Tuesday, May 18, 2021

BDP, Israel Company clash over payment for election strategy

Ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General Mpho Balopi on Friday downplayed reports of a dispute between the BDP and Israeli company, Timor Consulting over payments for helping the party in the 2014 elections. Sources within the cash-strapped BDP said the party backtracked on its agreement as it believed that Timor Consulting had failed to help prop up its fortunes during the elections. Balopi told Mmegi newspaper last year that the party was paying the consultants, but refused to discuss the matter further as he claimed it was confidential. At the time, Mmegi reported, sources had alleged that funds from the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) which has links with the Israeli Secret Service may have been used to secure the services of the company.

Intelligence source say Timor was recommended for BDP by DISS. When asked to comment this week on allegations that the BDP and Timor Consulting were at each other’s throat over payment for service rendered, Balopi insisted that the service were rendered on a pro bono basis. While Sunday Standard was unable to establish how much the BDP had agreed to pay Timor, sources say it was a substantial amount. They disclosed that following a poor performance at the polls, the ruling party climbed down on the initial agreement resulting in a dispute between the party and Timor Consulting. Last year Mmegi reported that the BDP‘s bill was $1.5 million (aboutP13.5 million) to help it win last year’s General Elections.

The paper quoted Balopi as saying that “They (Timor Consulting) are adhering to the terms and conditions of the contract, we are happy with their performance and we are not bothered by those who are raising doubts over their performance.” But this week Balopi said “there was no promise that the company would be paid. There was no billing from the company; what is important is that there was no agreement for billing of any item. They were doing this on pro bono basis.” Balopi said the BDP has well wishers across the world as well as fraternal friends. “Even the consultancy company that you are referring to, they are our fraternal friends. You don’t have to be a political entity to be our well wisher,” he said. When it was put to him that he had confirmed in an interview with the media last year that the BDP had entered into a contract with Timor Consulting, Balopi said “We don’t have a contract. I never knew that there was a contract. As a secretary general of the party I would have asked why I was not told that there was a contract.”

Balopi said the latest revelation that failure by the BDP to pay Timor Consulting had resulted in a friction between his party and the Israel Company is part of the smear campaign peddled by some jealousy individuals who were hell-bent on discrediting the BDP. He said it was not compulsory for them to disclose their well wishers to the public. “Those people kept on coming and going. They didn’t charge or bill anyone. Even if you go to our office you won’t find those people,” he said. But he confirmed information from sources that the consultants arrived in the country in July 2014 and left in October the same year. When pressed for more details, Balopi who is friendly to the media lost his cool saying “People who are saying that there was a dispute between us and the consultants are talking rubbish and nonsense. The BDP had no financial obligations whatsoever because it never entered into a contract with the consultants. Well wish wishers can come and help us on bro bono.” Asked to confirm the names of the consultants who were holed up at the BDP office in October, Balopi said “I cannot deny that they were not there.

You may ask them why they were not invoicing anyone. Perhaps you should ask them why they are so generous.” Some of the names of the consultants passed to this publication are CEO of the company Adi Timor, Simon Davies (Social Media analyst), Amit Altman and one Rick. The names were confirmed by Balopi. As part of the PR strategy Timor advised BDP to change its election tagline from, ‘The party you can still trust’to ‘Moving Botswana forward.’ The consultancy firm also drew up a pamphlet which was widely distributed across the country by the BDP. In the pamphlet President Ian Khama poses a question to the voter “have you received my letter?” In the same pamphlet President Khama states that “this election is crucial for Botswana. In order to continue our economic recovery I need your help, I need your vote. In this election Batswana face one choice; who can move Botswana forward on our shared journey?”

The BDP was aiming for a 70 percent of the popular vote instead it’s popular vote fell from 52.3 percent in 2009 to 46.7 percent in 2014. On the other hand, the newly formed opposition coalition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) put up a spirited campaign, which resulted in six cabinet ministers in the BDP administration losing their constituencies. The UDC, which comprises three opposition parties, got 30.8 percent of the popular vote while the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) got 19.5 percent.

Timor had not responded to a questionnaire sent to it at the time of going to press.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper