The Botswana Congress Party president, Gil Saleshando, has rubbished the African Union (AU) observer mission’s statement that the October 16 general elections were fair. Addressing a BCP post elections press conference last week, Saleshando said the elections could not have been fair because the ruling Botswana Democratic Party skewed the playing field in its favour by abusing state media and resources.
In a press statement issued after the elections, the head of the observer mission, Dr Brigalia Bam, applauded the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) for conducting free and fair elections, saying that the situation was conducive for elections to run smoothly.
However, the mission suggested that state funding of political parties should be considered based on fair and equitable formula to strengthen the democratisation process. Saleshando concurred, saying that they have been vindicated as the ruling party has for a long time turned a deaf ear to their pleas for state funding.
“While the opposition parties were forced to make do with insufficient funds sourced from their members, the ruling party splurged on an expensive campaign, with the president and the vice president pillaging state resources and monopolising state media in their political campaigns. With greater emphasis on constituencies that were targeted as the opposition strongholds, they toured the length and breadth of the country. They were loyally followed by their champion campaigners, Botswana television, radio Botswana and the daily news, who shamelessly lapped up their propaganda and beamed it to the nation, while the opposition was not accorded the same. How can we then stand before the international community and claim that the elections were fair?” he asked.
What was even worrisome, said Saleshando, was the fact that police officers were disenfranchised and not accorded their democratic right to vote because of the laxity of the IEC.
“We strongly suspect that this was a deliberate ploy by the ruling BDP to disenfranchise the public officers, who would not have voted for the ruling party because of their disgruntlement with their deplorable working conditions” charged the BCP president.
For his part, Publicity Secretary Dumelang Saleshando and Secretary General Taolo Lucas said that they are very satisfied with the results that they garnered in the general elections, despite the fact that they did not attain the ambitious 21 parliamentary seat target that they had set for themselves.
Saleshando highlighted that the BCP has increased their representation in parliament from 1 MP in the 2004 general elections to 5 MP’s to date. On top of that the party has managed to increase local government representation from 32 to 65, not only in areas that are traditionally their strongholds, but throughout Botswana.
“We have also managed to increase our popular vote from 68 000 in 2004 to 120 000 to date, which translates to 22% of the popular vote. We are undoubtedly the fastest growing political party in the country” he said.
Lucas, who suffered a stunning defeat in Bobirwa after BDP’s Shaw Kgathi pulled the rug from under his feet when he polled 5899 votes to Lucas’ 5059, said that the BCP has put up a very strong showing in spite of the monolithic challenge that they were facing in the BDP.
“While the BDP campaign was massively resourced, we had to make do with very limited resources eked out from our members’ individual sacrifices and contributions. In spite of all this we have managed to establish a robust and dynamic democratic institution that is growing exponentially and will, given time, pose a tangible challenge to the ruling BDP” he said.