In one of the rare twists of events since president Ian Khama assumed the highest office, Botswana Democratic Party MPs on Friday embraced and endorsed a motion from the opposition party, defying perceptions the party leadership is aimed at shooting down any noble initiatives originating from the opposite side of the table.
A series of motions coming from the opposition have been shot down by the numerically dominant BDP MPs, with last week’s motions by the leader of the opposition, Otsweletse Moupo, and Lobatse MP, Nehemiah Modubule, being the latest casualties.
Moupo raised a motion calling on the government to decentralize power to local authorities and endow them with administrative and financial capacity, a move that was rejected, as was the motion by Modubule requesting the House to document the national general election day in the constitution, prompting speculations the ruling party would stop at nothing to demoralize the numerically meek opposition MPs.
However, contributing on Friday to a subsequent motion raised by Modubule, which called for the government to amend the electoral Act to provide for the counting of ballot papers at the polling stations rather than at the polling district headquarters or constituency, as is currently the case, BDP MPs who took the floor somersaulted from their traditional position and gave Modubule a pat on the back, conceding that the motion was a straight forward and noble one, which would not rub any person the wrong way.
Reputed BDP hardliners, who would stand by the party’s principles no matter the outcome, like Boteti South MP Slumber Tsogwane and the Minister of Local Government, Margaret Nasha, left the audience mouths agape as they gave the motion the thumbs up.
“I stand to say only a few words to wholeheartedly support the motion. This motion is very important as it attempts to nourish and nurture the democratic principles upon which this country has long been known to practice. The election process is a very volatile situation which must be treated with due respect …And by requesting that the constitution be amended accordingly, I believe the hounorable MP is on the right tract,” noted Tsogwane.
Although impressed by this noble call, Nasha is at loggerheads with her conscience particularly that, lately, she discussed the issue with the Independent Electoral Commission, who expressed concern over human resources.
“I do not have the problem with the motion. However I have a problem with the body entrusted to mandate the elections given that, lately, we sat together over the issue and they expressed some concerns over the human resource perspective, given the sparsely populated Botswana.”
For his part, Gaborone North MP Keletso Rakhudu showered the motion with all the blessings, arguing the move would promote transparency and voter confidence as the counting would be conducted at their area of influence.
With the counting conducted at these areas, Rakhudu is adamant such suspicions over retaining officers opening ballot boxes would be a thing of the past.
Further, it would give the candidates a clue as to which areas to exert more pressure during the next national elections.
“There would be no cases such as an IEC official hiding the ballot box with the dust-coat in return for favours,” Rakhudu further said, referring to an earlier incident alluded to by the opposition MP Filbert Nagafela.