Botswana elections are also free, peaceful but grossly unfair
Listening to GeneralMompati Merafhe andPhandu Skelemanidismissing the Zimbabweanelection as free, peaceful butunfair, you could see hypocrisywritten all over their faces.“Look at who is talking!” onecould not help but retort. Allindications are that RobertMugabe and ZANU-PF manipulatedthe election processin their favor. The ElectoralCommission was a fraud, thevoter registration process wasfl awed, the campaign was lopsidedand ZANU-PF abuse ofstate resources was as blatantas it was fl agrant.In the Zimbabwe election,fairness was never intendedand it was never going to berefl ected in the outcome. Likewisein Botswana, the electionshave been free, peaceful but allten of them without exception,have never passed the fairnesstest. Fairness is about a levelplaying fi eld where all playershave equal opportunities andaccess to resources that helpwin the elections.
ZANU-PFlike BDP knows fully well thattheir unfettered access andabuse of state radio and televisionis an unfair but sure wayof securing victory at the election.ZANU-PF and BDP haveboth unfairly used state mediaas propaganda organs for theirparties.The two parties which areessentially ‘Siamese twins’have also perfected the skillof using state resources andinstitutions to boost theircampaigns. During the elections,they concoct all mannerof unsustainable vote-buyingprograms and schemes topacify voters at heavy cost tothe economy and the nationaltreasury. As all would know,in Botswana during elections,it is not uncommon for peopleto be given goats, donkeys,shirts, blankets, radios andlately soup dished by PresidentKhama himself. In Zimbabwe,it is mainly the increased supplyof mealie-meal to the ruralfolks.
Yes, if there is a circus inZimbabwe, there is also a circushere in Botswana.Unfairness is central to thesuccess of ZANU-PF andBDP. Where does the BDPGovernment get the moral authorityto condemn ZANU-PFof unfair electoral practiceswhen its electoral victoriesare a product of unfairness? IfZANU-PF’s victory is illegitimateon account of electoralunfairness, then the BDP victoriesare also illegitimate forthe same reason. If accordingto Skelemani and Merafhe, theZim poll should be audited;their party’s electoral victoriesalso require the same audit.Simply put, the BDP Governmenthas no right or qualifi cationto teach Zimbabwe aboutfairness in an election, whenthey have failed for fi fty yearsto deliver an equitable and fairelectoral system in Botswana.Instead of shouting fromroof-tops, poking noses onZimbabwe, laughing at thecircus and pretending to be holierthan thou, the BDP Governmentshould concentrateon transforming the electoralsystem at home. The electoralcommission should be removedfrom the stranglehold ofthe Offi ce of the President. Theappointment of commissionersmust be open and transparent.
The appointment of the Secretaryof the Commission shouldbe above board. The ElectoralCommission should be giventhe resources to educate peopleand run elections. Offi cers ofthe IEC should be accountableto the Commission and not theDirectorate of Public ServiceManagement. The IEC shouldbe thoroughly independent andfree from manipulation andcontrol by governments and itsagents. Fairness in an electionstarts with a fair and Independentelectoral commission.Instead of throwing mud atthe Zimbabwe elections, theBDP Government must setout on a path of campaign fi -nance reform. The resourceimbalance between the BDPand other parties creates anenvironment of unfairness inthe electoral landscape of Botswana.Big business bankrollsthe BDP at every election inexchange for lucrative favorswhile the opposition is fi nanciallyfatigued. State fundingof political parties and regulationof donor fi nancing isimperative for fairness in theelectoral process.
BashingZANU-PF without reformingour backyard does not makeour elections any better thanthose of Zimbabwe. The samecharge sheet crafted by Skelemaniand Merafhe can be usedagainst the BDP Government.Mugabe and ZANU-PFabuse state broadcasters andso do General Khama and theBDP. News headlines on BTVfeature General Khama as amatter of routine and Mugabeindulges in the same practicewith similar intensity. If Skelemaniand Merafe, representingthe Government think it isunfair to use state broadcastersfor spewing ruling party propaganda,they should adviseGeneral Khama and Masisiagainst such a practice. For ourelections to be fair, all politicalplayers must be given suffi -cient airtime to articulate theirvision.
State broadcastersmust be transformed into publicbroadcasters with an independentboard that has editorialindependence. Televisionand radio programming thatis left to the whims of rulingparty politicians is bound to beunfair and biased. This mustchange.As the 2014 General electionsapproach, the unfairnessof Botswana’s electoral systemwill unfold. Mugabe willbe watching and as one who isnever short of some fancy vocabulary,he will pass his verdicton Khama and the BDP.It is a messy scenario whereunfair regimes trade insults onwho is more unfair than theother. Unfairness in the electionscreates apathy, resentmentand cynicism. Unfairnessin elections may also lead toloss of faith in politics and democracy.It alienates people from thevoting process and createssome form of anti-democraticfundamentalism. We shouldnot allow ourselves to get tothat stage. We owe it to posterityto entrench fairness in ourelectoral process.Taolo LucasBCP Information and PublicitySecretary