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The fairness of Botswana’s Elections: Issuance of the Writ of Elections

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

Botswana is, no doubt, a beacon of democracy for, inter alia, the fact that it holds general elections for Parliament and Councils every five years as the Constitution provides. The question is: are these elections free and fair as they are purported to be?


There is consensus, even among international observers, that the elections are free to the extent no one who is eligible to vote is denied the right to vote through clandestine and undemocratic means. Also, most polling stations are accessible to most voters and voting times are accommodative for most voters.


The question is whether or not Botswana’s elections are fair. This is a wide question which cannot be adequately addressed in one article. Therefore, in this article we only consider whether or not Botswana’s elections are fair with respect to the issuance of the Writ of Elections and Election Instrument for Parliamentary and Council elections respectively.  


Section 34 of the Electoral Act provides that for the purpose of general elections to the National Assembly, or a bi-election, the President shall issue a Writ of Elections addressed to the Returning Officer of each constituency, fixing the place, day, and hours between which the Returning Officer will receive nominations of candidates, and the day for taking any poll which may become necessary.


In the case of the election of Councillors, the Act provides that the Minister of Local Government shall issue an Election Instrument fixing the place, day, and hours between which the Returning Officer will receive nominations of candidates and the day for taking any poll which may become necessary.


As it will be argued below, while these provisions do not undermine the freeness of Botswana’s elections they undermine the fairness of the elections. In my view, to the extent the Writ is issued by politicians like the President and Minister of Local Government, the politicians are likely to be influenced by irrelevant political considerations which would render the elections not fair though free.


If their party is not ready for the elections they may delay issuing the Writ or revoke it if it has already been issued. In 2013, following a questionable petition calling for the revocation of the Writ for the Francis town West bi-election, the then substantive Vice President and Acting President, Dr. Ponatshego Kedikilwe, invoked section 46 of the Electoral Act a day before the bi-elections, and postponed the bi-election from 23 November 2013 to 25 January 2014, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.


In my view, Dr. Kedikilwe did not invoke the section in the public interest, but to ensure that his party, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP),’s candidate participates in the bi-elections following the IEC’s refusal to accept its nominee pursuant to a High Court Order barring the other candidate from registering as a candidate.

In 2005, following the death of the Member of Parliament (MP) for Gaborone West North constituency, Paul Rantao, the bi-elections were delayed for a record six months, clearly in an effort to ensure that the BDP is well positioned to contest the elections when they are called.      

Presently, despite the MP for Tlokweng, the late Same Bathobakae, having passed on as far back as November 2016, to date, about four months since the seat fell vacant, the President has not yet issued the Writ for the bi-elections.  It is common cause that since the BDP’s barring of Elijah Katse from contesting the 2014 general elections on its ticket there has been conflict in the constituency which contributed to its loss of the constituency to the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).


In my view, therefore, the reason President Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama has delayed issuing the Writ for the Tlokweng bi-elections is that he wants his party, the ruling BDP, to recover from the divisiveness now that the constituency’s beloved son, Elijah Katse, is the party’s candidate.



If politicians are responsible for issuing the Writ as it is in Botswana’s case, the country may be held at ransom, resulting in a constitutional crisis. For instance, if the ruling party has a slim majority and it knows that it will lose a bi-election it is likely to delay issuing the Writ until the next general elections, especially in the case of Parliamentary elections where there is no time frame within which the Writ should be issued. 

In my opinion, therefore, the current dispensation where politicians issue the Writ of elections negates our democracy since it affects the fairness of our elections. While our elections may be free, they may not be fair to the extent the ruling party may manipulate the issuance of a Writ of elections for political expediency.


I agree with Tshosa (2007), quoted by Dr. Monageng Mogalakwe in his article “An assessment of Botswana's Electoral Management Body to deliver fair elections” published in the Journal of Contemporary African Studies,” where he said “…this is another instance of the unfairness, rather than the unfreeness of the elections process in Botswana…”



This dispensation is also detrimental for Opposition parties because they may lose an election which they otherwise would have won simply because the ruling party manipulated the circumstances, e.g. timing, to its advantage and to the detriment of the Opposition. Imagine a situation where the ruling party delays issuing the Writ of Elections until such time that there is conflict and upheaval in the Opposition, which conflict it may ferment through infiltration and/or the use of other operatives to destabilize the Opposition.


But, most importantly the dispensation adversely affects the voters who, while the Writ is being withheld or revoked for political expediency, remain without a representative in Parliament or Council. Though in our system MPs and Councilors do not influence a voter’s day to day life, as compared to the Executive, their availability is essential for sentimental satisfaction to the voter if nothing else.  


It is worth noting that this fear of the ruling party’s functionaries using the Writ of Elections for political expediency is not only about the BDP. Any political party when in power, including the UDC if it wins elections in future, can abuse such a provision for political gain.  
In my view, to confirm that it is indeed the internationally acclaimed democracy which prides itself with, inter alia, free and fair elections, Botswana needs to amend the Constitution and the Electoral Act to provide that the Writ of Elections and Election Instrument are issued by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).


Though Botswana’s IEC is not fully independent since its Secretary is appointed by the President and its employees are public servants and it is fully funded by government, it is unlikely to be as politically biased as such partisan functionaries as the President and Minister of Local Government. It is, therefore, best suited to issue the Writ of Elections or Election Instrument. In any event, it is the one which prepares for elections and would know when it is ready to conduct the elections. 

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020
Samson

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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‘RO, ‘RO ‘RO YOUR ‘BOT

23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site www.willrobotstakemyjob.com    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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