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By-Election Moratorium Tortures Constituents

TSAONE BASIMANEBOTLHE
Osupile Maroba
Residents of wards affected by moratorium on by-elections say they are likely to suffer, as they do not have civic leaders to look upon to.

There are council seat vacancies at Metsimotlhabe, Boseja South and Tamasane, but with (COVID-19) coronavirus-induced State of Emergency (SoE) regulations, there can be no polls to fill them.

This has not gone down well with some residents of the affected wards, as they believe they are currently missing out when it comes to updates on COVID-19 and other issues that concern them.

“We have elders in the village who do not have radios and television and in times like this, they rely on a councillor to get information affecting them,” Goitsemodimo Gaolapelwe of Metsimotlhabe observed.

“Issues concerning COVID-19 and its challenges require wards to have councillors. Honestly, the Village Development Committee cannot handle some matters like an area councillor. For example, Metsimotlhabe is nearer to Gaborone and whatever happens in Gaborone affects us.”

Another resident, Gobolokang Kebonemang said it should be understood that an area Member of Parliament cannot address the ward problems better like a councillor.

“If some developments are to be taken out from our area, there will be no one to speak on our behalf. For example, some of our school infrastructure needs an area councillor to ensure that the projects are completed on time. The area councillor is the one who could stand up for the area in terms like these especially about matters affecting schools,” Kebonemang argued. 

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Act requires that elections for both nominated and specially elected councillors be filled within three months after vacancy. 

Currently, council meetings for different districts have commenced and there are no council representatives to guard the interests of the residents in the affected areas.   

IEC spokesperson, Osupile Maroba told The Monitor they are only aware of the predicament in two of the three wards, Metsimotlhabe and Boseja South.

Maroba added there has not been any official communication to the Commission in relation to Tamasane.

“Yes, local government stipulates that they should be filled within

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three months. Currently, the State of Emergency regulations have suspended other laws including provisions of holding of by-election. As long as SoE remains active, there won’t be any by-election held. No, [there is not] any other option,” he highlighted.

Furthermore, according to the IEC Act, in a situation where the seat of a member of council both elected and specially nominated becomes vacant by virtue of any provision of this act, the vacancy shall be filled within three months in a manner prescribed by the minister [of local government] in the order establishing the council.

“Notwithstanding subsection (1), where the vacancy occurs 12 months before the local government elections, then the vacancy shall not be filled until the next local government elections,” stated the Act.

Maroba admitted it is the constituents who suffer the most, but for them it is simply the implementation of the law.

The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has admitted that the constituents of those wards will suffer.

BDP communication chairperson, Kagelelo Kentse, however said for now, there is nothing that can be done because a by-election requires many people to gather.

“Currently, I think the ministry is helping residents of those wards to ensure that they do not suffer when it comes to developments and important messages they need,” Kentse pointed out.

 Spokesperson for the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Masego Ramakgathi confirmed that no election can be conducted due to COVID-19.

“What should be understood, however, is that resources are not allocated on the strength of a sitting councillor, but a collective planning and budgeting of the concerned council to effect developments in respective wards in line with assessed and evaluated priorities that are always competing for the limited resources. Equally, the Village Extension Teams (VET), Village Development Committees (VDC) and the sitting Member of Parliament can still ensure that approved plans are duly executed,” Ramakgathi said.



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