Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Covid prevails over holding of bye-elections

There is no hurry by the governing party to hold council bye-elections this year despite a growing number of vacant seats.

The Independent electoral commission (IEC) acting chief public relations officer Idah Seoforeng has said the number of council bye-elections currently stands at 11.

She said the bye elections are in Goodhope-Mabule, Boteti East, Sefhare-Ramokganami, Takatokwane, Lentsweletau-Mmopane, Mmadinare, Nkange, Moshupa-Mmanyana, Mmathethe-Molapowabojang, Gabane-Mmakgodi and Mochudi East.

Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kgotla Autlwetse told The Telegraph that given the increasing rate of Covid-19 infections, holding bye-elections will worsen the situation.

He said there is no how political parties can campaign without gathering large crowds.

“I do not know what this will mean when we have reduced the number of church attendees, shut down schools and have restricted movements of persons,” said Autlwetse.

He said Botswana will not follow into the footprints of other countries which have held elections in the midst of the virus.

Autlwetse highlighted that holding the elections will be catastrophic, also saying that in some countries where they have hosted elections, they have reported a high of Covid-19 infections.

“We have made an arrangement that where a councilor dies, community leaders such as dikgosi and Members of Parliament will come in to assist the community,” added Autlwetse.

On the other hand, Law lecturer at the University of Botswana, Wankie Wankie blasted the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)led government saying that it has hidden behind State of Emergency as most people are angry at the way it has managed Covid-19.

“I have no doubt in my mind the approval rating for the BDP is at it’s lowest as result of the many blunders it has made since coming into power, especially with regard to how the government has handled/mishandled the Covid-19 situation and it’s recklessness and ill-advised legal actions against political opponents, real and imagined,” said Wankie.

He further said BDP government is well aware that if bye-elections are held now, most if not all will go to the opposition. 

“The problem as I see it stems from a combination of factors, the principal of which is a weak parliament, political patronage and pursuit of narrow personal and sectional interests. If we had a strong parliament with a vibrant back bench, the executive would not have unlimited power as there would be an effective system of checks and balances,” added Wankie.

He said as it is now there is no independent and strong parliament to play a meaningful role in restraining the executive, adding that the ddecisions are made along party lines.

“The situation is not helped by the party caucus system and prevailing, but unnecessary state of emergency,” said Wankie.

He further said as a result of the foregoing, the BDP government can easily abuse its numerical strength and make self preserving decisions that are not in the national interest. 

Wankie said It is not in the national interest to have 11 political vacancies without any indication as to when bye-elections would be held to fill those vacancies, adding that the affected communities require political representation at all levels through which to channel their socio-economic needs.

“So, the uncertainty around when this election will be held is self serving on the part of the BDP government,”

Masisi obsession with the former president has cost this nation dearly and will continue to do so. Furthermore, government seems to be poised to plunge this country back into the debt trap, the curse for most African countries. 

The writing is therefore on wall for the BDP, “conduct elections and loose for your government has been found wanting,” said Wankie.

He further advised that Parliament and the courts will be the only structures that can be used to force the government’s hand to act.

“However, chances are slim for both, parliament because of the numerical strength of the BDP members of parliament and the courts because legal just postulate application of the law as is without any regard for equity and fairness,” said Wankie.

For their part, BDP Spokesperson Kagelelo Kentse said the party is equally worried that the number of bye elections have increased so much, adding that It is going to be a lot of work even though it’s beyond anyone’s control. 

“I am not sure how BDP is afraid to hold these bye elections when its not the one that determines that. That’s the work of the IEC, we will gear from them. But it must be common sense that the priority for now is fighting covid, elections might worsen our covid situation as there will be meetings, rallies and door to door campaigning,” said Kentse.

On the other hand, Umbrella for Democratic Change spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa said The BDP is fearful of the outcome from the bye elections because they fully understand and fear the full might of the combined opposition. “The outcome of the bye elections will be a microcosm of what will happen in 2024. In short, they are delaying their decimation by the opposition,” said Mohwasa.

He further said SOE has centralized power in a supposedly democratic state, stating that with the SOE in place the IEC has become a complete spectator just like everyone else.

“We are more than ready to deliver a devastating blow on the BDP. This party is now history,” added Mohwasa.

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