Thursday, March 4, 2021

BDP primaries in shambles

With court battles looming over the BDP primary elections fallout, fears are mounting that the results could produce an unprecedented number of independents (mekoko) if losers’ protests fail.

Party President Ian Khama is understood to be under immense pressure to annul all the results and order fresh elections even in constituencies where there are no protests in a bid to quell discontent.

After the recent polls, some losing contestants rejected the results and appealed the outcomes.

Among the prominent party figures rejecting the results are foreign affairs minister Phandu Skelemani who was beaten by former mayor and Sattelite South councillor Buti Billy, Tonata legislator and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Pono Moatlhodi who lost to Khama’s right handman Thapelo Olopeng. Others include Maun East legislator and former minister Frank Ramsden who lost to Kostatinos Markus as well as former minister Olifant Mfa and many others.

Some losers’ appeals have been emboldened by midweek discoveries of undistributed membership cards as well as ballot papers that were found in rubbish dumps in some of their constituencies.

At Tonota Primary School, the school head on Wednesday reported the discovery of a box containing membership cards in the school hall where the party had held its elections. The Telegraph team found the police in conjunction with BDP members counting the cards.

Head of the police team, Senior Superintendent Israel Tuelo, confirmed that they had received the report of the discovery of the box which they promptly attended to given its sensitive nature.

He confirmed that they had found the box containing the membership cards although he refused to divulge the actual number of cards contained in the box.

“As the police, we had to come in because politics is a sensitive issue. It is a security issue. It’s not that we are investigating anything. This is a case of lost and found property. The cards will eventually be relayed to the rightful owner who in this case is the BDP. Our presence here is to suppress any possible violence with potential to disrupt peace and tranquility of the community,” said Tuelo.

He added that since the issue has been reported to the party, the BDP will in turn approach the police who are temporary custodians of the cards pending claim by rightful owners.

Asked whether the police were not interfering in partisan political party issues, Tuelo explained that it is their duty to attend to any situation with potential to cause violence and thereby disturb the peace and security of the community.

Emmanuel Sebokane said he was phoned by Moatlhodi who told him about the cards. He said he then phoned the branch secretary Phatsimo Ramahobo and branch chairman Bayendisi Thabano.

“A decision was the taken to report the issue to the police. An election officer had reported a missing box during polling day. It had disappeared mysteriously and it was assumed it had been collected with the rest of the boxes after voting and counting was concluded,” said Sebokane explaining that the discovery┬áwas a clear case of election fraud because the hall was cleaned on Monday and Tuesday and yet nothing was discovered.

Thabano corroborated Sebokane’s version of events concerning the box adding that apart from the cards, a voters’ roll for Tonota South East ward was also retrieved from the box.

Thaboano said his repeated efforts to inform party secretary general Mpho Balopi had been futile all day. “I have been trying to call Balopi in vain. I do not know whether┬áhe (Balopi)┬ácould have been locked in a meeting as he is not answering my calls,” said Thabano.

The incident was attended to by among other veteran BDP politician Kebatlamang Morake. Contacted for comment, Moatlhodi promised to phone back as he was still in a meeting but had not yet done so at the time of going to press.

In a case of a similar nature in Tati West constituency, hundreds of ballot papers were retrieved from a skip at Masunga and Kalakamati villages.  

Although Masunga police denied knowledge of the case, in their appeal letter rejecting the Tati West elections’ outcome, losers Farai Bonyongo, Peter Ngoma, Robert Muzila and Badziyili Nfila wrote that on the 13/11/13 two plastic bags containing used ballot papers bearing names of three parliamentary candidates, Ngoma, Muzila, Bonyongo and two council candidates Bose Sethupa and Elliot Jonathan were recovered from the skip at Masunga Primary School where voting and announcement of final election result took place.

The protest letter which is also signed by 16 council candidates state that after the Masunga discovery, a pack of other ballot papers bearing serial numbers 0300 to 0320 bearing Muzila’s name were recovered at Kalakamati.

“It has come to notice that the signatories to this document applied individually to stand for elections. However, given the magnitude and seriousness of the problem, we resolved to submit a protest jointly to enable the Central Committee to receive one consolidated report,” states that protest letter at paragraph 14.

At paragraph 15 it is submitted that “we therefore implore application of the provisions of Regulation 12 (e) of the Botswana Democratic Party Regulations for Conduct of Primary Elections and pray that the Central Committee adhere to our concerns and determine them respectively and call for fresh elections”.

Efforts to confirm the number of protests at the time of going to press were futile as the BDP headquarters phone rang unanswered. Deputy Executive Secretary Lesetedi could also not be reached for comment.

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