Election fever grips Botswana

SANF 19 no 48 – by Kizito Sikuka in Gaborone, Botswana
The expectant mood is almost everywhere, and one of the common phrases in Botswana is “this is an interesting election.”

Indeed, events of the past few months leading to the 23 October election have been “interesting” not only to watch but to analyze.

However, come Wednesday and irrespective of the poll outcome, the people of Botswana will make a huge statement on whether an individual is more influential than a political party or that a political party is supreme to any individual.

Incumbent President Mokgweetsi Masisi of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is adamant that the party is more important than any individual.

“This party, the BDP is very big and very powerful…it’s a mistake, a massive mistake joining another party,” Masisi said at one of his campaign rallies.

His remarks were mainly directed at former President Ian Khama and his brother Tshekedi who quit the ruling BDP to back and join a newly established opposition party, the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) led by former minister Biggie Butale.

Sir Seretse Khama, the father to Ian and Tshekedi was the founding President of Botswana and the BDP.

The BDP has won all elections since independence in 1966, and the party is celebrated for nurturing the success of Botswana.

President Masisi said the BDP is the “only party with Batswana interest” and people should continue voting for the ruling party to ensure “improved service delivery and committed leadership.”

However, former President Ian Khama argues that it is time to put “an end” to “this misrule by the BDP,” a party that he led from 2007 to 2018, before he handed over to his successor, Masisi.

Ian Khama had a fall-out with President Masisi because he did not want to continue “taking orders” from the latter.

In fact, during the BDP presidential nominations in late 2018, Ian Khama did not endorse the Masisi candidature but rather backed Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, a former Foreign Affairs Minister for the presidency.

When Venson-Moitoi’s bid failed, Ian Khama began to campaign for opposition candidates.

According to a list cleared by the High Court of Botswana, President Masisi and Butale will contest against two other candidates for the presidency — Duma Boko of the main opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), and Ndaba Gaolathe of the Alliance for Progressives.

However, there are reports that the opposition parties will form a coalition under the UDC led by Boko to challenge the BDP.

Botswana uses a single constituency electoral system of First-Past-The-Post for the election of Members of Parliament (MPs). Elected MPs then act as an electoral college to choose the President.

The Parliament of Botswana has 63 seats, of which 57 are filled through direct votes. There are four seats reserved for the majority party in Parliament, while the President and Attorney-General are ex-officio members.

In this regard, the majority of seats as set out by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is 29 out of the 57 available seats in the National Assembly.

In the last elections held in 2014, the BDP won 37 of the 57 elected seats, while the UDC won 17 and the Botswana Congress Party had three.

According to the IEC, a total of 1,273,880 Batswana have registered to vote. Botswana has a population of about 2.2 million.

Most local, regional and international organizations, including the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) have described the pre-election period as calm and peaceful.

Indeed, voters from different political parties are co-existing and mingling ahead of the historic elections.

Head of the 55-member SEOM, Dr. Sibusiso Moyo has urged Botswana to maintain the peace during and after the elections to ensure sustainable development.

Dr. Moyo, who is the Zimbabwean Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade said elections are a critical process in the consolidation of democracy, and thus all Batswana should exercise their civic and political rights by going out to vote on 23 October.

He said the SADC observers will be deployed in all the10 administrative districts of Botswana – Central, Chobe, Gaborone City, Ghanzi, Kgalagadi, Kgatleng, Kweneng, Ngamiland, North-East and Southern.

The SEOM is in Botswana at the invitation of the IEC and its conduct will be consistent with provisions of the Revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.

As per tradition, the SEOM will issue a statement after the elections on the conduct of the poll. sardc.net


Southern African News Features offers a reliable source of regional information and analysis on the Southern African Development Community, and is provided as a service to the SADC region. 

This article may be reproduced with credit to the author and publisher.

SANF is produced by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), which has monitored regional developments since 1985.      Email sanf[at]sardc.net     

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