By Mpho Tebele
Gaborone - Amid heightened political tension in the run-up to Botswana’s general election slated for October this year, Chief Justice Terrence Rannowane has appealed to the nation to demonstrate its long-standing tradition of good governance and the rule of law by conducting free, fair, peaceful and credible elections.
In a move seen as easing political tension, Rannowane used his address at the official opening of the legal year to urge the nation to promote peace and unity and exercise restraint ahead of general elections.
He said 2019 is a watershed year, for the country shall be holding general and presidential elections.
According to Rannowane, “This is a momentous occasion for our Republic to light our lamp and demonstrate to the region and the world our long-standing tradition, as a beacon of a mature democracy, good governance and rule of law by conducting free, fair, peaceful and credible elections.”
In terms of Sections 32 and 38 of the Constitution of Botswana and Section 2 of the Presidential Elections Act, Cap 02:01, the Chief Justice is the Returning Officer for purposes of elections to the Office of President.
He said the hallmark of “our democratic hygiene, which I implore citizens and political leaders to observe, are tolerance, harmony, consultation and mutual respect as no life or limp must be lost on account of elections.”
The Chief Justice said “being an election year, all political parties and their faithful supporters to strive to resolve any contestations relating to candidacy for political office within the existing mechanisms from the structures established within their parties’ constitutional framework instead of seeking “urgent” help from the Courts in regard to an issue which is capable of being resolved without going to Court, mindful of the fact that “political issues require political solutions”.
He added that “That notwithstanding, I wish to assure the nation that as the Courts exist to adjudicate disputes and engender a stabilising, tension-dissolving and unifying role, they will be ready to efficiently and expeditiously resolve any petitions arising there from so that our nation moves forward to a peaceful, just and prosperous destination which is a sine qua non for investment and employment creation.”
Rannowane’s plea comes at a time when local media reported recently President Mokgweetsi security is on high alert following death threats on his life and that of Director of Intelligence and Services, Peter Magosi. This past weekend, Masisi informed ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) special conference that he was not afraid to die. He begged for reconciliation amid the warring factions ahead of the national congress and general elections later this year.
Reports indicated that tension among warring factions of the BDP had escalated following former minister and presidential aspirant Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi’s announcement that she intends to challenge Masisi for the presidential position of the BDP. Venson-Moitoi’s decision to throw her name into the hat for the presidential race had angered some party members who suspect her of being her proxy of former president Ian Khama. In recent times, President Masisi and Khama have had a frosty relationship on governance issues. The local media also reported that unidentified gunmen were arrested this week at the BDP special retreat that was held in Palapye town in the central part of the country.
According to media reports, Masisi also noted at the same BDP retreat that Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni had warned that there was a need for the country to continue peacefully, as it had in previous years.
He reportedly shared President Museveni’s message with those at the meeting: “You are the salvation of Africa.
If you don’t hold hands together, every criticism of our instability as a continent cannot be defended because Botswana would have sunk. You are the last hope,” President Museveni told his Botswana counterpart.
BDP secretary general Mpho Balopi told reporters after the party retreat that efforts to reconcile Masisi and Khama were bearing fruit as the two men were willing to iron out their differences.
Another issue that heightened political tension this week was a decision by the Botswana Unified Revenue to seize leader of opposition Duma Boko’s Range Rover on the day Finance Minister Kenneth Matambo delivered his budget speech in Parliament over reports that Boko evaded tax. Boko accused his ruling counterparts of using state institutions to target their opponents in the opposition. The incident has been condemned by opposition members as a political witch hunt aimed at discrediting Boko.