- Turns away voters on suspicion of plot numbers
- Wants voters to prove that they reside at given plot numbers
- IEC says the Act gives them to authority to reject the applicant if they are unsatisfied on residence
FRANCISTOWN: Allegations of intimidation and harassment by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Officers have emerged during the ongoing voter registration process. Voters are accusing the IEC of refusing to register them on grounds that they fail to prove that they reside at the residential plot they use for registration.
Voters who were turned away by the IEC claim that Officers declined to register them because they refused to “showcase” the residential plots and prove that indeed they are staying at the address they provided in the registration form. According to sources within the IEC, registration officers are targeting voters who are brought to polling stations for registration by candidates for 2019 general elections. It is claimed that the IEC is trying to counter voter trafficking spearheaded by candidates. “The IEC is on a mission to crack the whip on the candidates who traffic voters. They believe that the candidates are the ones who encourage voter trafficking, a practice which is unfair and affects the credibility of the general elections,” a source within the IEC reveals.
A 2019 general elections candidate who spoke to The Botswana Gazette on grounds of anonymity alleged that the IEC was using the requirement to establish a place of residence to intimidate and harass voters, “As one of the candidates who has been transporting voters to different polling stations I can confirm that IEC is intimidating the voters that we transport just because they suspect that we might be trafficking them. To be precise the Registration Officer’s Supervisors are the one doing this. If the candidates bring the voters to polling stations they will start interrogating them accusing them of being trafficked. They will interrogate the voters to an extent of requesting them to get in the IEC cars to go and prove that indeed they are staying in the plot number they provided on the registration form. If the voters reject the IEC request they will be turned away on the grounds that they have been trafficked by the candidates,” he revealed.
The candidate said although he admits that voter trafficking exists it is against the IEC Act to turn the voters away on suspicion of being trafficked.
The candidate is surprised that while the IEC has urged the politicians to assist them in encouraging the voters to register in large numbers they proceed to accuse the same politicians of voter trafficking. “IEC should be thankful that we are bringing more voter to register but instead we are accused of trafficking voters. This is one factor that is going to increase voter apathy,” maintained the concerned 2019 general elections candidate.
Since the IEC started imposing the restrictions on voter registration the candidate disclosed that most politicians no longer drop the voters at the polling station and instead park their cars a few meters away in order to avoid the attention. “Nowadays we park our cars far from the polling stations and wait for the voters to register because we do not want to be accused of trafficking.”
Reached for comment IEC Principal Elections Officer Nyanga Nyanga dismissed the allegations of intimidation stating that the IEC Act Section 11 clearly empowers the Registration Officer to enquire from voter information on their place of residence if they are not satisfied. “When the Registration Officer is suspicious or not satisfied about the applicant they are allowed to enquire more. Therefore, it has to be noted that we are not acting on suspicion the candidates might be trafficking voters,” Nyanga explained in an interview with The Botswana Gazette.
Nyanga pointed out that Registration Officers have authority to reject the applicant voter. “If the applicant is not complying with the Registration Officer they can be rejected and given seven days to appeal.”
Nyanga could not confirm nor deny if they have rejected some applicant insisting that the Principal Registration Officers are better placed to know as they are the one who have all the registration information.
The process of rejecting voters is however raising concerns on all sides of the political divide as criticism mounts that voters in constituencies held by favoured parties and political personalities come under greater scrutiny. When referred to the failure of IEC Officers to seek further details of candidates brought in from Maun for the Gaborone North Constituency the IEC source reveals that the preferential treatment of candidates is a concern to the organisation as it leaves it to the discretion of individuals who have their own political affiliation, while parliament has not provided a method to confirm the manner of establishing proof of residence, “the concern is that many voters will be disenfranchised and public trust in the electoral process will be lost.”