While the Botswana Red Cross was cagey with details this week relating to its inaugural humanitarian assistance plan ahead of the forthcoming elections, The Telegraph has learnt that the current political tension that characterizes political campaigns across the political landscape has forced the organisation to draw up an emergence response plan to address the pre and post-election violence that may arise.
The Telegraph has it on good authority that Botswana Red Cross is currently training thousands of volunteers due to the post-election violence that may arise. Emergency response teams and an ambulance service to handle critical cases has been set up.
This will be the first time the society will be providing humanitarian assistance during elections in Botswana.
“Botswana Red Cross has never trained such a large number of people since its inception. What we have learnt is that we are being equipped with skills on how to deal with various situations should there be post-election violence,” said a source at Red Cross.
Botswana’s elections have never been marked by a history of disturbance but the current political tension and the events leading to the elections are seen as a fertile ground for post-election violence. There are concerns that this year’s elections are likely to be rocked by violence as the opposition is already pointing fingers at the ruling party accusing it of plans to rig elections.
The Botswana Red Cross will be accredited by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) as a service provider during elections.
The Society had several┬á┬á meetings with key stakeholders like IEC, Botswana Police and other stakeholders and the Media.
The Botswana Red Cross Society is expected to show its impartiality and neutrality in the general elections.
In an interview, the society’s Disaster Management officer Sethamiso Moritshane said they will provide humanitarian services to the most vulnerable communities during this year’s elections.
She said the society will concentrate its efforts on the provision of humanitarian assistance to election officials and the electorate, should the need arise.
Red Cross will also hold a stakeholder’s meeting to address all stakeholders on this initiative. Asked what could have necessitated the need to launch an emergence response plan, Moritshane down played suggestions that the society is on high alert because of the current political events leading up to the elections.
“We have been doing that in other countries but this time around we decided that we should also provide humanitarian assistance in our country. It is not true that there is something unusual that prompted us to do that,” she said.
Moritshane said some of the vulnerable groups that they intend to target during elections are people with disabilities and the elderly.
“We will remain impartial and neutral during the elections. It is true that some Batswana may question why this time around we are showing interest to participate in the elections. There is nothing unusual about it; whether it will be peaceful elections or not, we will provide humanitarian assistance and first aid,’ she said.