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Last week, I wrote in this column that elections determine environment quality either directly or indirectly. I encouraged those eligible to vote to go and register for elections. I noted that Ngamiland and Chobe areas are known for their rich biodiversity not only in Botswana but in the whole world because the Okavango Delta is listed as the 1000th UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As a rich biodiversity in the Ngamiland and the Chobe, most of the people who live in the area directly or indirectly have their livelihoods being sustained by the environmental resources and natural resources found in their immediate environs. For example, the tourism industry which is the second largest economic sector in Botswana in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contribution is mostly pronounced in the Chobe and Ngamiland District and partly in the Boteti area of Central Botswana.
In addition, this region is characterized by community-based tourism programmes, local tourism enterprises which includes mobile safaris like those by BOGA and HATAB members, human wildlife conflict, foot-and-mouth disease which brings down the value of cattle etc. In this regard, where there are many election issues in the region, the people living in Ngamiland and Chobe have all the reasons to vote to register and vote in determining the environment they desire to have in the area.
While this is the case, the IEC office has confirmed that only one third of the targeted voting population has already registered to vote by the close of the seventh week of the registration exercise. This is problematic if most of the people do not see the need to register and vote. Studies done by the University of Botswana in the past noted the following:
a.Low levels of youth participation in politics: in 2002, it was established that 4.3% and 27.5% of the youth registered and voted in the 1994 and 1999 general elections respectively. The 2022 Democracy study by UB indicated that 71.6% of the people who did not vote in 2019 are aged between 18 and 25 while a cumulative percentage of 62.2% were aged between 26 and 55.
b.Membership of political parties: in 2002, 74.2% of those who participated in the study indicated that they did not belong to any association or political party. The 2022 Democracy study by UB established that 83% of those who participated in the study stated that they were not members of a political party.
c.Discussion of political issues with friends and relatives: in 2022, 36.5% of the respondents stated that their families never discuss political issues while 24.8% gave the same answer in the 2022 study.
These results indicate a serious vote apathy in Botswana. Voter apathy indicates the lack of political education where people are made aware of the importance of voting including the role of parliament in making laws and policies that determine our day to day live including environmental quality and the quality of life. A society characterized by voter apathy is easily taken advantage of by those who may happen to be privileged with state power. It is therefore the role of stakeholders especially political parties and civic organizations including churches to play their meaningful role to help educate the voting public on the importance of voting in the country. With one week left before voting registration closes, I can only encourage those who read this paper to encourage other to go register to vote.