Bots in U-turn … changes mind on SADC poll observer mission

Gaborone – Botswana has reversed its decision not to participate in future election observer missions, which forms part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The Botswana Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said in a statement that Gaborone would now take part in regional observer missions following findings of a Stakeholders Review Conference on the 2013 Zimbabwe Referendum and Harmonised Elections.

“Although not fully satisfied, the Government of Botswana feels that it has made its point on the principle reflecting the importance of adhering to SADC guidelines for the conduct of elections and will, therefore, be prepared to participate in future SADC Electoral Observer Missions,” the statement said.

The ministry said it noted “with appreciation that the issues raised by Botswana were submitted for consideration at the Stakeholders Review Conference in Harare recently”.  It said the findings of the review conference were in line with Botswana’s position that there were some irregularities during the preparation and conduct of the Zimbabwean elections and those measures should be put in place to avoid a repeat of the same in all future elections.

Prior to Botswana backtracking on its decision not to send election observer mission to SADC, South African High Commissioner Mduduzi Lembede said the decision by Botswana not to be part of the observer mission in the upcoming general elections would not affect their bilateral relations.

He said Botswana had reneged on an earlier promise to contribute 70 percent of the cost of sending a SADC observer mission team while the South Africa’s Independent Electoral Commission was to contribute the other 30 percent.

Lembede said Botswana failed to honour that and proposed that their counterparts contribute 70 percent and that was when the negotiations between the two parties reached a deadlock.

University of Botswana (UB) political analyst, Professor Zibani Maundeni, said Botswana’s move encourages disunity within the region; something which he said was in contrast to Southern African Development Community (SADC)’s objective of unifying member states.

“We are unnecessarily isolating ourselves. We are a dependent country. For instance, we depend on South Africa and Namibia and isolating ourselves from neighbouring countries could put us in a difficult position,” he said.

Referring to Botswana government’s announcement that it would accept foreign election observer missions to take part in the upcoming general elections, Maundeni said, other countries could also fight back and stop their observer missions from participating in the general elections.

“If things go wrong during elections in our country without foreign observers, who is going to mediate because their presence provides legitimacy to elections. I don’t the move taken by Botswana is beneficial because we are required to work together for the benefit of the region,” said Maundeni.

“They may have a good reason for that but I don’t think isolating ourselves from the region is a good thing.”

University of Zimbabwe lecturer, Dr Charity Manyeruke, is quoted as saying that Botswana had realised it could not alienate itself from SADC.

“Botswana shares a history with the rest of SADC; it cannot jump ship because the ship will continue to move,” she said. “SADC countries will continue to support each other in their fight for economic liberation.

“Botswana is serving the interests of its colonial masters that is why they made that position, now they realise that the rest of SADC shares common values.”

May 2014
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