Dr Molefe Phirinyane, a research fellow at BIDPA, presented findings of a study titled Elections and the Management of Diversity in Botswana at the Eighth African Governance Forum (AGF-VIII) held recently at the Gaborone International Conference Centre.This study was part of a broader project that seeks to measure progress towards good governance in Africa. The study involved different strategies for data collection; and these included literature review, focus group discussions and the use of self-administered questionnaires predesigned by the Economic Commission for Africa. The following are some of the issues which were interrogated by the study: Whether the constitution protects and promotes diversity and minority interests, political parties’ access to electoral resources; composition of government leadership, that is, whether it represents all segments and diverse interests; political parties and sectarian identity; whether electoral system promotes inclusion and representation of diverse groups; credibility of electoral system; and election dispute resolution. Experts targeted by the study included women, youth, people with disabilities, political parties and ethnic minorities.
The study established that there were a number of issues around elections and managing diversity in Botswana which required to be addressed, and in this respect the study makes the following recommendations:
The Constitution must be availed in Braille as well in order to be accessible to people with disabilities.
Government should facilitate further debate on the language policy.
Government should introduce public funding for political parties.
Electoral affirmative action through funding for candidates among women, people with disabilities and Basarwa candidates during primary elections be considered.
An affirmative action strategy must be adopted to cater for minorities in the electoral process. This could include reserving a specified percentage of seats for women, the disabled, the youth and particular ethnic groups (especially Basarwa).
The existing dispensation of specially elected members of parliament should be reviewed with a view of reserving 50 percent of the seats for people with disabilities.
Advance voting should be reintroduced and extended to people with disabilities, the infirm, as well as introducing online voting to curb long queues.
A referendum should be held to determine the voting system that the country should adopt among the three broad categories of FPTP, PR and Mixed Systems.
A referendum should be conducted to enable the country to decide how they want their President to be elected, directly or maintain the status quo.
The responsibility for the appointment of the Secretary should be removed from the President and allocated to the Commission.
Establishing an election adjudication body that would be dedicated to dealing with election disputes, less expensively and more accessible. This could be done by strengthening the EMB to handle the additional responsibility or setting up a separate body altogether.
The African Governance Forum (AGF) is a flagship governance initiative, which started in 1997 as a joint initiative between UNDP and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) organised in close collaboration with the African Union (AU). It is a policy dialogue forum that brings together African governments, development partners, representatives of civil society, think tanks and the private sector to discuss a thematic subject that is considered to be important and timely in the advancement of democratic governance on the African continent. The Forum, together with African stakeholders, addresses key governance challenges facing the continent, exchange views about experiences and best practices and collectively identify and propose possible policy solutions aimed at deepening democratic governance.