Monday, October 27, 2014

THIS IS WHY WE’RE HOT …OR NOT: Botswana's 2014 elections


Ok no, not really, we are hot because we are 70% desert and it is basically degrees of summer here for eight months of the year. However on October 24th, just two years before Botswana celebrates her fiftieth year of independence from Britain, we held our parliamentary elections and lived to tell the tale. Though they were the most volatile and interesting; we the people behaved impeccably.

Do we have problems? What country doesn’t? For a few opinions/research/papers/books on what those problems and their causes may be I will direct you to

-       press freedom

but this is not what this entry is about, rather I wanted to non-partisanly celebrate what was declared by the African Union observers’ mission as a “free and fair election.” One step at a time.

The parties that contested were the:
  • ·      Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)
  • ·      Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)
  • ·      Botswana Congress Party (BCP)
  • ·  Various independent candidates (referred to by the people as mokoko (Setswana word meaning cock - think chicken. No, I don't know why)

The voting date was announced by the president months in advance and employers were encouraged to release registered voters to vote.

Voting was held on Friday 24th October (declared a public holiday) followed by the rather painful process of trying to stay awake to catch your candidate’s constitutional result as well as feedback from other areas of interest.
The results were announced through the night into the day for 48 hours, with the last constituency result read late afternoon on Sunday.

An American celebrity and a former Bulgarian President endorsed the UDC.

There are reports of funding from international organisations or individuals. In Botswana there is no law requiring parties to declare who their generous friends are.

Both of the opposition parties hired helicopters and spent, I suspect, more money than ever before on rallies (event management), party paraphernalia etc

After the death of Gomolemo Motswaledi of the UDC in July 2014, by car accident, the party gained momentum and (reactionary) political leverage. Social media was rife with accusations of who might be responsible for his demise and opposition members rallied around this incident as a common point of interest. The government commissioned an investigative report. Supposedly fearing maladministration the UDC hired private forensic specialists but have since not released the report.
There are those who feel that the Gaborone Central vote was a sympathy vote in absentia for the much loved and deceased politician who was to stand for election in that area. That, or that it served as a 'punishment' non vote for the BCP leader under whom the BCP 'chose not to join the UDC coalition'. He has issued a statement disagreeing on how that disagreement came about. How one measures actual votes against this idea of sympathy and punishment voting I could not say.

This local scale does not take into consideration whether parties are funded and therefore start on an even playing field.

From a layman's observations, and eavesdropping, what follows is a summation of the situation/s on the ground:

  • ·      There is no state funding for political parties
  • ·      The ruling party has been in power since 1965 and is inevitably deeply entrenched within both governmental and corporate financial circles.
  • ·      There are concerns that public media functions on some level as state media. In the lead up to elections the campaign coverage covered presidential town visits. The president of Botswana is also president of the BDP and there appears to the layman to be little separation between his party related campaigns and presidential national duties.
  • ·      There are those who say funding parties would be too expensive a burden for the tax payer/government and those who say funding parties is an investment by the people in their current/potential governance system.
  • ·      Concerns that state resources are used to support ruling party activities eg media report suggesting that a  state air plane was used to transport a candidate, with the response on record being that the president is at liberty to provide a lift/give a ride to any one who he wishes to.
  • ·      Voters queued patiently, as required they did not wear clothing with any party emblems (reports of one voter who was sent home to change), no violence on record.

Early voting happened in the week leading up to the main elections. It was open to Batswana in the diaspora as well as the elections’ staff.

I have no idea what the internationally or locally acceptable rate/ratio of spoilt votes is but while listening to reports I couldn’t help but feel that since we have 5 years between election years to teach voters what is (to me and my four year old nephew) a simple system, we, and by that I mean the Independent Electoral Commission, have to reassess our national voter education. Not just what we share but where (geographically and in terms of cyber real estate) and when.

In one area we are told that about 2000 people who registered to vote did not turn up out of 18000 plus registered voters. Research into why and how this happens would be interesting. Are they simply unavailable, lazy, or out of country or pregnant or ill on voting day? Is this simply a hazard of the voting job, seven went in and 5 came out?
Do they register just so they can show their voter registration cards on instagram and facebook but have no intention of voting from the onset?
Do they have insufficient information from candidates and cannot decide who to vote for?
Do they feel that the candidate’s language of choice excludes them from the conversation?
Candidates hop between parties, does this make it difficult to know who stands for what and for how long?
Do voters feel that the manual process leads to slow and long queues (voters begin trekking to some polling stations as early as 4am to await voting which begins at 630am)
Do they feel that the party that is going to win is a foregone conclusion and therefore their vote doesn’t count?
Do they understand the difference a handful of individuals' votes can make eg some candidates lost by 10, 35/handful of votes etc
It could be any number of reasons and I’d be interested in what they are.

Independent Electoral Committee feedback
  • ·      Get a media and events/logistics specialist to plan your media resource centre
  • ·      Make a formal arrangement for an express lane for the elderly or medically challenged including heavily pregnant women and mothers of infants less than 3 months old
  • ·      Ensure your staff have loud speakers so they can make announcements to the whole queue in an effective manner
  • ·      Discuss your voting day logistics clearly with each polling station’s team eg where to place the voter registration card verification officer’s desk. Sometimes common sense is not so common, therefore approach briefs with an eye for detail.
  • ·      Ensure your staff arrive at least an hour before start time for set up
  • ·      If chairs are available (a number of polling stations are in schools) make access to those chairs easy
  • ·      Harness social media much more effectively
  • ·      Shape your voter education much more effectively and be specific to different groups and their capacity to understand
  • ·      Consider possibilities for having pre-voting age volunteers (they can put out chairs or whatever tasks they can be entrusted with) and the IEC can use part of that time to teach them the value of voting 
  • Can elements of the process anywhere between registration and voting and counting be automated? In what ways can existing technologies be harnessed, taking into consideration their user-friendliness in our local context, their accessibility (obviously it is not news to the IEC that our internet access is appalling) etc but outside of these handicaps what can be done and by whom

AU Mission Observers were in 26 constituencies out of 57 total constituencies.

Batswana/anyone could be present for the vote counting which was undoubtedly transparent.

Since we have a first past the post system we knew by midnight when the BDP hit the 29 seat mark that they had won and would return as the national administration.

Joyce Banda of the African Union Elections Observation Mission declared the Botswana elections peaceful and transparent. The AU elections Observation Mission “encourages the government of Botswana to consider providing funding to registered political parties on an equitable basis”.

We move ballot boxes from polling stations to counting centres and this adds to the logistical and administrative plans and possible complications eg reports of one box arriving at a counting centre with a broken seal etc creating unnecessary problems for that returning officer/transparency.

The counting process is transparent but as it is manual is tedious and slow.

There will be an observers’ report released for public consumption in two months.

·      A suggestion that if one were to map out a nationwide 'poverty zone' and overlay the BDP votes there would be a high correlation
·      Suggestions that if one were to map a traditional voter/'rural zone' and overlay the BDP constituency wins there would be a high correlation (not sure if stats are available for this but relatively obvious geographically speaking where their voter strongholds are)
·      The rural zone has a high population of elderly voters. The youth who come from those ares are often working or studying in or near the city (urban zone)
·      In the urban zone (Gaborone and surrounding areas) - the majority of  UDC (opposition) votes are from here
·      The urban zone has a high population of youth – the universities are here, young employees, private sector employers, also a ‘new kind’ of poverty ie qualified but unemployed graduates, the most densely populated part of the country a kind of ghetto/low income area is also located here, land/home is also much harder to acquire here
·      The BDP in its capacity as the ruling administration has created a middle class by funding education and providing heavily subsidized healthcare etc and this middle class holds them to a different standard than the traditional voters
·      Facebook is full of political conversations, a relatively new development for us, but there is also here the opportunity to misread the ‘general consensus’ as most commentators on facebook are arguably the middle class and urban population. Their average is not indicative of a national average.
·      There was a notable number of first time voters (hopefully I can dig up numbers indicating how many more first time voters registered for these elections versus 2009 counting backwards)
·      Social media played a large role in (informal) information dissemination and voter education

Gabz FM broadcast presidential debates that were aired on radio and television (they are not the national broadcaster but a private holding) the BDP did not send a representative. We have two official languages or one official and one national language ie English and Setswana. To my recollection the first debate was entirely in English, the second involved code switching between the two.

Some of the points raised during the debates were:

Debate 1: Televised parliamentary debates. Constitutional Review Committee. The SADC Gender protocol that Botswana has not ratified. Specialised court of appeal on labour law/issues. 
Botswana Housing Corporation's VAT on first time buyer property versus costs associated with the unserviced land provided by government to BHC. Incentive for employers who concern themselves with employees’ accommodation. The effectiveness or not of the Alcohol Levy. Absence of substance abuse institutions. Insider trading law. Disclosure of assets. Freedom of information bill. BCP has no official position on sex work and homo sexuality, they say it is on their list of priorities but they have yet to discuss it. 
UDC's position not clear(to me) their president spoke of privacy/private morality and sections of the law which criminalize acts of homosexuality but not about a party position.

Debate 2: Economic diversity, capital intensive versus labour intensive industries, setting up of an agricultural commercial bank, national tourism board, government intervention versus basic set up of a conducive environment and leaving the market players to duke it out, stable business environment for investors versus short notice deportations, responsibility of public media in outing corruption (the position being that they currently distance themselves from any potentially anti-government reporting), current president's non participation/co-operation with media - the ruling party did not have a representative on the presidential debate panels, a whistle-blower protection program, an infant industry protection program, (post) grad education focus versus on the job training focus.

Context: The BDP has won elections since 1965. Here is a table indicating voter statistics

• 1965- BDP(80.4%) BPP (14.2%)BIP(4.6)
• 1969-BDP (68.8%) BNF (13.5%) BPP (12%)
• 1974- BDP (76.6%) BNF (11.5%) BPP (4.8%)
• 1979- BDP (75%) BNF (13%) BPP (7.4%)
• 1984- BDP (68%) BNF (20.4%) BPP (6.6%)
• 1989- BDP (64%) BNF (27%) BPP (4.3%)
• 1994-BDP (54.5%) BNF(37%) BPP (4%)
• 1999- BDP (54.3%) BNF (24.6%) BCP (11.3%) BAM (4.5%)
• 2004- BDP (50.6%) BNF (25.5%) BCP (16.3%) BAM (2.8%)
• 2009- BDP (52.3%) BNF (21.5%) BCP (18.8%) BPP (1.36%)
• 2014- BDP (46.7%) UDC (30.8%) BCP (19.5%)

We have 57 constituencies and this is how it went down:

37 BDP (returning party president is HE Seretse Khama Ian Khama, son of Botswana's first president and as of 28/10/14 serving his second and last term)

17 UDC (party president is Duma Boko, a human rights lawyer/advocate and first time voter)

03 BCP (party president is Dumelang Saleshando, served 2 parliamentary terms as opposition)

Therefore the former President of Botswana (we have no sitting president on voting day) His Excellency Seretse Khama Ian Khama returns for his second and last term as president. He will be sworn in on Tuesday 28th October, 2014

Four (4) women have been confirmed as parliamentarians. 3 from the BDP and 1 from the UDC.

1 new UDC parliamentarian, Ndaba Gaolathe (also party VP) is the son of former and late BDP member and Minister of Finance Baledzi Gaolathe.

Six former cabinet ministers lost elections in their constituencies.

The former BCP stronghold of Gaborone Central was won by the UDC. This meant that the BCP party president lost his constituency.

The opposition in Botswana has been viewed for many years, to put it bluntly, as a self-sabotaging laughing stock. At best mediocre.
The view being that they should have formed a coalition as that was likely their best bet for success, that they fall apart in the lead up to the each election. 
The 20 seats that the 2 current opposition parties (1 of them a coalition with 17 seats) have secured is the highest on record. They are clearly no longer considered a bunch of novices masquerading as politicians but as a bona fide opposition with considerable clout.

The President will elect four (4) specially elected members of parliament.

Appoint a new VP, our last VP retired from ill health.

Appoint a cabinet of ministers to the various ministries.

New ambassadors will be appointed.

If you are eligible to vote and you actually registered and turned up and voted – this is why you’re hot. Well done, now go breathe down your parliamentarian’s neck and demand … service. Their names are as follows:

Botswana Democratic Party MPs
1.         Bobonong – Shaw Kgathi
2.         Boteti East – Sethomo Lelatisitswe
3.         Boteti West – Slumber Tsogwane
4.         Chobe – Machana Shamukani
5.         Francistown East – Buti Billy
6.         Francistown West – Ignatius Moswaane
7.         Gaborone South – Kagiso Molatlhegi
8.         Ghanzi South – Christiaan De Graaff
9.         Kanye North – Patrick Ralotsia
10.       Kgalagadi North – Itumeleng Moipisi
11.       Kgalagadi South – Frans Van Der Westhuisen
12.       Lentsweletau-Mmopane – Vincent Seretse
13.       Lerala-Maunatlala – Prince Maele
14.       Letlhakeng-Lephephe – Liakat Kablay
15.       Lobatse – Sadique Kebonang
16.       Mahalapye East – Botlogile Tshireletso
17.       Mahalapye West – Joseph Molefe
18.       Maun East – Kostantinos Markus
19.       Mmadinare – Kefentse Mzwinila
20.       Mmathethe-Molapowabojang – Alfred Madigele
21.       Moshupa-Manyana – Mokgweetsi Masisi
22.       Nata-Gweta – Polson Majaga
23.       Ngami – Thato Kgwerepe
24.       Nkange – Edwin Batshu
25.       Palapye – Master Goya
26.       Sefhare-Ramokgonami – Dorcas Makgato-Malesu (woman)
27.       Selebi Phikwe East – Nonofo Molefhi
28.       Serowe North – Kgotla Autlwetse
29.       Serowe South – Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi (woman)
30.       Serowe West – Tshekedi Khama
31.       Shashe West – Fidelis Molao
32.       Shoshong – Philip Makgalemele
33.       Takatokwane – Ngaka Ngaka
34.       Tati East – Guma Moyo
35.       Tati West – Biggie Butale
36.       Thamaga-Kumakwane – Tshenolo Mabeo
37.       Tonota South – Thapelo Olopeng

Umbrella for Democratic Change MPs
1.         Francistown South – Wynter Mmolotsi
2.         Gabane-Mmakgodi – Pius Mokgware
3.         Gaborone Bonnington North – Duma Boko
4.         Gaborone Bonnington South – Ndaba Gaolathe
5.         Gaborone Central – Phenyo Butale
6.         Gaborone North – Haskins Nkaigwa
7.         Ghanzi North – Noah Salakae
8.         Goodhope-Mabule – James Mothokgwane
9.         Jwaneng-Mabutsane – Shawn Ntlhaile
10.       Kanye South – Abram Kesupile
11.       Maun West – Tawana Moremi
12.       Mochudi East – Isaac Davids
13.       Mochudi West – Gilbert Mangole
14.       Mogoditshane – Sedirwa Kgoroba
15.       Molepolole South – Tlamelo Mmatli
16.       Molepolole North – Mohamed Khan
17.       Tlokweng – Same Bathobakae (woman)

Botswana Congress Party MPs
1.         Okavango – Bagalatia Arone
2.         Ramotswa – Samuel Rantuana
3.         Selebi Phikwe West – Dithapelo Keorapetse

Side note: This was election season in a number of countries, certainly in Tunisia, Ukraine, Brazil and Botswana. With voters making interesting choices in a number of these places.

All things constant I leave for Brazil soon, she too has just had a tightly run race, a campaign that also divided the country along class and geographical lines with a win by Dilma Rouseff and her workers’ party (a 52% vote against the opposition’s 48%). I hear that since democratization in 1999 this is the slimmest margin on record. But I go to Brazil not to discuss politics but rather to read and workshop poetry writing and reading. I have no intention of quitting my day job(wrangling words), such as it is. Now that voting is done let us give back the daily politicking to the politicians and their chief whips, and let the poets do their thing.

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