Botswana: 2000 National Evaluation Workshop (continued)

On the controversial issue of the independence of the IEC, Mr Wilde argued that the concern was legitimate as the Commission aught to be truly independent and free from influence. Commissioners and electoral officials should manage and run elections without fear or favour; and without any influence from any political spectrum.

In order to win the support, trust and confidence of those they serve, the Commission and its Secretariat should ensure that elections are administered in a manner acceptable to all and sundry. This is a challenge to the Commission since they serve a nation with diverse political orientation and loyalties that are unknown to them. The IEC are expected to perform their duties in a manner consistent with national interests and needs when dealing with elections and electoral processes. According to the High Commissioner Wilde, the IEC should strive to create awareness about voter rights and responsibilities while avoiding to be swayed or sway the nation towards or against a given political philosophy or party.

He challenged the IEC to embrace the values of efficiency and accountability by recruiting the calibre staff, training them and using them effectively. "... no society would dream of having [a] defence force only when a threat or a crisis looms... the IEC should be in constant state of readiness. It needs to develop good working relations with a wide range of political and civic groups - it can not afford to live in an ivory tower," the High Commissioner declared.

In his closing remarks Honourable Justice J Z Mosojane pointed to the disparities between the eligible voter population, those who register and those who eventually turn up to cast their vote. The chairman of the Commission called for multi-sectoral involvement in public sensitization and mobilization activities about the electoral process.

Justice Mosojane said, "in order for us to maximize the impact of ... communication interventions, we need collaboration and support of political parties, Non-Governmental Organisation, churches, traditional leaders, Trade Unions, and civil society in the dissemination of information on elections." Honourable Mosojane echoed the High Commissioner's words when he called for appropriate legislation that is explicit about IEC mandate so that it is clear when and where not to call any party or candidate to order.

A number of key issues drawn from the South African presentation on the Evaluation Report emphasize the points reflected on the speeches cited above. One major issue was that; there is need for the IEC to develop a strategy that will define the parameters of its relationship with political parties and the media and that, the development of code of conduct for political parties could go a long way in addressing some of the problems associated with issues such as campaigns.

The evaluation reports on the three (3) workshops are available to the public in the IEC regional offices and at Headquarters.