Four SADC member state - Botswana, Malawi, Nambia and South Africa- go for general election this year to choose a new government. President Ian Khama revealed in a recent state media interview that Botswana will no longer participate in SADC electoral missions as its reports are not implemented.
He criticised both the African Union and SADC for not pointing out the irregularities in last year’s Zimbabwe harmonised polls and accused the blocs of endorsing the election even though they were not fair.
Botswana National Front [BNF] secretary for International Relations Kwenantle Gaseitsiwe said the SADC observer mission is a tradition that all member states must abide by. Gaseitsiwe said that the report by observer missions should not be binding to a member state but rather used as a point of reference. Though he does not support Botswana’s position to stop sending observer missions, Kwenantle said that SADC serves the interest of the few. “The whole of SADC is just a toothless instrument that serves other people’s interest.
They make so many protocols but nothing is implemented,’’ lashed out Gaseitsiwe. He said that the regional organisation is just there to keep friendship and is a public relations exercise with no meaningful and tangible results. Botswana Congress Party [BCP] secretary general Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang differs with his BNF counterpart noting that SADC observer missions are still relevant. “We have been using their reports to point out to the world that Botswana election might be free but not fair,’’ said Gobotswang.
He cited the abuse of public media by the ruling party as one of the issues raised by the SADC observer missions while observing elections in Botswana. He said that if SADC can desist from its silent diplomacy and be vocal like Botswana government its relevance could be felt in the region and in international forums. Does that mean BCP agrees with President Khama? “No Botswana is vocal but irrelevant in most issues they raise.’’ The BCP chief scribe said that their position as BCP is that one cannot influence any decision while in self-imposed isolation. “You have to engage from within and influence other member states to buy on your idea,” he said.
Political analyst and lecturer at University of Botswana Professor Zibani Maudeni observed that Botswana is playing double standards as they have also ignored the report by the SADC observer missions on its elections.“It was recommended that Botswana should consider political funding and proportional representation which they ignored,’’ revealed Maudeni.
The UB don said that Gaborone’s isolation will be of no value as observer missions will come to observe election in Botswana. “I think we had misplaced expectations about Zimbabwe election hence we sent a delegation of 80 people which we have never done in any elections we have observed,’’ Maudeni said.