Sunday, June 23, 2024

BOFEPUSU worried about govt’s relationship with controversial Israeli company

A Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions spokesperson has expressed grave concern about the relationship between the Botswana Democratic Party’s government and Israel. “Israelites are masters in rigging elections. We must be worried about this and must come out strongly to condemn it,” said BOFEPUSU’s spokesperson, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, when making a presentation at a panel discussion on the current Gaza conflict. He didn’t go as far as to name the culprit but two weeks ago, Sunday Standard carried a story about Nikuv Projects International, a controversial Israel company with alleged Mossad ties, as having sealed an election deal with the Botswana Democratic Party.

Nikuv, which typically provides services for ruling parties, has been implicated in election-rigging in at least three Southern African countries. Zambia’s Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) engaged Nikuv to update the voters register and issue new voters cards prior to the 1996 parliamentary and presidential elections. The opposition United National Independence Party boycotted the elections, accusing the ruling MMD of trying to rig them with Nikuv’s help. The company holds a government contract with Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Home Affairs to computerise all identification documents and compiled Zimbabwe’s electronic voter roll for its 2008 election.

The ID database compiled by the company was used in the voters’ roll and a week before D-Day, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) alleged that the company was linked to Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency. An article in the Zimbabwean alleged that 20 Israelis had arrived in Zimbabwe to as “special government guests” to engineer an outcome that would favour Robert Mugabe. Under pressure from the African Jewish Congress’s and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies to make a public pronouncement on the matter, the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria denied Mossad’s involvement in the alleged plot. However, if rigging election is indeed what Nikuv does, it doesn’t succeed all the time. Ahead of Malawi’s presidential elections in May this year, the company was said to be working in cahoots with the ruling party which subsequently lost. Allegations of election-rigging are not new in Botswana.

In what was either a case of the proverbial bad workman blaming his tools or Dr. Kenneth Koma genuinely believing that his party’s successive losses at the polls was a result of western witchcraft, the Botswana National Front forced the government to redesign its ballot disc in order to make it rig-proof.

Koma was an excellent theory/conspiracy salesman and after successive poor showing at the polls, he suggested that drilling a hole in the BNF’s black disc might improve the party’s chances of winning the general election.

As Lemogang Ntime, Koma’s long-time ally recalls, the Botswana Democratic Party government resisted the suggestion but ultimately caved in. During the years of the colour-coded disc system, the BDP used a red disc while the BNF used a black one.

Colour was the only difference between the two discs and along the way, the BNF alleged that BDP operatives used a certain chemical which, when applied on black discs, caused them to turn red after a few hours, thus criminally increasing the ruling party’s vote. Ntime’s recollection is that this piece of intelligence had been passed on to the party by a certain South African expert whom Koma had met in Cape Town.

“We had no scientific proof that really happened but the expert suggested there was a strong possibility that was happening. We had reason to believe it could be so because when the vote was counted, some of the discs were a curious mixture of black and red. It was never explained to us how that had come about and it was then that we demanded that the BNF ballot disc should have a hole in the middle,” Ntime says. The mysterious chemical was later identified as ammonia. Koma reportedly said that the ammonia that was used to change the colour of ballot discs was found in “huge quantities of urine.” He suggested that before an election, the BDP would conduct an intensive, days-long campaign to collect human urine. During this campaign, recycled containers would be filled up with urine from which the ammonia would be extracted. Somehow that ammonia would be secreted inside ballot boxes to literally work its magic. The basis of this theory would have been the Middle Ages practice through which Egyptian dyers used ammonia, (in the form of the sludge from fermented urine) to alter the colour of vegetable dyes. The disc system was discontinued in 1999 but to date the BNF retains the redesigned black ballot disc with a hole in the middle as its symbol.


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