Leaders of faith based organisations are in agreement that there is an urgent need to provide counselling to candidates for the upcoming general elections and their families, as the campaigns and the outcome can have a debilitating effect on them.
They made the call at a meeting organised by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in Mogoditshane on Wednesday, saying candidates should be able to withstand the stress and other challenges that come with losing elections. The IEC officers, including executive secretary Gabriel Seeletso and spokesperson, Osupile Maroba, urged church leaders to encourage their congregations to actively participate in the upcoming general elections.
It also emerged at the meeting that some returning officers have refused to allow political party agents to use their seals on the ballot box as is permitted by law, which creates a contradiction. Maroba conceded that could be out of a misunderstanding of the law by some officers but explained that in most cases they have come across there was a reasonable explanation as circumstances differ from one polling station to the other.
Japhta Radibe said it is puzzling that the Electoral Act provides for the nomination of president even though it is common knowledge that in Botswana there is no direct election of the president by voters, but is rather elected at party level. He also expressed concerned that there is a disparity in requirements for registration of council and parliamentary candidates, where the former is expected to register in a distric where he is contesting while the later can register anywhere in the country. The leaders of the faith based organisations also questioned the requirement for parliamentary candidates to have the ability to read and understand English to contribute to policies that inform developments while the same does not obtain with council candidates.
Maroba found himself repeatedly reminding delegates that the IEC only acts within the confines of the law as is and advised them to encourage electorates to encourage their legislators to amend the law to accommodate current scenarios. He had been asked to explain what the law says in case of a tie between parties at the polls, to which he said unlike in other jurisdictions that have a provision for a coalition, the electoral act is silent but only refers to a majority. He also said they do not recognise any other forms of identification except an original Omang which is still in use, as is the law. He had been asked why a certified copy of Omang cannot be used, or a passport or a drivers licence as they both carry the details of the holder. "Electorates have to lobby legislators to look into recognising other forms of identification like the passport and the driver’s licence, if they feel the need. At the moment there is nothing we can do," he said.
The IEC also announced improvements to be expect during the elections in October. The IEC has caused amendments to section 13(b) of the electoral act where for the first time names in the voters roll will be arranged in alphabetical order for easy management. The boundaries between candidates on the ballot paper have also been increased to prevent spoilt votes where marks encroach into other lines. At all polling stations the IEC will set up a help desk where voters will be assisted before proceeding to cast their vote. At the help desk voters will verify the authenticity and usability of their IDs, confirmation if they are at the right polling station and a tag with page number attached to their voter registration card for ease of reference in the voting booth. For the first time IEC will also provide a tally sheet during the counting of votes, which was piloted during the Francistown West by-election.
To encourage the masses to vote, Father Bolokwe revealed that the Roman Catholic Church Bishop has issued a letter of elections which is read to all congregations throughout the country urging them to exercise their right to vote in the upcoming elections.
To coincide with the day that parliament was dissolved (Friday), the Evangelical Fellowship of Botswana (EFB) were scheduled to hold prayers for the general elections and wish the candidates well as the campaigns were expected to intensify. Early in March the EFB addressed a press briefing encouraging all eligible Batswana to take advantage of the supplementary registration and register to vote. "We further urge Batswana to use their right to vote; to weed the nation of any leader who promotes legislation of homosexuality, abortion or prostitution," EFB said.
Meanwhile on Friday, after the dissolution of parliament, Judicial Service Commission announced the new IEC commissioers who will hold office for the next two lives of parliament, in terms of Section 65 (2) of the Constitution. They are Judge Abednego Tafa as Chairman, and other memebers being John Carr- Hartley, Shaboyo Motsamai, Alpheous Matlhaku, Molefe Phirinyane, Agnes Setlhogile and Martha Sayed.
The appointment effected on the 29th August.