Government is mulling the idea of postponing the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in the 2019 General Elections, sources at government enclave have intimated. Although very evasive Vice President Slumber Tsogwane hinted at the possibility when asked by journalists on Friday if government will consider not using EVMs in the 2019 General elections. “It will depend on the outcome of the ongoing court case and whether there will be sufficient time to procure the machines for the next year's general elections. But I can confirm to you that there will be elections next year,” he said.
He said even if the EVMs cannot be used next year other electoral reforms will be implemented like the once off voter registration. “Studies have shown that most of the voter trafficking occurs during supplementary registration hence its cancellation. We are going to allow longer period for voter registration,” he said.
On disenfranchising those who will be turning 18 after the closure of the registration, Tsogwane said it will be considered as it will be fair to allow them to register. Information gathered by this publication has revealed that time is not on the side of Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to procure the machines and time to do workshops for voter education campaigns before the 2019 elections.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has taken government to court regarding the use of EVM in the 2019 elections arguing that all sections of the Electoral (Amendment) Act No. 7 of 2016, which provide for the replacement of voting by Ballot Paper by EVMs be declared unconstitutional and in violation of Section 32 (3) (c) of the Constitution of Botswana be set aside and struck out. The introduction of EVM has also been opposed by large sections of society including labor unions and former President Sir Ketumile Masire who was against the use of EVM arguing that Botswana will lose its credibility. “If at any stage, the electoral process seems flawed in the eyes of citizens, the entire exercise would not only lose credibility, but the legitimacy of a government that emerges out of that process would be eroded as well,” said the late Sir Ketumile.
The Catholic Church became the first church to raise its concern on the use of EVM advising government and leadership to take heed of the cry of the nation not to use the voting machine and take more time to do an extensive needs analysis consulting all stakeholders. The then Bishop of Gaborone Bishop Emeritus Valentine Seane said that the voting machine can be tampered with since it is manufactured and programmed by a human. “This is a big loophole and is a valid reason not to introduce voting machine. There is no feedback or proof to the one voting that he did vote. All trust is placed on the machine.”
All Party Conference
Vice President Tsogwane informed journalists that government has decided to resuscitate the All Parties Conference in order to engage with political leaders. “We need All Parties Conference in order to discuss the electoral reforms that have been introduced and others issues of national interest,” he said.
He said that All Parties Conference is just a gentleman’s agreement whereby the sitting presidents decide to engage the political leaders from other parties noting that he doesn’t know why the former Presidents Festus Mogae and Ian Khama didn’t use it. The All party Conference bridged the gap between political parties and, by extension, their members and widely used during the presidency of the Late Sir Ketumile Masire.
At this Conference, where the ruling party was often represented by a person no less than the Vice President or at the very least, the Minister of Presidential Affairs, resolutions were adopted often leading to policy and/or even legal reforms.
As a way of trying to engage opposition leaders President Mokgweetsi Masisi is expected to meet all opposition leaders next week.