The end to the saga of the Botswana Democratic Party Francistown West primaries is nowhere in sight.
After a recount that basically did not change the initial result, the losing side now says that in terms of the party constitution, the Central Committee does not have powers to have ordered that recount.
Other than two parliamentary candidates (Tshelang Masisi and Peter Ngoma) gaining 89 votes each and a re-run being ordered in two wards, the recount did not produce any fundamental change to the August primaries. Following the election, losers Ngoma and another parliamentary candidate, Sylvia Muzila, and their down-ticket candidates (20 of them) protested that the election was not free and fair. Though the appeals board, a sub-committee of the central committee, dismissed the substantive appeal on grounds that it was “too general and unsystematically presented”, it nonetheless ordered a recount in the whole constituency.
The losers are now challenging the central committee’s authority to order the recount, arguing that the decision violates the BDP’s primary election rules. The rule in question is one that says that where an irregularity has occurred, there shall be a re-election. The argument that flows from this prescription is that the constitution provides for a re-election and not a re-run. The losers contend that ordering the recount was tacit admission that the counting process was fraught with irregularities but a remedy that falls short of what the rules recommend under such circumstances.
The losers allege that there was mayhem on election day which allowed some elements to campaign right inside polling booths; that a Botswana Defence Force member (who also happens to be a party member) intimidated voters and used abusive language; that some members voted after the polls had closed; that expired Omang cards were used to vote; that they were denied to be present during the counting of the votes; and, that their polling agents were ordered to be a good distance from the tables where the counting was done.
The central committee is also being accused of applying double standards by deferring to the wishes of a council candidate in Monarch South ÔÇô within the same constituency ÔÇô who challenged the committee’s decision to order a recount in the ward. The ward will now have a re-run on December 6. No official explanation was forthcoming as according to Dr. Comma Serema, the BDP’s executive secretary, reasons for a re-run of elections cannot be discussed outside party structures.
Over and above the allegedly fraudulent August election, the recount has its own controversy. The aggrieved allege that ballot boxes were tampered with which would be a violation of a rule that says the boxes should be kept safely by the secretary general for a period of six months or more if an appeal is pending.