Monday, January 24, 2022

Delimitation Commission blamed “unfairly”

Reference is made to the article carried in the Botswana Gazette dated 9th October, 2013 captioned “How Delimitation compromised democracy”. I have always believed and I still believe that constructive and informed criticism adds spice to democracy. I consider the matter at issue to be of great national importance because it borders on franchise. A public statement that implies there was a calculated act to disenfranchise potential voters cannot be left unchallenged and corrected. I was a Commissioner in the 2012 Delimitation Commission. Although I am no longer a Commissioner because that Commission stood dissolved after presenting its report to the President on 11th February, 2013, I feel I should shed some light on this matter as I have the advantage of inside knowledge. I am also familiar with the delimitation exercise as prior to my membership of the 2012 Delimitation Commission I was Secretary to the Delimitation Commissions of 1982 and 2002. The caption, and as read with some portions of the body of the article, could give the reader the impression that the Commission was derelict in its duty. It also implies that the Commission did not consider the consequences of not producing its report in good time for the 2014 General Elections’ preparations.

This can be very misleading. Right from the very beginning, the matter of urgency of the exercise was emphasized by the Chef Justice to the Commission. The 2012 Commission drew its work programme with that in mind. It in fact completed its work with reasonable speed considering that it undertook a countrywide tour during which it addressed 59 kgotla and town hall meetings in 57 constituencies but managed to conclude its report in six months. No Commission since the 1964 Commission finished its report in less than six months. Some took even more. One cannot dispute that the period between now and the 2014 General Elections may not be sufficient for necessary preparations consequential upon the delimitation exercise but the time taken by the delimitation exercise is not the sole cause for this nor can the blame be attributed to the Commission. Sight must not be lost of the fact that the Delimitation Commission depends on the latest population census report in order to delimit constituencies. There has been a delay in appointing the 2012 Commission in good time because the latest population census report was only produced on 3rd June 2012 with very limited copies for circulation and the Commission was subsequently appointed on 19th June, 2012 when more copies were available for Commissioners. Although it would have been ideal to appoint the 2012 Commission either towards end of 2011 or the latest in early 2012, it would not have made sense to do so when the census report was unavailable by then. A census report is needed principally for the purpose of calculating the population quota needed to delimit a constituency. After its appointment the Commission delayed a little to commence the process of gathering submissions in order to allow time for copies of the printed report to be distributed to districts. Doing that by the Commission was essential because members of the public needed to study the population census report to appreciate demographic changes in their respective areas and the extent to which the population has either grown or decreased in some of their areas. Armed with such information, they would be able to make proposals from an informed position. Travel by the Commission which consumed much time could not be avoided. It was necessitated by the need to consult people on issues such as, natural community of interest, means of communication, geographical features etc. To sum up, the Commission has done its best to complete its task with reasonable speed considering the workload and travel involved. If only those who are critical about the Commission had cared to inform themselves on what the whole process involves, this unfair blaming of the Commission could not have come about.

The problem currently faced can only be resolved, if focus is not only placed on delimitation but when the matter is addressed in totality including the timing and expedition of the population census. Pointing a finger at the Delimitation Commission and saying it has ‘negatively affected the parties political calendar’, will not help anything as the time frame does not begin with delimitation but with population census. I will be grateful if you can publish this in your newspaper as I feel it is a matter that the public ought to be properly informed about and the misinformation by the article cleared. I am writing this in my personal capacity and the views expressed are mine but I have no doubt my former colleagues would share the same.

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