Bahai News -- Daily News - Encourage people to participate, churches told

Encourage people to participate, churches told

19 August, 2003

Botswana religious leaders have pledged to assist the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to promote democracy and increase public participation in the electoral process.

The church leaders made the pledge at the end of a two-day workshop in Gaborone attended by representatives from Seventh Day Adventist, Muslim, Bahai Faith, Guta ra Mwari, Anglican, African Independent and Botswana Christian Council (BCC).

The workshop followed the Voter Apathy Study carried of 2001 that identified the non-participation of churches as contributing to the low turnout.

They pledged to get involved and encourage their congregations to actively participate in the electoral processes.

They said the IEC should try to involve church leaders in their policy making and also invite them as election observers.

Church leaders suggested that the IEC should not use electronic media only but church leaders should be informed in writings about the election processes.

They said they should also be invited to studio programmes such as Btv's Matlho-a-Phage to discuss such problems. Participants also recommended that voting day be a holiday and should be in September.

Pastor Zwide Mbulawa of Christian Centre suggested that voters' roll be posted on the IEC website for church leaders to see if eligible members of their congregations had registered.

Pastor John Phillip of Independent Assemblies suggested that drama group performance could be another strategy of educating the public on elections and voting.

A Bahai Faith statement to the IEC states that Bahai should be obedient to the country they reside in and not interfere in political matters.

It states that Bahai may vote without identifying themselves with a political party.

It is up to individuals to use their right to vote and keep aloof from politics, but always bear in mind that they are voting on the merits of individual candidates and not, along political party line, it says.

IEC Secretary Gabriel Seeletso said they were considering putting a list of polling stations and ward boundaries in the website. He said they had realised that some voters go to wrong polling stations just because they were nearer to them.

Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC) has developed an action plan that involves voter education workshops, public debates, music road shows, role model shows and personalised mails.

BNYC voter education co-ordinator Gaontebale Mokgosi told BOPA that for personalised mails, they will get the contacts of eligible youth from Omang offices and send mails encouraging them to register and vote. The plan will run from next month until October 2004. The participants noted that representation in parliament, dominated by one party, might be discouraging people to vote.

They were told that South Africa practised proportional representation that gives smaller parties a chance to enter parliament.

©Copyright 2003, Daily News (South Africa)

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