The leader of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Duma Boko has written to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) complaining about what he perceived as improper practices that impeded campaign and undermined free and fair elections.
Boko raised the concerns in a four-page letter to IEC secretary, Keireng Zuze, dated May 9, 2019. In the letter, copied to the United States of America (USA) Embassy and Delegation of the European Commission amongst others, Boko reminded the IEC that “the Umbrella for Democratic Change, pursuant to its rights and entitlement to campaign, deployed a helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft to cover a number of areas in Botswana as part of its campaign”.
This outreach effort was to run from April 22 to May 2, 2019. A substantial part of the outreach covered the period of the supplementary registration overseen by the IEC.
He disclosed that the helicopter and the fixed-wing aircraft were both registered outside Botswana and were brought in specifically for the campaign and outreach initiative, in part to encourage potential voters to register so they may vote.
“All process and procedures in regard to the operation of these aircraft in Botswana were followed.
At any rate, the law places an obligation on all relevant officials, especially customs officials, where any additional information or documentation is required to inform the declarant and request such documentation from the declarant. Where none is required and the customs officials permit the aircraft, no fault can be ascribed to the declarant,” the UDC President said. He claimed that their aircraft were duly permitted into the country and sanctioned by the Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB) to operate and fly in our sides. “We duly began our outreach programme on 22 April. On the morning of the 24 April 2019, our aircraft were grounded and detained by the BURS and all manner of excuses found to stop our outreach.
Our engagement with BURS yielded a contrived, incoherent and palpably unjustified explanation and a level of egregiousness that could only have been targeted at our ability to campaign in the manner we had arranged. Not only was the BURS at the forefront of these efforts to frustrate our campaign, but the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) was also involved.”
He said even if, the assumed, that there had been any oversight in adherence in any processes and procedures, the role of all relevant authorities should be to promptly assist and facilitate rather than to thwart and frustrate the UDC.
The UDC, however, maintained that there was absolutely no need to ground their aircraft and impede their campaign.
This was done in the most egregious fashion with a clear intention to impede their campaign and prevent them from reaching out
“The result of this improper conduct on the part of the DIS and BURS officials was that we were only able to utilise our aircraft for only two of the scheduled 10 days. This is totally wrongful and improper and has adversely affected us in our campaign,” he wrote.
He also drew the attention of the IEC boss to a manner she is intimately familiar with, fair State media coverage by Botswana Television, Radio Botswana and Daily News.
The Ombudsman has already made a pronouncement on this matter. Despite the adverse findings of the Ombudsman the situation has in fact become worse, he said. “The Government Facebook page is been used to promote the Botswana Democratic Party. We are surprised and deeply disappointed that in the face of all these anomalies, the IEC has remained detached, uninterested and indifferent, at best.”
He said they were fully aware of the wanton abuse of State resources by government officials and the deployment of such in favour of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
He explained that when government vehicles, Botswana Defence Force (BDF) helicopters and other aircraft as well as BDF motor vehicles were used in the course of campaigns this benefited only the BDP.
“Your silence and inaction in regard to all these issues is shocking. It can only amount to complicity. We bring these matters to your attention and register a strong complaint in regard thereto.
We insist on our right to campaign and reach the voters as we deem necessary.”
He added: “We demand a fair electoral process. We have, in all our campaigns and political activities stayed within the letter and spirit of the law.
Our members, and the voters generally, are becoming increasingly agitated and these acts by the ruling BDP, which is also at the helm of government, constitute serious provocation and may, if left unaddressed, escalate into serious tensions and strife”.
The UDC called on the IEC to intervene and ensure that all parties campaign freely and are assisted as reasonably necessary in these regards.
“We emphasise that consistent with your mandate to deliver free and fair elections in this country, it behoves you to take decisive measures to safeguard these elections and protect all participants,” he concluded.
In a brief interview after handing the letter to the IEC head office, Boko said he would soon arrange a meeting at Capitol Hill, in the USA to raise the concerns. He will also make a whistle stop in Europe after his USA sojourn.