The Botswana National Front (BNF) has threatened to boycott the 2019 General Elections if the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) continues with its plan to use the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) without installing a paper trail on them.
The party’s Publicity Secretary Justin Hunyepa said they met with the IEC on September 7 where the party’s President Duma Boko clearly informed IEC Secretary Gabriel Seeletso that they did not accept the EVM in its current format.
He said to safeguard the credibility of the elections, his party demanded that the EVM should be accompanied by a paper trail. According to Hunyepa, BNF informed IEC that in order for the tranquillity and peace that Botswana is known for to prevail, all the opposition parties should have confidence in the IEC.
“The BNF cautioned that this peace was now under serious threat as the IEC was not even independent, as reflected by the hurried EV Bill,” said Hunyepa.
The BNF was also concerned that IEC staff was reportedly transferred without its (IEC) consent through the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM). He said the employees were not even given the opportunity to accept or query their redeployment.
“The BNF made it clear that it was displeased and highly suspicious of the conduct of IEC. The IEC failed to answer as to when the idea of the machine came about or whose idea it was,” he said.
According to Hunyepa, the Electoral Amendment Bill was presented to Parliament as a matter of urgency so that it could benefit the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
“Why we would somebody pick on some specific gadgets; does the IEC have the integrity which it had in the past? The IEC was informed that Batswana were very concerned, including foreign missions. The IEC were cautioned that this was a warning that things were getting out of hand,” said Hunyepa.
He reiterated that the BNF had threatened “to boycott national elections before and the current situation was inviting the same wrath”.
“The BNF informed the IEC that the language of the Bill has been tailored to suit particular gadgets from Bharat Company and the Indian company would be selling the machine because the Bill had their EVM specifications,” said Hunyepa.
He added: “The IEC was requested to put this on record as the BNF will be proven right. The BDP government is faced with the reality of losing power in 2019 and is therefore facilitating electoral fraud.”
He said his party had done its own research and it was clear that the machine could be easily manipulated.
“Section 32 of the Constitution also states that voting is by ballot box and yet IEC was silent about its constitutional implications. Even in India, where the machine comes from, there have been court judgments and safeguards have been introduced. The machine is manipulated easily and even the IEC failed to state to what level the machine cannot be manipulated,” said Hunyepa.
Hunyepa said Seeletso informed BNF the parties were free to challenge the Bill. Seeletso is reported to have requested the opposition parties to give them the opportunity to consult various stakeholders.
“They want opposition parties to support them. Seeletso said the IEC was now bound to follow the new law and called on the opposition parties not to obstruct them from doing so. Mr Seeletso said that he wanted to facilitate the use of the EVM to all voters so that they are conversant with it,” said Hunyepa.
Hunyepa said Seeletso informed the BNF that if parties did not succeed in blocking the use of the EVM, the IEC should be allowed to execute its mandate of educating the voters.