Radio initiates election debates

By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana

With the parliamentary and presidential elections due in the month of October in Botswana, one radio station, with assistance from the American Embassy in Botswana, has embarked on a debating programme slated for all the 57 contested constituencies. Other supporters in the project include the BOFEPUSO a labour body, Europcar, a car hire company with offices in major cities of the world as well as the British High Commission in Gaborone.

GabzFM 96.2FM a local radio station has taken the first ever political debating initiative in the history of elections in the country since independence in 1966. The programmes are hosted by the station’s award winning presenter Reginald Richardson and his colleagues at the station.

The debates pits all the candidates from all the participating political parties as well as a handful other independent candidates who pitches up intermittently. The debates are aired live everyday from 6pm to 8pm and the audience is allowed time to ask the contestants some questions live. 

To date the debates have been to more than 24 constituencies with the objective of covering all the 57 constituencies by election time in October. The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has made an unofficial decision not to take part in the debates. However, some BDP sympathisers and MPs may choose to be dormant participants in the elections.

In addition, the debates have a Facebook page; gabzfmelection2014 which has received a fair share of followers and likes to date. Interested persons can also follow the debates on [email protected] and can (hashtag) #gabzfmelections2014 for more updates.

Not to be outdone, the national broadcaster, which is alleged to be allocating a lion’s share of its resources and time to the ruling party, is also mulling following the example of GabzFM and has advertised dates and venues for its own version of the parliamentary debates.

A comment from one follower on facebook named Gerald Mahumba reads; “Gabzfm 2014 parliamentary elections debate is well organised and coordinated because the Presenter & his team are in control of both the candidates and audience. Keep up the good work guys. Gabzfm Take control while you can" The gabzfmelection2014 facebook page has 7309 likes so far. 

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