PHK calls for total independence of IEC

Published March 8th 2005 in Mmegi
Mmadinare MP, Ponatshego ‘PHK’ Kedikilwe has called for more independence for the electoral commission. Reacting to the committee of supply speech in Parliament yesterday by the Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Phandu Skelemani, Kedikilwe said the commission deserves total independence in its organisational structure. He said the independence of the commission should be absolute. “It must not only be independent but must also be seen to be independent,” he said. To strengthen the perception of the electoral body’s independence, he proposed that it should borrow best practices from progressive Commonwealth countries. He said such a move would be beneficial in that it would avoid accusations of uneven playing ground. He explained that standards of the best practices would be fair to all parties. He expressed concern with how the All-Party Conference is run. He said the conference should serve all interested parties in a more cordial and collective way. He implored Skelemani to make the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) work to “everyone’s reasonable expectations” by dealing with the issue of All-Party Conference in a cooperative and collective approach. Kedikilwe took a swipe at contractions of the “narration and report” which he said are a danger waiting to explode. He argued that the constitutional manner in which the delimitation report is to be handled leaves a lot to be desired. He particularly referred to Section 65(7) of the Constitution, which says that “in the exercise of its functions under this section, the Delimitation Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority”. He noted with concern that this constitutional provision would one day embarrass the government. “It is sooner or later. The time is not very far for us to be embarrassed by someone taking government to court,” PHK said. He added that today’s society is more broad-minded and inquisitive, hence open interrogation is necessary to avoid unnecessary embarassment. The worst-case scenario would be a court case ahead of elections, he said. Gaborone North legislator, Keletso Rakhudu was concerned by the abuse of the transfer window and agitated for its cancellation. He said the clause dealing with the transfers of voters from one constituency to another should be struck off because it no longer serves the intended purpose. He said politicians are manipulating the clause by trafficking voters to their constituencies and that is “a recipe for absolute disaster in the future”. He said things can turn bad if a community residing in a particular locality rejects the elected representative because of cheating or voter trafficking. He emphasised the importance of forming tribunals to speed up hearing of election complaints since the courts are over-burdened with a back-log of cases. “Elections are highly emotive and we run the risk of disturbing national peace,” he said. Leader of the Opposition, Akanyang Magama agreed with Kedikilwe that the IEC deserves independence from the Office of the President. He said it should also be empowered to decide the election date. He added that the current political set up of first-past-the-post system should be changed to proportional representation to reflect the popular will of the people. In his speech, Skelemani said the review of the IEC Act is ongoing, although the process had to be put on hold in the run-up to the 2004 general elections.