Saturday, May 15, 2021

Opposition demands council by-elections

Opposition Members of Parliament have told the ruling party to enable by-elections to be held before the end of this year.

Since the 2019 general elections, four by-elections have been in the pipeline following the passing on of councillors in Goodhope-Mabule, Mmadinare, Gabane-Mmankgodi and Mochudi West constituencies.

Opposition Whip, Motsamai Motsamai said government should benchmark with countries which continue to hold elections in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He accused the Botswana Democratic Party led government of using the virus to inject fear amongst people, saying that it is a convenient delay tactic to hold the by-elections.

“We have tried in vain to argue with the Minister responsible Eric Molale but as you know they never want to solicit any advice from opposition”

“BDP is scared that people are frustrated on the ground and they want to demonstrate their emotions by voting them out, so we are not surprised by this” said Motsamai.

He further said communities have continued to suffer due to lack of representation at council level.

During the just ended parliament session, Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kgotla Autlwetse said in order to address lack of representation at council level, government has deployed specially elected councillors to fill in the vacancies.

Government had argued that they cannot allow gatherings due to the growing rate of the virus in communities.

Motsamai said it is shocking how government has replaced deceased councillors when in actual fact electorates want their own elected councillors.

“I suspect that the BDP is in serious panic mode to hold elections because they know how they have been ill-treating people, they should be out benchmarking how other African have managed to hold elections, they have South Africa for instance,” added Motsamai.

He further implored government to fasten the process, saying that councillors of respective wards have missed out on budget debates and as a result this will disadvantage communities.

Last month the National Assembly approved through voting for the extension of state of emergency (SoE) by yet another six months in an attempt to curtail the spread and transmission of the Covid-19 pandemic. This decision will impact the four wards.

The by-elections were initially scheduled to be held within three months in accordance with Section 18(1) of the Local Government Act. The IEC said the by-elections have been suspended indefinitely. 

“In view of the Covid-19 pandemic which has engulfed our country, the Emergency Powers Act (Cap 22:04) section 3 (2) (d) provides for his Excellency the President of the Republic of Botswana to suspend the operation of any law in the interest of public safety. The President has therefore enacted Emergency Powers (Covid-19) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations, 2020-statutory instrument No. 63 of 2020, published in the Extraordinary Gazette No. 35 of April 9, 2020, suspending the implementation of Section 18(1) of the Local Government Act,” read a statement from IEC.

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