Takunda Maodza and Zvamaida Murwira
THERE is nothing unusual about the 304 980 voters who were turned away from some polling stations for various reasons during the harmonised elections as statistics from electoral commissions in the Sadc region show that some countries turn away even higher percentages than Zimbabwe.The 304 980 voters who were turned away represent 4,8 percent of the 6,4 million registered voters.
In the Botswana case, over 23 percent of registered voters failed to vote during 2009 elections after they were turned away. When the Batswana go to the polls, they vote for a councillor and MPs in wards, while the party with the majority of legislators will provide a president.
Statistics from the Independent Electoral Commission of Botswana shows that during the Batswana polls there were 723 617 registered voters and 544 647 valid votes were recorded while 168 549 people were turned away. This ranks Botswana as one of the Sadc countries with a higher percentage of voters turned away ridiculing president Ian Khama’s utterances that the harmonised elections were not credible.
Elsewhere, Zambia, which held its elections in 2011 ushering President Michael Sata in office had a lower percentage of voters turned away.
Statistics show that there was a total of 2 789 340 votes of which 2 732 662 were valid and 56 678 were turned away representing a mere two percent.
In the Namibian election in 2009 only 1,3 percent were turned away with figures showing that voter turnout stood at 811 143 and of those 800 567 were valid votes.
Some highly rated countries such as South Africa and Kenya among others did not display the figures of people turned away during their elections, opting to enter the number of people who voted and the invalid votes only.
Like in Botswana, people vote in wards for local government representatives and legislators in South Africa, but a political party with majority MPs will provide the president.
In Zimbabwe, ZEC attributed the relatively higher number of people turned away on voting day to several factors among them failure to produce required documentation or turning up at the wrong wards.
Zimbabwe uses ward-based voters’ rolls, and several observer teams said the voters who were turned away ended up casting their votes in the appropriate wards to which they were directed, a development not captured by the statistics touted by the MDC-T and its allies.
Expired passports, torn or illegible documents also saw voters being turned away while photocopies of national identity cards or driver’s licence were also not accepted by ZEC.
Meanwhile, Botswana’s Umbrella for Democratic Change leader, a coalition of three political parties, Mr Duma Boko, said Mr Khama should first address inherent loopholes in Gaborone’s electoral system before meddling in other countries’ polls.
Zanu-PF spokesperson, Cde Rugare Gumbo said the opposition parties in Botswana were right in reprimanding Mr Khama.
“We agree with the opposition parties in Botswana. We have said that President Khama’s comments calling for an audit on our election is not called for. There is no basis whatsoever to do that and that is why everyone else endorsed our elections,” said Cde Gumbo.
Political analyst Professor Jonathan Moyo said Lt Gen Ian Khama’s legacy was not consistent with the founding fathers of the Frontline States and Sadc, who include his father and founding president of Botswana, Sir Seretse Ian Khama.
He said Sir Khama, the founding father, worked tirelessly for the attainment of independence of most countries in the region, which was one of the reasons why Sadc was head-quartered in Gaborone.
“The service of Seretse Khama is beyond measure. It is invaluable. It is for this reason that we worry about what the current president is doing. He is connected to the glorious history of his country by sharing the name Khama but his reputation is a repudiation of what his father stood for,” said Prof Moyo.
“If you come from Mars and are told that the current President of Botswana is the son of the founding leader, you will not believe it.”
Prof Moyo said the Batswana president was making a lot of noise on democracy and good governance when he had nothing to show for that in his country.
Of all the regional leaders, said Prof Moyo, Lt Gen Khama was the odd one out because he was removed from his country’s liberation history.
The voice of concern from opposition parties in Gaborone, said Prof Moyo, was a reflection of the views by majority people in Botswana including those in the ruling party.
“We hope that this President redeems himself before his exit,’ said Prof Moyo.
He noted that Lt Gen Khama had a “Monkey See Monkey Do” attitude where he repeated everything said by Americans and British.
“He is out of step with the region and Africa and you wonder how is he an African president only to please the Americans and British. It is not that we want him to endorse everything that we do, but we expect him to handle himself with decency and honour befitting his office,” he said.
Zimbabweans, said Prof Moyo would not lose sleep over the utterances because it was known that it was not a representation of people of Botswana.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Dr Charity Manyeruke said Botswana had a lot to learn from Zimbabwe’s electoral system.
“I agree with Botswana’s opposition parties. Zimbabwe is a country that has demonstrated a lot of democracy, principles and values. If you go to many African countries they cannot be equated with what we have achieved here in terms of democracy,” Dr Manyeruke said.
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