Umbrella for Democratic Change leader Duma Boko is adamant that he will deploy his poll watchers at the next general elections in October 2024. The intension is to guard against rigging and the deployment will be nationwide, he says. Anybody who wants to see free and fair elections should be happy to see that deployment, he adds. From the recent Serowe West parliamentary by elections, electoral authorities do not as yet know how to react to Boko’s poll watchers; “madibelatlhopho” as he calls them in Setswana, roughly translated into the defenders of the vote. Are they a friend or a foe? That is the question.
After the Serowe West by election, the Independent Electoral Commission was quoted effectively welcoming the role of the UDC invention. Everybody read that as effectively saying the IEC had nothing against poll watchers because the IEC had nothing to hide. But not long thereafter, and obviously following a lot of internal soul searching and behind the scenes official bickering laced with possible tongue lashing, the IEC walked back on that position. They then just fell short of comparing the poll watchers to a private militia. Even the more meassured public commentators called the UDC poll watchers vigilantism. I have sympathy with those who say madibelatlhopho will in the end eat into the moral authority of the IEC. Hitherto, the IEC genius has been to feign neutrality in its conduct.
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