A decision by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to shelve its final report on the outcome of Botswana’s 2019 General Elections is adding to the country’s anxiety and uncertainty.
The revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections (2015) provide that two days after polling day, the Head of Mission releases the Preliminary Statement at a public forum.
The principles further state that the Electoral Observation Mission’s Final Report should be presented within thirty (30) days of the conclusion of the electoral cycle.
Both SADC Electoral Observation Mission Preliminary and Final Reports draw largely from observations of deployed observers, consultations with political and electoral stakeholders, review of election-related legal instruments and media reports.
In accordance with the principles, the Head of the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) to the Botswana General Elections Lieutenant General (Retired) Sibusiso Moyo, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of the Republic of Zimbabwe on 23rd October 2019 presented the SEOM’s Preliminary Statement following the General Elections held on 23rd October 2019.
The Head of SEOM was accompanied by his alternate, Patrick Chinamasa, and the Director of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Affairs, Jorge Cardoso, representing the SADC Executive Secretary Her Excellency, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax.
In the Preliminary Statement the Head of Mission noted that the General Elections were conducted in a peaceful and free atmosphere, and the environment enabled the voters to express themselves in a transparent manner. The SEOM commended the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) for the professional manner in which they conducted the elections, and the people of Botswana for the political maturity that they demonstrated during the electoral process.
The release of the SADC Preliminary Statement was held jointly with the African Union Electoral Observation Mission (AUEOM), headed by Jallow Tambajang Fatoumata, former Vice-President of the Republic of the Gambia and Head of the African Union Electoral Observation Mission to the Republic of Botswana and Winnie Magagula, Deputy Chairperson of the Elections & Boundaries Commission of the Kingdom of Eswatini and Head of the SADC Electoral Commissions Forum Election Observation Mission to Botswana. SEOM was constituted by Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
In its statement, the SEOM which had deployed its observers to 10 Districts of the country promised to “issue its Final Report within thirty (30) days of the conclusion of the electoral cycle in accordance with the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections (2015).”
Curiously, more than 90 days later the SEOM has still not released its final report on the 2019 Botswana General elections, breaching the SADC principles.
The decision by the regional body to sit on the final report has touched off controversies with some claiming it has been shelved following petitions filed by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) before the High Court.
Some observers however argue that legally, the 2019 Botswana General Elections are not over. Even the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has also not submitted its report. In terms of Section 65(13) of the constitution the IEC must following completion of elections submit a report on what it did to the Minister responsible for elections. Until the petitions filed with the High Court are concluded, the IEC cannot produce a final report on the outcome of the elections, because legally the 2019 elections are not over.
Botswana’s Independent Electoral Commission spokesperson Osupile Maroba confirmed this week that they are yet to receive the final report from SADC Electoral Observation Mission.
On Thursday, Head of Communication and Public Relations at the SADC Secretariat Barbara Lopi confirmed receipt of a questionnaire from this publication but at the time of going to press no written response had been received.
The Sunday Standard sought to know, among others, if the final report had been submitted to the Chairperson of the Organ and the country’s (Botswana) Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and reasons why it has not been submitted.
The Sunday Standard also wanted to know if by failing to submit the final report, it had not violated its own guidelines and whether failure to submit the report has anything to do with UDC petitions.