Cabinet has rejected suggestions by opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) MPs that civil servants should stay out of the running of general elections the issue that has been debated at parliament during budget estimates for Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
Government only managed to sideline civil servants in taking part in electoral course in 2017 when Court of Appeal ruled that they should not vote in the internal party primary elections.
CoA judges panel led by Judge President Ian Kirby ruled that voting in the Bulelwa Ditswe was amounting to poltical activism and contravenes Section ( 5) (5) (b) of Public Service Act (PSA).
Section (5) (5) (b) of PSA No 30 of 2008 prohibits public servants from voting in party primary elections but officers can retain membership of party and remain active in affairs of their party.
On Thursday, Minister of Presidential Affairs, Kabo Morwaeng with other cabinet members’ defeated UDC MPs deliberations that all public servants should be banned from the process.
The y also disputed IEC independence status pleading that its head honchos must be axed.
MP for Maun East Goretetse Kekgonegile said IEC Secretariat has proved to be incompetent due to how the UDC election petitions were handled hence calling for axing of the Secretariat.
He added that government should abolish the process of using civil servants as support staff during the elections hence questioning why IEC Secretariat is using the civil servants at polls.
“It’s not good for public servants to be used to run the elections especially in the same area where they stay and work. In my view when we say IED is independent it must be totally be so or must totally mixed people to at least assist in running of the polls,’’ Kekgonegile asserted.
He noted that civil servants have their preferred candidates which can be very dangerous in influencing the outcomes of the polls and therefore they are conflicted in running of polls.
Nkange MP Dr Never Tshabang also cast aspersions on the independence of IEC saying the body should be removed Office of President as it has been repetitive calls by parties and analysts.
Tshabang contended that IEC should be fully given its independent mandate which will among others not limited to issuing of election writ as is now issued by the president who is politician.
In addition, Ngami land MP Carter Hikuama indicated time has now arrived for government to consider introducing political party funding to level political battle ground for all the parties.
He said this will not push the political parties to seek financial assistance abroad which ends up triggering suspicions that a party who wins power will reward sponsors with country’s wealth.
He also implored that both IEC board chairperson and Secretariat should be sovereign people who are not civil servants noting that reviewing of electoral act is key towards IEC autonomy.
Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Kabo Morwaeng hinted that IEC is independent from the executive adding it would not be taken out office of president.
According to Morwaeng, IEC Secretariat and board chairperson are capable appointees in driving the mandate of the election body denying claims of failure as made by UDC cadres.
In addition, he says that IEC could not stop using public servants to conduct the elections as it has shortage of staff and resources to capacitate itself because it rely on government funding.
BDP Secretary General and MP for Gaborone North, Mpho Balopi said UDC failed to submit proof before court that elections were rigged adding that no BDP candidate trafficked voters.
Vice president Slumber Tsogwane agreed with fellow cabinet colleagues that engagement of civil servants in running elections process has never caused any inconvenience for a long time.
He buttressed that opposition was against the use of Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) in 2019 elections but government decided to withdraw its use hence saying opposition has no reason to claim that hiring of civil servants why now led to influence the outcomes of 2019 polls as said.
Morwaeng requested a budget proposal for IEC amounting to P 71, 879,130 million for the Recurrent Budget and P 1, 9 million for the development budget all approved by parliament.