Crushed by a technicality, analysts call for evaluation and new leader.
On Wednesday, a five-man bench at the Court of Appeal (CoA) crushed Umbrella for Democratic Change’s (UDC) hope of taking over government from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
The court dismissed, with costs, the Umbrella’s request to challenge the outcome of 14 constituencies at last year’s general elections. The CoA ruled that, according to the Constitution of Botswana, it does not have the jurisdiction to hear such petitions.
The UDC were forced to turn to the CoA after High Court threw out their original petition on the basis the coalition failed to comply with Electoral Petitions procedures.
In light of Wednesday’s ruling, The Voice staffer, DANIEL CHIDA spoke to three Political Analysts to get their views on where the UDC go from here.
PROFESSOR AGREEMENT JOTIA
What makes a distinction between a democracy and any form of government is the respect and honour of the rule of law.
In this case, argumentatively so, the UDC approached the Courts as per the provisions of our democratic process as enshrined within our Constitution and they were given a platform to vent the displeasure.
The Courts listened and ruled. However, whether the ruling is what they expected is a subject for another intellectual engagement.
Moving forward, I take it that the UDC has a mammoth task to go on a journey of self-introspection in terms of making a very critical analysis of what else could have gone wrong during the elections besides the claims of election rigging.
Fundamental to UDC’s critical examination should be on the leadership frontier: what did the leadership do right and where did they blunder? What else could have been done differently and by who?
Going forward, how does the UDC mend the political walls of Jericho? Whom should the UDC associate with going forward and which relationship should they bring to an end?
How do you turn the UDC into a political brand going into 2024?
What do the figures of those masses who voted for UDC mean to the leadership and Botswana’s political platform in general?
These are difficult, uncomfortable and tough questions which demand nothing but logic-driven and fair critical analysis.
All in all, our democracy has never been so challenged before and I guess this is why democracy as a principle of governance is beautiful.
We disagree, challenge and accommodate diversity of opinion.
Botswana is our country – let us move forward to socio-economic and political prosperity despite the fact that some are in grief. With God, our tomorrow will be better!
The UDC ‘s move of taking this matter to court is a sign of democracy on its own but what happened should be a wake up call for IEC in the future. It shows that they must improve and do better.
The UDC members were within their constitutional rights and the outcome shouldn’t be a blow to them but to introspect their movement.
UDC lost on a technicality and this could be based on how they interpreted law.
There are still 2024 elections and bye elections coming along the way.
Another point to be noted from the case is how the President, Mokgweetsi Masisi did not interfere.
When abroad, he made a statement that he was waiting for the outcome just like anybody else and he was prepared to accept the results.
This was a political matter that didn’t need the court to decide.
Batswana rejected UDC and the party should have evaluated the elections to see why Batswana chose the BDP over them.
However, the ruling has brought an end to the matter and it will be laid to rest.
They must take stock of themselves since there is 2024 coming.
When doing introspection, they must also look at their leadership, especially Boko who lead the movement twice but failed to bring the needed results.
Maybe it is time for the BNF to hand over to someone like Prince Dibeela who listens to people.
Kablay cracks the whip
*COMPLAINS OF BDP BACK BENCH BEHAVIOUR
*WARNS MINISTERS HE DOESN’T REPORT TO THEM
Botswana Democratic Party’s Chief Whip, Liakat Kablay is calling for another induction to be held especially for his party’s unruly representatives in parliament.
In an exclusive interview with The Voice, Kablay complained of the back bench’s behaviour, which he described as ‘unacceptable’.
He warned that their antics threatened the party’s peace as some joined ranks with the opposition’s Members of Parliament during debates.
“There was one time they were conniving with the opposition to have a walk out. Never have we experienced that as BDP! Their behaviour shows that we need to induct them again.”
He explained that in the BDP members have to support whatever was agreed during party caucus and cannot change once in parliament.
“You could tell that some were looking for personal glory over the party reputation,” he blasted.
However, Kablay apportioned a large part of the blame to the Speaker of the House, Phandu Skelemani’s inexperience, accusing him of giving Ministers more time during deliberations than ordinary MPs.
“His decision forced the MPs to revolt and we warned him against that,” he said, adding it was unfortunate because Skelemani was ‘thrown in the deep end’ without anyone to take him through the ropes.
Meanwhile, Kablay complained of a certain Minister (names withheld) who he accused of making his job ‘difficult’ by consistently reporting him to the President for his media interviews.
He claimed the Minister wants him (Kablay) to report to him, which Kablay explained was against the rules as he is meant to report directly to the Vice President.
“This makes me less effective as Chief Whip just because of one man who thinks his Ministry is over me. I only report to the Vice President not Ministers,” he reiterated, adding he never had such a problem during the previous (11th) parliament.
Unfortunately, efforts to reach Skelemani hit a snag as his phones did not go through.
Parties take a stand on corona
On 11 March, the World Health Organisation declared coronavirus (COVID-19) a global pandemic.
Despite this, the virus has since gone on to claim thousands of lives, with the majority of the casualties occurring in the western world.
In light of this, and with the virus rapidly spreading across South Africa, this week Cyril Ramaphosa and his government called an emergency 21-day lock-down, which comes into effect on Thursday (26th March).
Although no-one has tested positive for the virus in Botswana yet, the country remains on high alert.
The Voice’s DANIEL CHIDA engaged party leaders to find out what they believe needs to be done to prevent the virus from spreading to Botswana.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Head of Communications: Moeti Mohwasa
This situation requires total mobilisation, cooperation, selflessness and true leadership. We can make it as a nation if we are united and disciplined.
Aggressive measures need to be put in place to prevent the spread of the virus.
Fortunately, up to now, there has not been any reported cases of the virus in the country.
This, however, does not mean that there are no cases as the viruses could stay in the body for sometime before signs are exhibited.
Our actions today will determine what will happen tomorrow.
We can learn from the experience of those who did not take prompt action to deal with this scourge.
Due to limited Intensive Care Units (ICU)s and the already stretched health facilities and personnel, we need to be much more proactive in preparing ourselves for the virus.
These two are among the determining factors of the death rate.
We cannot stop the spread of the virus, but we can manage it if we keep the rate of infection within the capacity of our health facilities.
We should prepare an army of health professionals, including those who are unemployed for any eventuality.
As the UDC, we call upon the government to engage the political, business, workers, religious, sport and other leaders to come up with a common and harmonious strategy to deal with this situation.
There should be provision of free masks and gloves accompanied by sanitisation of public places.
We should embark on immediate and extensive testing of our people for early detection and determination of the extent of the scourge.
Staying at home helps deal with control of infections but what about those who stay in crowded conditions at all times?
Measures have to be put in place to protect our people, the majority of whom are poor, in the event we have a total lock-down.
They will be hard-hit as they go home to empty pantries every evening, prompting them to go out every morning in search of something to eat.
We call upon the government to come up with a coordinated and comprehensive economic stimulus to benefit SMMEs and workers, not leaving out the vulnerable groups like the disabled who have a history of being marginalised and excluded.
An independent structure, totally not biased in favour of the politically connected big business, should be put in place to oversee and monitor the stimulus package.
All these efforts and many others would require the presence and supervision of the Head of State, who unfortunately we are told is now quarantined and not fully available to deal with the challenge we are facing.
It is regrettable and very unfortunate that the President decided – at a time when he was needed most – to leave the country.
He not only deserted the nation that looked up to him to shepherd sheep, but broke the very rules he set for state officials, that there should be no international travel; thereby failing to lead by example. This has led the country to have a present but absent president.
Secretary General of Alliance for Progressives (AP): Phenyo Butale
South Africa took an absolutely correct decision, and there is no choice in the circumstances. Human life comes before everything.
Our region is so integrated that even though we have no known case, we have to do what is necessary to enforce what we already have in place.
Some of our people are still entertaining gatherings of more than 100 people. AP is concerned about ensuing economic ramifications globally, which will adversely affect our economy, particularly the more vulnerable.
So, as per our policy address on Thursday, we call on government to engage and finalise preliminary fiscal response interventions to mitigate effects on the lives of so many of our people.
President of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD): Sidney Pilane;
I have studied the statement by President Ramaphosa in which he exempted essential services – and goods – such as the production of food and other necessities, which will continue as before the lock-down.
A few of our entry points with South Africa remain open to enable trade to continue and necessary travel by our respective citizens to continue.
So, the lock-down will affect us very little, and I can think that we may lose some South African tourists and the passing trade of travellers to Botswana.
I have also followed and carefully studied the response of the Botswana government to the crisis that we face.
They are reasonably satisfactory, with one glaring exception; there is no public education programme being implemented.
Written statements and occasional statements in the media by the President, the Office of the President and by the Ministry of Health are far from satisfactory.
We need an intense and sustained publicity blitz that reaches all Batswana, one similar to that of HIV AIDS, to enable all Batswana to become aware of the depth of the crisis that faces the country because coronavirus is coming to Botswana, however long it takes.
I saw a statement by the Police Service demanding compliance with restrictions and making threats.
That is the wrong tone. I suspect that the BDF may also be deployed. We do not want Botswana to become a police state.
We will be watching closely how law enforcement deals with this, and it is my hope that they will exercise appropriate restraint. We will not accept police state tactics.
Compliance with restrictions – something with which we all agree – is best achieved by a proper programme of extensive and sustained public education and not force. The more the education, the less will be the need for enforcement by law enforcement.
Government has decided to go it alone. This is a national crisis and should be owned by all of us and not just the government.
This is the only way the entire nation can take responsibility.
The role of the government is to provide leadership, but not to exclude the nation in that leadership.
This is not a partisan matter.A complete lock-down is the best guarantor of a minimum spread of this silent, invisible enemy which is waging guerrilla warfare on the world. A lock-down requires a lot of money.
Government has a budget for its employees to 31st March, 2021 and can afford to pay them.
Not so with workers in the private sector. Most businesses in Botswana are small scale.
A lock-down means they are not earning revenue and income, are not selling, are unable to pay rent, employees who are not at work, and are unable to meet their other costs. Their employees who will be at home cannot survive without income.
Shops will be affected as they may not have enough consumers to sell to.
The economy could collapse. A meltdown could occur such as happened in Zimbabwe and Venezuela.
Government must have plans in place to prevent this happening. We need to know what the Government plans to approach these possibilities.
*Unfortunately, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) had not responded to our reporter’s questionnaire at the time of going to press.