The Botswana National Front (BNF) is reportedly mulling the possibility of filing a legal challenge to its Letlhakeng West by election loss, which was a major test of the opposition unity project in Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) at constituency level, The Telegraph has learnt.
Umbrella members are BNF, Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and Botswana Peoples Party (BNF).
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) announced that the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s Ngaka Ngaka won the by-election by garnering 3 437votes to BNF’s Filbert Nagafela’s 3097 votes, in the hotly contested constituency. The BDP’s victory saw an increase of 360 margin from the late Maxwell Motowane’s previous 36 against Nagafela in the 2009 general elections. A total of about 6632 voted in the by-election with roughly 122 votes declared as spoilt.
It is understood that, among other issues that the party will raise in its legal petition, are that there was confusion among electorates brought about by continuous voter registration in the area and that IEC should have suspended such kind of registration in view of the by-election.
A source said suspension of the continuous registration could have been relevant to Letlhakeng by-election.
It is also understood that the continuous voter registration is ongoing in Letlhakeng West constituency and it is expected to continue until the next general elections.
The continuous voter registration process has also made eligible to vote, the youth who have just turned 18 years.
“There is a strong suspicion that some electorates who had registered to vote were 19 years old.
You wonder how old such electorates were in 2009; were such a candidate eligible to vote or had registered for election and were their names in the previous voters roll, if not then some of the procedures were not followed,” said a source close to the pending legal petition.
Contacted for comment, IEC spokesperson, Osupile Maroba, insisted that a person could vote after turning 18 years. He added that a person whose name did not appear in the last general election is eligible to vote in the by-election as long as he or she has participated in the continuous voter registration and his or her name appears on the new voters’ roll.
But in the build up to the Letlhakeng West by election, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) was forced to release a statement announcing the withdrawal of their candidate Thuto Thuto from the race, after it was discovered that he was ineligible to contest, as his name did not appear on previous voters’ roll.
BNF campaign manager for the constituency, Muhammad Khan, confirmed that the party is expected to evaluate the outcome of the results on Wednesday.
While he did not go into specifics, Khan said there were some irregularities with the process that was used.
“After evaluation that is when we will decide what course of action to take and we are not ruling out court action,” he said.
Contacted for comment, Nagafela said he accepted the results. Pressed if reports that his party intends to challenge the results at the High Court, Nagafela said, “We have not decided, if there is that possibility we will let you know but not now. There are issues that the party will have to look into and could end up taking the legal route.”
While he was happy with the result, Ngaka said he intends to increase the margin in the next general elections.
“But I can also say that the current margin shows that we are wooing people to the BDP and that people appreciate the party’s policies,” he said.
BDP campaign manager for the by election, MP Mephato Reatile said they had targeted a margin of 800.
“But we are content with this one,” he said.
On allegations that the BDP used some “dirty tactics” to lure voters to its fold, Reatile said his party did not buy votes.
“There is no Motswana who was called to come and receive foodstuff so that he or she could vote BDP in exchange. Yes it’s true that we bought grocery for breakfast and supper for those who were campaigning in various places. Allegations that we lured potential voters with groceries are malicious,” he said.
Expectations were high among BNF supporters and its UDC partners on Saturday that with Botswana Federation of Trade Sector Unions, BOFEPUSU and the Botswana Congress Party (BPC) having thrown their behind the BNF, the party will win the election.┬á