Breakdance, Latin, and Ballroom Dancing.
In Botswana, a beacon of democracy in Africa, the right to participate in the political discourse is a cornerstone of its societal structure. It’s an avenue through which citizens shape the rules and systems that govern their everyday lives. Despite this, recent studies indicate that Individuals with Disabilities (IWDs) are notably absent from political dialogues and face substantial hurdles in exercising their democratic freedoms.
Research within the nation has uncovered that IWDs encounter difficulties in engaging fully with the political process, with a pronounced gap in activities beyond mere voting. The call for environments that are both accessible and welcoming to IWDs is loud, with one participant, who has a physical disability, spotlighting the absence of ramps at voting venues and the dire need for enhanced support to facilitate equitable involvement in the electoral process.
The challenges highlighted by the study participants pinpoint the structural and social obstacles that deter IWDs from participating wholly in democracy. The inaccessibility of voting facilities and the lack of special accommodations for people with disabilities are critical barriers. Those with more significant or intellectual disabilities face even steeper challenges, often feeling marginalized and detached from political engagement.
To surmount these obstacles, there is an urgent appeal for Botswana to stride towards more inclusive and accessible political stages for IWDs. This necessitates a committed effort from both the government and relevant entities to enforce laws and policies that protect the rights of IWDs to partake in the political framework. Enhancing awareness and understanding of the political landscape among IWDs, alongside integrating inclusive practices within political entities and governmental bodies, is crucial.
By dismantling these barriers and nurturing an inclusive political environment, Botswana can live up to its democratic ideals, ensuring every citizen, regardless of ability, can have a substantive stake in the country’s political future.
Individuals challenged by disabilities encounter formidable obstacles when endeavoring to partake in political processes within the context of Botswana. Political involvement, a cornerstone of democratic governance, empowers citizens to shape the legislative landscape that impacts their daily existence. Despite Botswana’s reputation for upholding democratic ideals, recent insights unveil a troubling reality – those with disabilities find themselves marginalized in the realm of politics, contending with substantial barriers obstructing the exercise of their democratic liberties.
A recent inquiry in Botswana unveiled a panorama where individuals with disabilities confront hurdles in navigating the political arena, their involvement often restricted to the basic act of voting. Voices emerged from the study, underscoring the critical necessity of fostering environments that are accessible and welcoming, affording individuals with disabilities the active engagement they rightfully deserve in political processes. Noteworthy was the account of a participant grappling with physical impairments, shedding light on the glaring absence of ramps at polling stations and the urgent call for enhanced support mechanisms to ensure an equitable electoral participation.
The echoes reverberating from these narratives serve as poignant reminders of the entrenched obstacles impeding the full integration of individuals with disabilities into the democratic tapestry. The inaccessibility of polling stations and the glaring absence of provisions tailored to the needs of persons with disabilities loom large as formidable barricades to their political engagement. Particularly pronounced is the plight of those grappling with severe impairments and intellectual challenges, who face even steeper hurdles in seizing political participation opportunities, often grappling with feelings of isolation and exclusion from the political discourse.
Calls for decisive action cascade forth, urging the establishment of more inclusive and accessible political ecosystems that embrace individuals with disabilities in Botswana. Government bodies and concerned stakeholders are urged to prioritize the enactment of laws and policies designed to safeguard the political rights of individuals with disabilities. Furthermore, initiatives geared towards enhancing awareness and education on political processes and rights for this segment of society must be spearheaded, alongside the adoption of inclusive measures within political institutions and party structures.
By dismantling these barriers and nurturing a political landscape that is truly inclusive, Botswana can earnestly uphold its democratic ethos and afford every citizen, including those with disabilities, a substantive opportunity to partake in the political fabric of the nation.