Government has given the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) approval to hold 11 pending bye-elections.
The Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kgotla Autlwetse said they have given the IEC the responsibility to put together a plan on how they will conduct safe bye elections.
“We have been in discussions with the IEC and our position was that even though we have exited State of Public emergency, there should be observance of Covid-19 protocols. We continue to highlight that even when people have been vaccinated there is need to ensure that there is adherence but I can tell you that we have given the IEC the mandate to ensure safe elections,” said Autlwetse.
He also indicated that it is after a plan has been put together that government will then issue a writ.
“I cannot speculate as to whether the bye elections will be held this year because there are logistical issues involved and people should also understand that times have also changed and we need to ensure that before allowing gatherings we should put in place precautionary measures,” added Autlwetse.
He stated that the IEC will have to satisfy government first, adding that there are preliminaries such as registrations that need to be taken care of.
Autlwetse had stated government could not allow the IEC to hold bye elections since last year due to high numbers of Covid-19 infections.
He said there was no how political parties could campaign without gathering large crowds.
“I do not know what this would have meant when we had reduced the number of church attendees, shut down schools and restricted movements of persons,” said Autlwetse.
He said Botswana could not follow into the footprints of other countries which have held elections in the midst of the virus.
Autlwetse highlighted that holding the elections during a high peak of infections could have been catastrophic, also saying that in some countries where they have hosted elections, they reported a high numbers of Covid-19 infections and deaths.
“We currently have 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.
According to the IEC Acting Chief Public Relations Officer Idah Seoforeng 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.
For their part, BDP Spokesperson Kagelelo Kentse said the party is equally worried that the number of bye elections has increased so much, adding that it is going to be a lot of work even though it’s beyond anyone’s control.
“We remain ready to contest and retain our council seats because as you may know most of the councilors if not all were from the BDP, so as soon as government issues a writ we will then ramp up the preparations,” said Kentse.
On the other hand, Umbrella for Democratic Change Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa said the BDP led government remains fearful of holding the bye elections due to a 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.