Gaborone - The Southern African Development Community (SADC) will implement its revised 2015 SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections when overseeing what observes believe is Botswana’s tightly contested elections scheduled for 23 October 2019.
This was revealed by the head of mission and Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister, Sibusiso Moyo, when he launched the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) in the Botswana capital Gaborone on 14 October.
He said the principles and guidelines provided objective and scientific methodology for the observation of elections in order to contribute to the consolidation of democracy in the region by enhancing best electoral practices and addressing electoral shortcomings. Moyo said the SADC electoral observer mission will assess the conduct of the elections against a set of central principles stipulated in the revised SAC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
These, he said, include among others full participation of the citizens in the political process, freedom of association, assembly and expression, measures to prevent corruption, bribery, political violence, intimidation and tolerance. Other principles stipulated in the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections include equal opportunity for all political parties to access state media, respect for values of electoral justice, no undue restraint against the opportunity to exercise the right to vote and be voted for as well as the independence of the judiciary and impartiality of the electoral institutions.
Moyo also added that principles include acceptance of and respect for election results by political parties as proclaimed to have been free, fair transparent, credible and peaceful by the competent electoral commission in accordance with the law of the land, civic and voter education and provisional of electoral justice through expedient settlement of electoral disputes as provided for in the law.
The SEOM to the Botswana 2019 general elections consists of 55 personnel from 11 SADC member states namely Angola, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritius, Namibia, Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Moyo said an assessment of Botswana’s Independent Electoral Commission had put all the necessary measures in place and was ready to hold the elections.
“This included registering more than 1.27 million voters out of a total of 1,592 350 eligible voters, establishing 2,294 voting stations across the country and embarking on an awareness campaign to publicise the polling stations,” said Moyo.
He said the IEC also enabled voters outside the country to cast their votes by also establishing 36 voting stations to cater for the diaspora vote in 20 countries where some Batswana are resident, and conducted training workshops around the country for prospective candidates, returning officers and senior police officers.
“The pre-elections phase concluded that the Republic of Botswana is prepared to hold the general elections,” Moyo said.
Moyo further stated that the SADC Electoral Advisory Council (SEAC) mission also interacted with a number of stakeholders and the issues raised and the findings thereof will be analysed together with SEOM’s observations in the-election phase as well as during the elections phase.
For her part, SADC Executive Secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax said the regional bloc was expected to observe the elections based on a three-phase approach involving pre-election observation, monitoring of the actual voting and observation of post-election events.
Tax said the pre-election observation phase was deployed from 18-24 August during which a goodwill mission assessed the legal, political and security environment to see if it was conducive for the holding of credible elections in line with the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
“The election observation phase will take place on the election day, 23rd October 2019, and this will assess the electoral process and laid down procedures and if the environment is conducive for voters to exercise their civic rights,” said Tax.
She said the post-election observation phase is expected to start immediately after elections with the aim to promote electoral integrity.
Batswana are expected to turn up in large numbers at the polling stations as the ruling party and opposition parties have put up spirited campaigns in an effort to woo voters.