As the voice of the people against Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) grows louder Gabriel Seeletso the Project Coordinator finds himself abandoned by a political party that used its majority in Parliament to force electoral amendments in the middle of the night. Part of the amendments was meant to introduce the EVM to replace the ballot paper for the 2019 general elections.
In addition, it sort to terminate supplementary voter registration and increased candidates fees tenfold. President Seretse Khama Ian Khama who is also the president of the ruling party has since appended his signature to the bill translating it into law. To strengthen the resistance movement the opposition Botswana congress Party (BCP) took the matter to court challenging the constitutionality of the EVM. Other civil societies are expected to come on board as friends of the court to support the BCP case.
As a result of the action by the Head of State the EVM Project Coordinator began traversing the length and breadth of the country sensitizing constituents on the newly introduced amendments to the electoral law. The Coordinator has been pushing the view that he is merely a messenger of government. However the enthusiasm with which he drives the implementation of the law betrays his denial that he was not the originator of the amendments. The speed with which he triggered the process of acquiring the machines was amazing ignoring the overwhelming national outcry against the controversial EVMs.
Sometimes Seeletso comes across as someone who will stop at nothing to implement a bad law. Yes, the law that seeks to introduce the EVMs is a bad law. It is a piece of legislation that is the potential to cause civil conflict. Lack of IEC independence is a matter of great concern to most stakeholders. While at the helm of the IEC Seeletso relentlessly and aggressively defended the institution when several detractors accused it of being under the influence of government.
The on-going saga in Tlokweng has vividly exposed the lack of independence of the IEC to the extent that it will be fool hardy to even state anything on the contrary. Surely anybody in his position must understand that the IEC is a product of a bad electoral law. The IEC is at the mercy of the ruling party. If the party in power does not want an election to take place they can easily deny them funding and the IEC will be helpless. Under such circumstances elections will not take place. In fact this is what happened recently in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) resulting in yet another political crisis. It is against this background that the EVM saga must be understood.
About two weeks ago the nation got a shock of their life when Botsalo Ntuane who is the Secretary General of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) categorically stated that the EVM is not a product of the BDP and by extension the government. He suggested that it is an invention of the IEC. In fact there is an attempt to separate the ruling party from the government. This is an aspect that features prominently in Botsalo Ntuane’s reform agenda that was never adopted by his party. If the utterances by Ntuane are anything to go by then between him and Seeletso one of them is deliberately misleading the nation.
Traditionally policy formulation and legislative agenda were the prerogative of the public service, at least in practice. In the formative years of the Republic of Botswana this approach worked well since at the time the ruling party did not have sufficient capacity to formulate any meaningful government policy. Public policy was generated by qualified public servants before it was routed through the Rural Development Council (RDC), Cabinet and rubber-stamped by parliament. Without question the BDP would adopt such policies and embrace them as their own. Unfortunately the system continued up until the emergence of the current regime in 2008 when policies were pronounced on impulse.
It is therefore not surprising that the BDP as a ruling party rubber stamped the EVM in the same way that they rubber stamped the Economic Stimulus Program (ESP) and the P10 million Constituency Development Fund. The abrupt closure of the BCL and Tati Nickel Mines are examples of policies that originated elsewhere but embraced by the BDP without question.
The reason why BDP through its Secretary General is unsuccessfully trying to distance itself from the EVM scandalous idea is because of mounting rejection of the vote rigging machine. In trying to spin the bad news the BDP Secretary General made startling allegations. He claimed that the EVM idea originated from the BCP. This is crazy stuff coming from Ntuane.
The truth is that over the years BCP has been calling for comprehensive electoral reforms to modernize democracy in Botswana. Among the proposals was the introduction of state funding of political parties, direct election of the president, and introduction of a mixed system of proportional representation and first past the post as well as counting of votes at polling stations. We also advocated for a truly independent electoral commission that is accountable to parliament. These ideas are contained in party documents such as the 2009 and 2014 election manifestos, democracy alerts, and response to state of the nation address, motions, and parliamentary debates. We challenge Ntuane to present evidence to support his claims.
If the BDP is indeed against the EVM they must swallow their pride and push for the withdrawal of the amendments passed by their Members of Parliament. They should go a step further and address the fundamental concerns of voters. Batswana strongly feel that they were never consulted over electoral amendments which in their view have far reaching consequences. In principle they are not averse to any system that can shorten the length of time it takes to count ballots and release the election results. With respect to the EVM, consistent with court rulings in India, Batswana are asking for the introduction of the Voter Verification Audit Paper Trail (VVPAT). There are unresolved issues of possible manipulation of the EVMs.
One of the amendments that is less talked about is the decision to stop supplementary voter registration in the absence of continuous registration and permanent voters roll. Given the documented levels of voter apathy the amendment is likely to disenfranchise a significant proportion of potential voters. Here is a clear case of trying to fix something that is not broken. A government that introduces electoral processes that are aimed at excluding citizens from exercising their democratic right of voting is authoritarian and therefore undemocratic.
Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.
The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.
Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.
At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.
Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.
Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).
This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.
In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.
Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?
Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.
POSITIVITY Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.
“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)
We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”
Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.
Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be. You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”
Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.
When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.
Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.
However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.” “Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)
COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT
Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.
It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.
Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.
Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.
The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.
It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.