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Withdrawal of EVMs is a wise decision

Publishing Date : 03 September, 2018

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President Mokgweetsi Masisi has finally reversed the decision to introduce the use of Electronic Voting Machine in (EVM) in the coming 2019 General Elections. It is without a shadow of doubt that it was the most sensible thing to do in the interest of our democracy. We have always insisted that it was necessary for government to announce an official position on the use of EVM well in time.

Many including civil society organisations especially the labour movements, opposition political parties and many Batswana at kgotla meetings have categorically stated that they do not wish to see the introduction of the EVM at the next polls. Not only did they not know how to use the EVM but also they remained suspicious. The basis of our democracy requires those in charge of government machinery to be sensitive to the sentiments of the general populace.

Manual Workers Union and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) had even taken the Botswana government to court to protest the EVM’s and request court to reverse such decision which culminated into law though not operational. It has always been our conviction that the decision by government to introduce EVM was irrational, not ill-thought and counterproductive in that it was going to have negative impact in our electoral process.

Supplementary voting was to be cancelled, this despite previous experience telling us that Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) have struggled to reach their targets during registrations. It was only through two more supplementary voting that the number reached or almost reached the target. Had we continued with supplementary registration, a large section of our citizen would have been disenfranchised, which we all agree is bad for democracy.  

The manner in which the law was introduced was also not acceptable. It has all hallmarks of disregard to our fundamental believes of consultation and democracy. It was purely a gambit by a few, doing it at the expense of the citizens. For starters the law was rushed and passed midnight at parliament which sparked suspicions as to the motive of government in that it was so determined to pass the law without proper consultation with the people.

The law was part of the many laws that were still passed at parliament despite the strong resistance that was publicly pronounced under the former President Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama administration. The main contention was that the integrity of our elections was at stake given the controversies that surrounded the same machines in other jurisdictions such as India and other countries which are utilising the machines.

It was also still not clear why the government was so determined on the law even if the country’s population does not necessarily warrant that with the voting population estimated just below 1 million countrywide. Experience from other jurisdictions that held elections recently teaches us that there are better ways to deliver election results quicker, even without using EVM. Countries like the United Kingdom, Kenya and Zimbabwe still use ballot papers, yet the deliver election result quicker than us even with greater populations.

 IEC should take a leaf from their methods, one of them, is doing the counting at polling stations and sending results to the central station for tallying. It has proved to be efficient and effective.  Instead of pursuing the EVMs, it should have been necessary for government to consider discarding their current arrangement were the counting takes place at a central point. This has been the major cause of delays in releasing election results.

Apart from the negative associated with the election integrity had we used the EVM, the machines were going to be costly for the government. It was understood that the cost of all the 2000 machines that were expected to be used nationwide is P100 million.
Botswana needed a total of 2000 machines to cover all constituencies as each machine can accept about 500 votes. Credit should go to those who vigorously campaigned against the introduction of the EVM. It surely put pressure on government to reconsider its stand on the EVM.

Masisi should also be given credit for being decisive in providing leadership. All doubts have been cleared and people will now go to next year’s general election with so much confidence that their votes will be counted. We are also confident that, after arriving at this decision, IEC will have better preparations for 2019 elections with any doubt. Registration starts on Monday, and we can only encourage people to go register to vote.



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