President Khama’s administration should wake up to calls over electoral reforms if it wants to be regarded with some sense of seriousness.
Moving a motion in the just ended Ntlo ya Dikgosi session, Kgosi Maruje Thabo Masunga of North East Region indicated that it was opportune time that the government introduced automatic and computerized voters roll, saying it was good for the country’s democratic ideals and participatory democracy.
“The Independent Electoral Commission has many challenges and, therefore, needs to be assisted in every possible way to attract eligible and potential voters who have been accused of dragging their feet to register,” noted Masunga, adding that the use of excessive money to manually register the voters, coupled with cumbersome travels of the officials across the country to provide services, were digging deep into the country’s fiscus.
Worse still, the subsequent supplementary registration would not help the situation, with Masunga believing automatic and computerized voters’ roll would not have come at the right time to avoid unnecessary spending in these economic hard times.
With government departments in possession of personal information of the majority of Batswana, Masunga is adamant the process would not create any problems, citing the Omang, immigration and transport offices to mention a few, which could liaise with the IEC to see the envisaged process taking root without hiccups.
“O mang offices have every data of eligible Batswana who qualify for the national identities and it would not be a problem for the department to network with IEC for those legitimate to automatically register for the general election,” Masunga said, adding that the automatic and computerized voters roll would encourage people to register and subsequently avoid voter apathy, particularly that the current government has not declared the general election a public holiday.
“During the last national elections, most Batswana did not participate, especially the school going pupils because during that time, they were busy with their examinations. Those paid by the time and hours they spend at work would not dare leave their workplace lest they lose the pay of the day,” he said, adding that the government’s reluctance towards electoral reforms was bordering on hindering democracy and the participatory right to vote.
He called on the government to improve electoral instruments to enhance democracy and the will and power of Batswana to vote.
With the political playing field and media coverage littered with reports of imbalance and the IEC independence questionable, Masunga insists automatic and computerized voters roll could assist with the country’s democratic image to the outside world, which he said is quickly slipping away.
Masunga said that not only would the programme elude unnecessary controversies, it would also assist in avoiding unending debates surrounding voter trafficking, which has become the norm before and after general elections.
Although he does not want the government to hastily implement the motion before the coming national elections in 2014, Masunga says he would be discouraged and humiliated should the government not introduce the same come 2019 national elections.
Standing in for the Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Patrick Masimolole, however, quashed the motion, saying the process was already in motion.
“Technology to automate this process was introduced prior to the 1994 general elections and continues to be reviewed in line with IEC’s capacity given the number of polling stations without access to the existing IT infrastructure and other financial implications that will come with equipping them with appropriate technology,” Masimolole said, to the embarrassment of Kgosi Masunga who could not believe his ears.
“If they do not implement the system come 2019 general elections, then it would mean something is wrong with our government structures,” Masunga responded to the acknowledgement of his peers in Ntlo ya Dikgosi who rallied behind his motion.