All eyes on SADC as four nations head to dicey polls

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Mpho Tebele

Gaborone – Several countries in southern Africa are gearing up for national elections later this year and The Southern Times looks ahead at what is at stake.

Former liberation movements in Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique that have been in political command since their respective countries attained independence will this year seek to retain power at the ballots.

Observers are of the view that “despite political dissatisfaction, these political parties have always been able to tap into the emotional connection of history and the weakness of opposition parties.”

Botswana will hold elections in October in what promises to be the toughest test for the country’s fifth President Mokgweetsi Masisi. But it is not going to be easy sailing for Masisi as he first has to contest and win the ruling party presidency

For the first time in the history of Botswana Democratic Party, a challenger has emerged to contest the presidency against the incumbent.

Former Foreign Affairs Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi is challenging President Masisi for the party’s presidency at the upcoming congress slated for July this year.

Venson-Moitoi who was dropped from Cabinet late last year by President Masisi has already assembled a team with strong backing from former President Ian Khama.

Khama stepped down in March 2018, more than a year before his second-term to make way for Masisi. But the two men have been at each other’s throat after the latter allegedly (as per former President Festus Mogae revelation) refused to appoint Khama’s younger brother - Tshekedi Khama as vice president.

On the other hand, the opposition coalition, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) led by attorney Duma Boko is facing a number of challenges.

The party is facing a lawsuit from its former member, Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), which was expelled from the bloc for refusing to share allocated constituencies with other political parties that are members of the UDC.

There are chances that Boko’s chances of unseating Masisi are slim because the lawsuit by BMD could block opposition from contesting the elections as a coalition.

One of the most significant elections will also take place in South Africa, the regional economic powerhouse. The country will hold general elections in May 2019, the sixth democratic elections to be held since the end of apartheid in 1994.

The parliamentary and provincial legislature elections will be pitting the ruling Africa National Congress under President Cyril Ramaphosa against the official opposition party – the Democratic Alliance under youthful Mmusi Maimane and Julia Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

Observers are of the view that South Africa’s May 2019 general elections are set to test’s the ANC, which is struggling to create jobs for unemployment South Africans.

Another issue that President Ramaphosa will be tested against is reformist policies especially those related to land expropriation without compensation. The party is treading carefully on this as there are fears that such a move could undermine future investments.

On the other hand, EFF is pushing for the expropriation of land without compensation as a legitimate option. 

Malema was recently quoted as saying that  “the red berets will not negotiate on its first cardinal pillar, which campaigns for the nationalisation of all land, placing it in curatorship of the state.”

The campaign for the expropriation of land without compensation is said to have played a role in ANC’s taking just 55.7% of the vote during the 2016 municipal elections.

Reports indicate that last year, Namibia decided to institute a land reform programme similar to that of its neighbor, South Africa.

Observers are of the view that land reform is also going to be one of the contentious issues that will decide how the electorate votes. 

But it is understood that with no meaningful opposition in sight, President Hage Geingob, through his ruling SWAPO, is most likely to become Head of State for the next five years after his first term ends in 2019.

Another Southern African Development Community (SADC) member state, Mozambique is set for closely contested general elections in October this year. Observers are of the view that the upcoming elections could be used as a yardstick to test peace progress and talks in a country that is prone to conflict. 

According to media reports, since 2016, the government has been in talks with Renamo, although the group's leader Afonso Dhlakama - who played a key role in opening negotiations with President Filipe Nyusi - died last May. 

There are even fears that Renamo could return to the conflict should Nyusi’s’ government fail to accommodate its reforms relating to decentralisation. Renamo also wants its forces to be integrated into the powerful security services as part of the peace deal.

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