Morwaeng cites budgetary constraints
BDP MPs reject Electoral Amendment motion
While still battling for independence away from the Office of the President (OP), the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) was shocked this week when government announced a budget cut of P5.6 million.
The reduction in IEC’s recurrent budget was revealed this week in Parliament by the Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Kabo Morwaeng. Morwaeng requested for the embattled IEC a sum of P66, 219 360.00 for the 2021/22 financial year.
“This represents a decrease of about P 5,659,770.00 or 8.55% less than the 2020/21 approved budget of P 71,879,130.00,” he said to a backlash from opposition MPs for reducing the IEC budget.
The allowances and salaries budget for IEC was also reduced by P477 000 during 2021/22 year. “I request for a total of P10, 612,440.00. This is an increase of P8,712,440 from the 2020/21 budget of One Million, Nine Hundred Thousand Pula,” said Morwaeng, noting that the funds include P500 000 for settling Tutume office construction costs.
Observers point out that a significant reduction on the IEC budget could be an intimidating tactic played by government to frustrate the IEC over its growing demand for independence.
Political analyst Lesole Machacha said the independence of IEC cannot be guaranteed any time soon by government provided that there is no will for effective constitutional review. He said it was long evident that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) would not agree to the amendment of Electoral Act proposed by an opposition MP Yandani Boko. “There is no way government would leave the IEC to be independent. Currently the commission is relying on government for funding, an arrangement which the incumbent use to clip IEC wings,” said Machacha.
In an interview on Friday, IEC Acting Chief Public Relations Officer (PRO) Seoforeng said the reduction in the budget would negatively affect developments that are planned for 2021. She noted that the commission is currently embarking on a voter apathy research which is crucial for enhancing the voter education exercise which in its nature is quite very expensive. “The commission has a huge mandate but with limited resources it would be a challenge. But we are happy that the development budget has been increased as the developments are also critical for transforming the commission in areas such as digital connectivity,” said Seoforeng.
Meanwhile, Seoforeng said the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the commission in a negative way citing that the restriction in numbers of people gathering delayed stakeholder engagements. To that end, she said the future of the three (3) pending council bye elections remains in limbo, buttressing that it is negatively affecting the mandate of the commission.
BDP reject motion
The IEC call for independence hit a snag on Friday when the BDP majority in Parliament defeated the Amendment of Electoral Act motion broguth by Mahalapye East MP Yandani Boko.
Boko proposed to the house that there be an amendment of Electoral Act so to bring integrity, fairness, credibility, freeness, fairness in the elections and legitimacy of Government. “Our past general elections were highly disputed, discredited and thus making the Government illegitimate in the minds of the people which is a potential source of potential instability and to engulf the country into conflict and chaos,” said Boko pleading for the amendment of the Act.
After 2019 elections, the opposition coalition UDC petitioned the results in 16 constituencies citing irregularities during the elections process but its case was thrown out with costs by courts.
The BDP MPs moved swiftly to defeat the motion led by minister of Presidential Affairs Kabo Morwaeng who insisted that IEC is independent therefore no need to amend an Electoral Act. Morwaeng buttressed that the constitution review will include the review of the Electoral Act therefore with his fellow BDP MPs arguing that there is no urgency to review the Act currently.
BDP used its numerical strength to defeat motion with 39 MPs voting against and 14 supporting it. Political analyst Lesole Machacha said government should undertake referendum to show its determination to review the constitution including Electoral Act but he doubts it is committed.