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BDP Presidency: bloc voting or secret ballot?

NDULAMO ANTHONY MORIMA
EAGLE WATCH

If Dr. Pelonomi Venson Moitoi keeps her word to challenge His Excellency the President, Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, it will be the first time in the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s history that the party presidency is contested.

Naturally, because this is unprecedented, it has highlighted the divisions not only within the ruling BDP, but also in the nation at large, with some of such divisions bordering on tribalism and sexism. This regrettable situation is, however, not the subject of this article’s discussion. In this article we discuss whether or not the BDP presidential elections should be done through bloc voting or by secret ballot.   

Recently some in the ruling BDP propagated the view that, because H.E Dr. Masisi is leading Dr. Pelonomi Venson Moitoi in regional nominations, there will be no need for secret ballot elections for the party presidency at the forth coming Special Congress. According to this view, because the delegates from the regions are bound by the regions’ mandate, there will be no need for elections by secret ballot. Rather, the party presidency will be determined by bloc voting.

In response to this, Dr. Venson Moitoi has threatened court action should the party violate the party constitution by using the so-called bloc voting and foregoing secret ballot elections for the party presidency. Article 29.1 of the BDP constitution provides that “when the Party is in power, the President of the Party shall be elected by secret ballot at a National Congress of the Party called by the Central Committee during every General Election Year…”

The plain interpretation of Article 29.1 is that since the BDP is in power and this is a general election year, the Central Committee is obliged to call a National Congress of the Party at which the President of the Party shall be elected by secret ballot. The manner in which these elections are conducted is outlined in Articles 29.2 and 29.3. Article 29.2 provides that “Each Region may nominate and submit one name of an aspirant candidate in good standing from any Region to the Secretary General not less than twenty-four hours before the commencement of the National Congress.”

The plain interpretation of Article 29.2 is that a Region is vested with the power to nominate a candidate not only from its Region, but also from any other Region. This clause does not clothe the Region with the power to itself elect a President. It merely nominates for election by delegates at the National Congress. If the drafters of the BDP constitution wanted the Regions’ nominations to be decisive they could have, in the constitution, provided that if one candidate gets a majority of regional nominations, a winner will be declared and the election by secret ballot would not be held.

But there is no such clause in the BDP constitution, rightly so because it would be a usurpation of the most integral power of the National Congress-the power to elect office bearers, including members of the Central Committee and the President of the Party. Article 29.3 provides that “Any other member in good standing of the Party may submit their name as an aspirant Candidate for the post of President of the Party to the Secretary General of the Party, not less than twenty-four hours before commencement of the applicable National Congress upon being sponsored, in writing, by not less than fifty delegates to the National Congress.”

The plain interpretation of Article 29.3 is that even if the majority of Regions may have nominated a particular candidate for the post of President of the Party, an individual member may submit his or her name as a candidate for the post of President of the Party, provided he or she has been sponsored, in writing, by not less than fifty delegates to the National Congress. Put simply, the Regions’ nominations are not binding on an individual member and do not oust an individual member’s right to stand for elections for the post of President of the Party if he or she desires.


Similarly, the Regions’ nominations do not oust members’ right to vote a candidate of their choice by secret ballot as prescribed by the supreme law of the Party- the constitution. Article 29.3.1 provides that “at the close of nominations in accordance with 29.2 and 29.3 above, the Secretary General shall publish the names of the aspirant candidates on the Notice Board for the benefit of every Delegate at the National Congress. A secret ballot election shall proceed in the normal course.”

The plain interpretation of Article 29.3.1 is that elections for the position of President of the Party are by secret ballot and not by show of hands or some predetermined method based on the Regions’nominations at Regional Congresses or any other fora. It is worth mentioning that this secret ballot election proceeds in the normal course, that is, in the normal way that secret ballot elections are held where an individual member, alone in secret, casts his or her ballot into one ballot box for a particular position.

This, in my view, discounts the possibility of any arrangement being made to have delegates to the National Congress voting as a bloc, for instance, Regional blocs. The Regions’ decisions remain as of persuasive nature, nothing more. Any attempt to give the Regions’ decisions binding authority through the so-called bloc voting will be flawed with the result that they will render such elections unconstitutional, unlawful and liable to be set aside by a court of law.

Such attempt or action will, in my view, violate Dr. Venson Moitoi and H.E Dr. Masisi’s rights and indeed the rights of other members of the BDP, and would, in no doubt, be offensive to Articles 13.1 and 13.2 of the constitution. Subject to Article 10 of the constitution, Article 13.1 gives a member of the BDP the right “…to exercise any right of election or vote which the member might have in terms hereof, or in terms of any other statute, regulation, ordinance, by-law or other legal provision.”

Article 13.2 gives a BDP member the right “…to be elected or appointed, under the Party Banner, to any position of leadership, or any office, within the Party or any other lawful institution which is not in discord with the objects and policies of the Party.” If delegates to the BDP National Congress are denied the right to vote through a secret ballot and are subjected to the so-called bloc voting, their rights in terms of Article 13.1 would be violated.

If Dr. Venson Moitoi and H.E Dr. Masisi’s rights to be properly voted for or against through a secret ballot as prescribed by the constitution and are subjected to the so-called bloc voting, their rights in terms of Article 13.2 would be violated. Considering that the BDP is a ruling party which, in all likelihood will win this year’s general elections, the way it conducts its internal elections, let alone for the position of party President who will invariably be the state President, should be of concern to us all.

Needless to state that if the BDP conducts its presidential elections in a manner that will not escape legal scrutiny the inevitable result will be a constitutional crisis for our nation state, something hitherto unknown in our democracy. Our conclusion is, therefore, simply this, that Article 29 of the BDP constitution, read in parts and as a whole, enjoins the BDP to hold its forthcoming elections for the position of Party President by secret ballot at the National Congress.

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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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