Botswana: Cabinet stops political debates

The cabinet has ordered the Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC) to immediately stop the national debates for candidates in the 2009 general elections. BNYC director, Anthony Morima said that they received the order through the Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture, Gladys Kokorwe yesterday afternoon following a cabinet meeting. The order was delivered when a BNYC team, led by Morima, was on its way to Francistown for one of the debates.

“We had to obey and turn around and come back to Gaborone. We exist through the 1974 presidential directive and are funded by government. So when the minister (Kokorwe) says stop the debate, we have to do so. You should know that though we have not been acting like an NGO. We are in fact under government,” he said.

Morima said that the BNYC board is meeting soon to chart the way forward on the debates. “But from the look of things, our options are very limited,” he added.

Kokorwe said the cabinet ordered the stoppage of the debates on the grounds that right now there are no candidates, but rather prospective candidates for the elections. “The Electoral Act is quite clear that there should be a nomination day where people will be backed by a certain number of people, to qualify as official candidates for national elections. What if they don’t get enough people to support their candidacy at nomination day,” she asked.

The BNYC say the debates are supposed to give the youth and people in constituencies an opportunity to ask their potential representatives what they would do once they are elected to political office. Morima said the stoppage means that people in various constituencies across the country will be disappointed as they had been enjoying the debates. “They even had the schedule indicating when we will be coming to their constituencies. We have told them about the stoppage,” he said.

Previously, BDP executive secretary, Dr Batlang Comma Serema accused BNYC of usurping the role of radio stations and Botswana television by going around the country hosting political debates and in some cases embarrassing some people through bad scheduling.

“This project is not good at all because they de-campaign some of our candidates. They would schedule a debate to take place at times that are inconvenient to the candidates.

They should know that some of our people like Oreeditse Molebatsi, who is also an assistant minister are very busy and need to be told well in time so they can avail time for the debates. What they did in Tswapong South when they made it look like he (Molebatsi) was afraid of handling a debate was not fair at all. They actually showed that they are biased towards the Botswana Congress Party (BCP),” Serema said.

A disappointed Dr Elmon Tafa, who is standing in the Francistown South constituency as an independent candidate said that Kokorwe’s reasons for stopping the debates lacked substance. “This is arrogance on the part of the ruling party. I think they are just panicking because elections are approaching. This is the end of democracy. In five years, we will not be a democracy. If they are afraid of debates, why do they continue calling themselves a democracy?,” he asked.

Mmegi Online

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