- Exonerate themselves on violation of Prisoners’ right to vote
- IEC documents blame Prisons on Prisoners’ dispute
- Prisons, IEC in blame game to open prisons gates for 2019 elections
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has turned the tables on the Prisons Department over the dispute of prisoners voting rights, and have sought to exonerate themselves and heaping the blame on the Department of Prisons for locking their gates on them in an election year.
In a letter to the ex-convict’s association-Botswana Institute of Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Offenders (BIRRO), dated 19th March 2019, the IEC says they will be more than willing accept prisoners registration or vote in the upcoming elections.
“Any prisoner who wishes to register or vote and they meet the required qualifications, will be most welcome. The critical thing to note is that, how the prisoners will be released to go to the polling station is outside the jurisdiction of the IEC but that of the Prisons Rehabilitation department.,” reads part of the IEC letter to BIRRO in an attempt to the distance themselves from the violation.
The position also counters the statement made by the Prisons Commissioner, Silas Motlalekgosi who recently attributed the failure to allow prisoners to register and vote on the IEC saying he is aware that there are some prisoners who are eligible to vote but that matters of elections fall under the purview of IEC.
He added that the Prisons committee is ready to facilitate prisoners voting and is awaiting the IEC’s recommendations or action plan. “We are a law abiding institution and we cannot participate in any mission aimed at breaking the law,” the commissioner told this publication. The law allows prisoners serving sentences of six months and below to vote.
Seeking to distance themselves from the controversy, IEC claimed in response that: “The role of IEC is to establish polling stations in accordance with section 5 of the electoral Act. The identification of polling stations is guided by the population distribution and patterns of human settlement. Any area with human settlement qualifies to be considered for establishment of polling station. Institutions like prisons are part of the localities which influence location of polling stations and all prison establishments are within communities which have been catered for and thus polling stations are accessible to everyone who qualify to register and vote within these localities.”
This publication is in possession of a BIRRO correspondence addressed to Prisons and IEC in which BIRRO is urging the two clarify their position and stop pointing the finger at each other. In a letter to the Prisons department, BIRRO demands to know what the department is doing to prepare for the 2019 general elections and how they will aid eligible Prisoners to vote.
BIRRO director, Mothei Sejakgomo confirmed the letters in a brief interview but said they were not at liberty to discuss the matter with third parties as the concerns over lack of prisoner voting rights was still under discussion with stakeholders.
“A time shall come when we will open up to the media about the matter, for now let us respect that the matter is before the elders for consideration. But yes, it is true that we are discussing the matter.,” he said.