SADC puts pressure on Bots
Gaborone – SADC officially launched its elections observer team in the capital on October 10, ahead of the elections scheduled this week and said it expects Botswana to live up to expectation. SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, said her organisation expects Botswana to live up to its history and hold free, fair and credible elections.
“The history of democracy in Botswana is long standing, especially that the first elections in this country were held about half a century ago,” said Tax. She said the country should continue to demonstrate political maturity and responsibility by respecting democratic principles and practices. Tax said the launch of the observer mission is of great significance as it demonstrates the region’s commitment to the enhancement of democracy, governance, peace and stability. The SADC Election Observer Mission (SEOM) will ensure that the provisions of the SADC principles and guidelines governing democracy are adhered to in the conduct of democratic elections. According to her, the responsibility to have peaceful, free, fair and credible elections lies in the hands of the people of Botswana.
SADC says the observers will be deployed throughout the Republic of Botswana soon after the launch.
Botswana is headed for a hotly contested election on October 24 that will pit the ruling Botswana Democratic Party against opposition coalition Umbrella for Democratic Change, and Botswana Congress Party. Presidential candidates include the incumbent President Ian Khama, Duma Boko and Dumelang Saleshando. South African Minister of International Relations, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane is heading the SEOM, President Jacob Zuma, who is the chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation. The organ is mandated with observing elections in the region.
Nkoana-Mashabane joined the 70 other observers from the Southern African bloc who arrived this week. The team is made of representatives from Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
She said the 11th elections that the country will be conducting are true testimony that in the Southern-African region and Africa Botswana believes in good governance.
“This country has sacrificed a lot to promote democracy for most countries in the region,” she said adding that she hoped the coming elections will build on to the country’s impressive strides. Nkoana-Mashabane said Botswana was the oldest democracy in the region hence the holding of the coming elections was a testimony of the impressive strides Botswana made towards achieving democracy.
“The coming of these elections proves that the people of Botswana are in line with the principles of SADC of upholding the rule of law and democracy. The elections observers are expected to observe full citizen participation, freedom of association, political tolerance, equal opportunity for all to access communication, independence of the judiciary, voter education, acceptance of results as declared free and fair, credible and peaceful,” she said. Mauritius, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Madagascar have not yet sent their observers.
“It is not unusual for member states to arrive at the 11th hour,” said SADC head of communications Leesa Martin, who cited as an example last year’s election in Zimbabwe when a mission from DRC arrived on the eve of elections.
Prior to the launch, about 70 SADC elections observers have attended a two-day training programme on how to observe the pending elections in Botswana, which was by the Elections Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA).
Meanwhile, local media reported that the European Union will not be sending an electoral observation mission to Botswana for the general elections due October 24.
However, as it is done in other countries, EU may decide to send their diplomatic personnel to monitor, not observe the election. The government of Botswana and the Independent Electoral Commission have indicated that this possibility is open, according to Mmegi newspaper report.
Botswana is one of five SADC member states to hold elections this year, which started with the general elections in South Africa and Malawi in May. General elections are also due in Namibia on November 28, 2014.