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BCP conference rejects EVM

Kesitegile Gobotswang (PhD)
BCP Deputy Leader

At its 9th Annual Conference Botswana Congress Party (BCP) rejected the recent amendments to the Electoral Act. Top on the list was the introduction of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the 2019 General Elections. Conference further endorsed the decision of the Central Committee to take the matter to court.

Other aspects of the amendment that were not acceptable include increasing candidate fees by ten-fold and abolition of supplementary voter registration. Conference deliberations on the EVM issue were highly charged and demonstrated a strong determination to ensure that EVMs are not only rejected through mere pronouncements. The Central Committee was directed to work out a comprehensive action plan under the auspices of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to stop the use of such machines in 2019. Although there was consensus in rejecting the rigging machines there were divergent views expressed on how to respond in the event that government of the day goes ahead with the EVMs.


The main points of contention were whether to boycott the 2019 general elections or devise strategies of ensuring that fraudulent elections don’t take place at all. There is need to thoroughly examine the pros and cons of either boycott or no elections campaigns.

Those who advocate for boycotting elections believe that the only remaining compliment for Botswana is that it has successfully conducted regular elections that are generally free but certainly not fair. Furthermore, the country has embraced a multi-party democratic system. Government has been vocal about countries that they felt were undermining democracy such as Zimbabwe, Madagascar, and Sierra Leone. For these reasons government would not want to be accused of behaving like all the countries they have criticised in the past. They would not want to be a laughing stock of Africa and the entire global community.

Proponents of this view believe that a boycott of the general elections by the opposition parties will have a serious dent on the remaining credentials of Botswana as a shining example of democracy. Botswana could easily become a pariah state like the white minority regimes of yesterday. In the end the country could easily experience a downward spiral resulting in a situation of a failed state.

This is not the first time that the issue of election boycott is being contemplated by the opposition parties. Prior to the 1994 general elections Botswana National Front (BNF) which was the leading opposition party at the time seriously considered boycotting elections. At the time elections in Botswana were conducted by the Office of the President. There was no Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).  Although the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) denied rigging elections the 1984 Tshiamo Ballot Box Scandal finally vindicated the opposition; that there was cheating orchestrated by government.

It is against this background that BNF advocated for electoral reforms that also included reducing the voting age from 21 to 18 years as well as introducing external voting.  Election boycott became an issue when government resisted the reforms.  
When the issue of boycotting the 1994 general elections was debated at Parwe Junior Secondary School in Mahalapye the BNF conference resolved to participate in the elections. This was despite the fact that the movers of the motion had the backing of Dr Kenneth Koma the party leader and the man responsible for the ideological direction of the party.

The BNF participated in the 1994 general elections and recorded its best results ever. This did not suggest that there was no cheating during the elections. It is very likely that electoral gains were registered in spite of possible rigging by the ruling party. Those who oppose the strategy of boycotting elections argue that it could be a sure way of giving the ruling party a free ride to power. In fact non-participation in an election is usually interpreted as a way of exercising one’s democratic right. The international community will recognise the “winner” as legitimate. The opposition would have to wait for another five years to re-strategize.

There are those who are advocating for a “No Ballot Paper, No Elections” response to the EVMs. This is a route that is not fully traversed. Therefore how it is rolled out may require sustained mass demonstrations of the magnitude of the Arab Spring. Casualties may not be ruled out depending how the state responds. Already government appears to be determined to proceed with EVMs regardless of the overwhelming rejection by key stakeholders and prominent personalities in society. Previously the BDP had denied any association with the origin of the EVMs. However, recently the BDP Congress gave it the green light. Subsequently IEC moved swiftly to issue invitations recruiting teachers who will be trained in the use of the rigging machines.

At the constituency level IEC intends to train those who will conduct house to house EVM demonstrations. Advocates for the “No Ballot Paper, No Election” campaign believe that the opposition parties could mobilize members and sympathisers to disrupt the whole process. Firstly those who participate in the house to house exercise would be labelled as the face of enemies of democracy, peace and tranquillity or simply traitors. Secondly they shall not be given access to individual homes. The next target would be EVM demonstrations at Party Liaison Committees, followed by voter registration.

The biggest challenge is that unlike neighbouring South Africa Botswana has a limited culture of mass protests. The civil society is generally timid while the student movement is inward looking. The only time Batswana engage in spontaneous mass protests is when there is a suspected case of ritual murder. For the strategy to succeed there is need to come up with an aggressive mobilization program spiced with militancy. We can draw lessons from the 2011 Public Sector Strike.

In the meantime under the leadership of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) opposition parties must step up extra-parliamentary activities in the form of mass demonstrations and picketing during the on-going EVM case at Francistown High Court.  It is worth noting that we are currently faced with a regime whose desperation to remain in power supersedes any other consideration; they want to stop change even if it means causing civil strife. They are determined to stop at nothing to be in government to protect their skin and that of their allies in big business. Many of them are well aware that if they lose power they may be prosecuted for acts of corruption and stealing state assets.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

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.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

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”

UNDERSTANDING

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.”

COMMITMENT

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.

ACCEPTANCE

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.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

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.

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