Umbrella for Democratic Change’s 2019 general elections petitioners have dominated news headlines lately with the candidate for Gaborone Central, Dr Mpho Pheko taking centre stage.
Pheko’s vehicle together with that of Kgalagadi South candidate, Micus Chimbombi has been sold by auction for P81 00 to pay part of the P565 000 court costs.
The auction of the politicians’ property follows an unsettled bill emanating from a petition they are severally and jointly liable for with 12 other UDC members.
The Voice Staffer, DANIEL CHIDA engages politicians and the director of the director of Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisation to air their views in a debate about political funding and formation of Electoral tribunal.
Moeti Mohwasa- UDC Head of Communications
The 2019 Elections have generated a number of lessons that the nation will do well to pay attention to and reflect upon.
First the long and tracking dispute of three years on the proposed introduction of voting machines cost a lot of time and resources.
It increased suspicion in the already less trusted electoral process and intensified suspicions on electoral corruption in light of the intensified competition to the ruling party.
In addition a lot of resources – human and financial were wasted on this issue at the expense of public political education and administrative preparation for elections.
The second major lesson from the 2019 Elections was the election disputes and conflict that followed.
These ended up in the costly and painful court cases resulting in the indebtedness of the opposition UDC whose candidates were the main petitioners.
The courts clearly demonstrated that they were not prepared to handle those many petitions from both local government and national level elections.
There was also evidence of the lack of legislation to enable the Court of Appeal to handle these petitions while the High Court (lower court) could do so.
Clearly the time has come for Botswana to do something similar to what is currently obtaining in the administration of land. In land disputes the government has established Land Tribunals.
The same should be done for Elections. Increased political competition and the general growth in electoral dispute suggest that time has come to establish election tribunals.
These will be better prepared than ordinary courts to handle election disputes.
The UDC recommends that election tribunals be established in Botswana before 2024.
Monametsi Sokwe -BOCONGO Director
The integrity of our democracy is key and cannot be up to the highest bidder.
Political party funding will allow for an equal or fair participation and guard against the appetite to look for funding from unknown elements who don’t necessarily share our values.
An election tribunal will assist in conducting elections audit and facilitate future reforms
Phenyo Butale- Secretary General for Alliance for Progressives
We look at processes holistically. General Electoral Reforms are long overdue.
Political funding and electoral tribunal being just two of the many changes that must be urgently addressed and enacted as we prepare for 2024 Elections.
To be clear, we need an overhaul of the Electoral Act, as there are many anomalies that come about as a result of it.
We need to change, the system we use to vote (FPTP to mixed PR), Introduce Direct Election of President, introduce Political Party funding, Establish an Electoral Court, cancellation of automatic succession, Establish an Independent Electoral Commission not housed and taking instructions from Office of the President.
Other reforms relating to the administration of elections that need to be looked at include printing of ballot papers, election date, results tabulation and dispute resolution mechanism separate from the courts.
With the current set up we cannot, and we will not have free and fair elections as per the democratic norm, and the IEC will continue with it’s role in aiding and abetting electoral fraud and rigging of elections.
Dumelang Saleshando- Leader of Opposition
There are dangers of allowing private funds to dominate party political funding, as is the case in Botswana.
It has been proven the world over that private money comes with exercise of undue influence.
Private capital is availed with an expectation for corporate benefit that may not be aligned with public interest.
For free and fair elections to take place, you need to have a level playing field.
Private funds tend to tilt the scale and give an electoral outcome that is reflective of the resources deployed and not the true wishes of the electorate.
Public funding of political parties is the best insurance against state capture.
As they say, “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” Those that sponsor aspirants for political office, determine the policies that will be pursued once their candidates take office.
Election tribunals are a feature of modern democracies.
They are necessary to ensure speedy resolution of electoral disputes.
Electoral disputes may arise before, during and after the casting of the vote. In the case of Botswana there are normally pre election disputes.
In the 2019 elections there were disputes over irregular registrations commonly referred to as voter trafficking.
This had to be addressed through the courts. Engaging attorneys for this exercise is costly and does not support the building of confidence in our electoral process.
Election petitions should never be decided on technicalities, as was the case in Botswana after the 2019 elections.
Electoral irregularities are too critical to be dismissed on technical issues with huge financial implications for those who contested elections.