EVMs: Let’s have a Referendum now!

SHARE   |   Monday, 22 May 2017   |   By Simon Gabathuse
EVMs: Let’s have a Referendum now!

The nation finds itself confused. On the other side is a blame game of who exactly brought the whole concept of Electronic Voting Machines; EVMs. Whilst the opposition parties are blaming the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) of wanting to steal the 2019 ballot through hacking of the EVMs, the BDP is denying that it is the one that came up with the whole concept. The BDP is fiercely contesting that the concept of EVMs is a brainchild of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). Whether the IEC is independent or is not is not a subject of this discussion. The IEC, on the other hand, is adamant that the concept of EVMs was a result of the All Party Conference that was held after the 2014 elections with sole intention of reviewing the immediate past elections. This is a forum where all political parties are represented. It is said that it was at this meeting that the opposition came up with the idea that EVM will help speed the voting process. It is said that the emphasis was particularly on the timeliness of counting cast ballots and the subsequent announcement. Fingers are not only being pointed at the opposition for being the one that came up with the concept of EVMs. Fingers are particularly pointing at the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) for having first brought this matter of EVMs up as a solution to Botswana’s electoral system. It is funny that it is the same BCP that is the litigant in the case at the High Court of Botswana seeking to indict the IEC from continuing with the whole concept as it is against the constitution of Botswana which says that; elections shall by way of secret ballot. We don’t know what will happen at the courts; we can only speculate. Though no scientific study has been carried out to authenticate who agrees with the concept of EVMs and who does not, voices are loud, clear and in pain that there was no national consultation on this fundamental aspect that affects who is ruling and who is being ruled. It is a given fact that no consultation has been done with the nation. It is also a given fact that even the ruling party itself has not consulted with its members. Basically, it has not got a mandate from its members. It is just some few MPs in Parliament who have purported to be representing the BDP without a mandate to do so. One can only pray for sanity to prevail. I still don’t know what to think of about mid night voting!

The BDP as the ruling party must go to congress and debate this matter with sober minds and adopt a position that is not detrimental to the unity and humanity of our country and our people. The BDP must be mature to be honest about this discussion. We have no choice, but to pray for sanity so that the BDP does the best thing in the interest of this republic. The BDP is the ruling party, mandated through the ballot. At the moment they are ruling, at least until the next general elections in 2019. In the meantime we are at their mercy. If they agree to the EVMs we shall dance to their tune. Equally if they reject the concept of EVMs their song shall be imposed upon us and we shall so dance. This is a problem. But it is a problem that can be solved by understanding that it is not a partisan problem, it is a national problem. We are not all members of one party or another. We are first Batswana before any other thing. It is also worth noting that not all Batswana vote along party lines, some simply vote specific people as per their individual campaign message. We cannot also deny that we vote along biological lines, we even vote along dating lines. There seems to be nothing wrong with this arrangement as long qualification to be a Cabinet Minister is that you have to be a Member of Parliament. And we all know the minimum qualifications of being a Member of Parliament. I am guessing you already have in your mind some of the characters we have in Parliament. There is a solution to this concept of EVMs’ standoff which has been suggested elsewhere that; the IEC should conduct a referendum and advice as per the results of such a referendum to be able to put this matter to rest. We have not heard the response of the IEC to this suggestion, and this suggestion is not going away. This suggestion is waiting for a response. This suggestion is not even about any political party or who wants to win a girl or not. It is not even about whether Mr. Gabriel Seeletso will still have a job as a consultant; whatever that means. It is about national solidification and authentication of an electoral process we so much depend on as a nation. It is about continuing to be a democratic, open and transparent society not only for now but for generations to come. We are not saying Mr. Gabriel Seeletso ill-advised anyone. We are simply saying, since no one agrees to have suggested the whole concept of EVMs, and that now he has to take the fall, the buck stops with him to advice whoever that the nation must decide. 

If I was asked to decide for this nation, I will advise the BDP that the timing of introduction of the EVMs is terribly wrong. The idea might be good, but the timing is opposite of good. I will advise the BDP to resolve on shelving the introduction of the EVMs and to proceed with the current method of voting by paper ballot. The BDP is already being labeled an illegitimate Government by proponents of Proportional Representation. They sight its gains as unfair gains of First Past the Post system. It might be a fair and just criticism. But it is not necessarily illegal, yet cannot be ignored. The speed and resilience of introducing the EVMs despite voices of disapproval is not helping the situation. Actually, it is suspicious. The BDP must swallow its pride and lower its ego in the interest of not power, but our people and this country. In going ahead with the EVMs the BDP risks winning the 2019 General Elections fairly and not being accepted as a legitimate government. The people will stand up and say; you stole the ballot! It will be difficult to deny this or rather make it go away as the people are already saying; you want to steal the ballot! The opposition might ignorantly or knowingly use this against the ruling party, for whatever riot or craziness that people wish could happen to this country. We all need to pray for sanity. And I haven’t lost hope that a solution is within reach. The BDP further risks many citizens not going to the ballot, or to be precise, multitudes not casting their ballots and hence leading to a very low turnout. This will render whoever will have won, opposition or BDP party, an illegitimate Government. The BDP must know that the nation at the moment is angry at many things; unemployment, lack of buying power, low salaries, lack of educational opportunities etc and it is ideal to decrease anger and not increase it. The problem with anger is that ultimately, it erupts into something ungovernable. Those who have at one point ended up in a fist fight will understand better. 

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