Scores of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Bulela Ditswe protesters across the board who have been anxious to know what action the party leadership would take in the wake of their appeals against the controversial primaries are finally happy that they will be given a hearing. The protesters say the appeal hearings are in accordance with the party constitution that allows for protests to be lodged and listened to by the relevant structures of the party.
In a communication addressed to all regional secretaries, branch secretaries and all 2013 parliamentary elections parliament and council candidates, BDP secretary general Mpho Balopi invited the appellants and affected parties to attend appeal hearings that were directed to the central committee at party headquarters next week. Appeals for the Letswapo, Central and Shoma regions will be heard on the 14th January 2014 while Francistown, Bomase and North regions will be heard the following day. On the 16th appeals for North West and Western regions will be heard with Southern and South East slated for the 17th while Kweneng and Gaborone regions will be heard on the 18th.
In an interview with Sunday Standard, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Pono Moatlhodi who contested the Tonota primaries and lost to President Ian Khama’s right hand man Thapelo Olopeng said he is very happy that the party leadership will listen to their complaints and deliver verdicts in due course. “I am obviously very happy. Justice will be done through the hearings. The constitution of this country and that of our party allows for people to be listened to when they complain. The panel will listen to the merits of our submissions and judge on the merits of the cases. That is what we want from the party leadership and we are happy that they are keen to address our grievances”, said Moatlhodi adding that God will guide the panelists to deliver just verdicts. He added that it is important that they are afforded the opportunity to ventilate the irregularities that in their view marred the primaries.
“The party constitution allows for protests as long as they are lodged within the stipulated time. This is what we did and it is prudent that we are being accorded the opportunity to show why we are not satisfied with the results. We are hopeful that re-runs will be ordered on the back of the overwhelming evidence that we are to present before the adjudicators” said the BDP legislator.
Rejecting the results last year, Moatlhodi bemoaned that there was a lot of voter trafficking in his constituency alleging that his opponent ferried people from Gaborone to come and vote him out. He further complained that people had been bought to vote him out. A few days after the primaries, about 1600 membership cards were discovered at Tonota Primary School where scores of democrats had failed to vote because they did not have membership cards. The case was attended to by the police who said their involvement was only limited to quell potential violence as politics is a sensitive issue.
It is not clear whether the BDP has already claimed the membership cards which the police said they are keeping until they are claimed by rightful claimants as they are classified as lost and found property. Another protester who is happy with the party leadership’s decision to hear their appeals is Robert Muzila who lost to Reverend Biggie Butale in the Tati West primaries. Muzila together with Peter Ngoma, Farayi Bonyongo, Badziili Nfila and 16 council candidates protested the results.
Their protest was further emboldened by the discovery of ballot papers and voters’ rolls at a rubbish skip at Masunga village after the primaries. More ballot papers bearing Muzila’s name were discovered at Kalakamati village. Muzila said he was very pleased that their complaints will be heard. “It is nice that the party leadership is acting on our complaints. If you raise an issue with the relevant authorities, you definitely appreciate that gesture when they give you a hearing. That is what democracy is all about. This shows we have reasonable leadership that is determined to address our grievances so that solutions are found. It is fitting and proper that we are given an opportunity to make presentations on the irregularities and then await the verdict that will be passed”, said an elated Muzila.
For his part, Minister of Local Government Peter Siele who lost the Mmathethe-Molapowabojang primaries to Dr Alfred Madigele is equally elated with the party decision to hear his appeal. He said it is a natural thing that when one raises a complaint with the relevant authorities, they listen and hear their matter. “We have reasonable leadership that is determined to resolve party issues amicably. One is not saying what he has raised in his appeal is positive.
But if you are listened to, it is a pleasing effort by the party leadership to quell discontent”, said Siele. The hearings have put paid to speculation that the party was not intent on hearing the appeals. Others feared that if the party leadership failed to rise to the occassion and adress the protests, the party was likely to be engrossed court battles akin to the Whyte Marobela case for Francistown West where the BDP has to date been barred from nominating a candidate for the upcoming by-election slated for January 25th.