Botswana, the vast but sparsely populated diamond rich country, has been consistently hailed as a bastion of democracy, holding free elections since independence in 1966. Only recently, the country witnessed a bloodless, smooth transfer of power for the fifth time, with former army general, Ian Khama handing over power to his deputy, Mokgweetsi Masisi, who becomes Botswana’s fifth President. But as Botswana prepares for its 12th election in 2019, the media landscape has been dominated by a new elephant in the room, the electronic voting machines (EVM). This will be the first time since the first election in 1965, Botswana introduces an electronic voting system, to replace the manual process. However, the move has been met with overwhelming resistance from the opposition who argue, this is meant to influence the outcome of the poll, which has been dominated by the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) since independence from Britain.
The body tasked with organising Botswana’s elections, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), argues the EVMs are meant to enhance and speed up the electoral process.
The opposition Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has taken the EVM case to court, but no ruling has been made, leaving the door open for its use in an election expected in October.
During countrywide consultations on the use of the electronic gadgets, IEC consultant, Gabriel Seleetso admitted there were deficiencies surrounding EVMs, meaning they can be tampered with. However, the former IEC boss, said the government will go ahead and purchase the EVMs, which will be used in 2019 according to the revised Electoral Act.
All the country’s 57 constituencies will use the machines, to be purchased at a cost of around $300 each.