The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is racing against time to hold its primaries as scheduled. With only a few days left before primaries for both Block A (northern region) and B (southern region) scheduled for November 2 and 9 respectively, the party’s central committee is meeting tomorrow to take a final decision on whether to defer the primaries to a later date.
In an October 23 e-mail message to BDP Electoral Board Chairman Parks Tafa, party chairman Samson Guma stated that, “after consulting with other central committee members, there is strong suggestion that we defer the announcement to postpone the election to Monday after central committee meeting”.
Tafa in a return communication of October 24, addressed to all regional secretaries, branch secretaries, wards secretaries as well as cell structures wrote, “with effect from today, Thursday 24 October 2013, the Voters’ Rolls are being dispatched to all the Block A Constituencies for verification process”. Tafa goes further to lay down the procedures to be applied in handling Voters Rolls final verification process which require branch committees to convene general meetings over two days at one single venue in each constituency. Further, all branch committees, ward committees and affected candidates for both parliamentary and council elections are required to assemble at a single venue to carry out the final verification of the Voters’ Rolls.
“At the end of the process, it is a mandatory requirement that all Voters’ Rolls be signed by the Party Structures aforementioned and all the affected candidates and the Voters’ Rolls should be returned to the Party Headquarters on or before Wednesday 30 October 2013, 4:30 pm”, wrote the Electoral Board chair. In the same communication, Tafa brings it to the attention of the recipients that arrangement for distribution and collection of membership cards has changed due to the large volume of work involved in the production of membership cards, which has left the party’s resources and staff severely stretched despite working day and night shifts ÔÇô seven days a week. He also instructs on how membership cards will be distributed stating that “membership cards shall be distributed by Election Officers at the designated Polling Stations and the following shall now apply: (a) The custody of all Membership Cards shall be entrusted to the Returning Officers for each Constituency, alongside other election material, such as ballot papers; (b) The Electoral Board is currently looking into deploying Election Officers to the Constituencies earlier than normal in order that the distribution of Membership Cards could be done on Thursdays and Fridays before the Polling Dates; (c) Any Membership Cards which would not have been collected by democrats prior to the Poling Day, would be distributed, again by the Election Officers at designated Polling Stations on Polling Day; and (d) The aforegoing constitutes a revocation of the prior arrangement communicated to democrats, namely, that Membership Cards would be distributed through the Branch and Ward Structures”. In concluding, Tafa informed BDP members that a special meeting of the central committee has been slated for tomorrow to review overall progress made to date, in the preparations for the 2013 BDP primaries.
“Should anything change in the Primary Election Programme as previously notified to you, such change(s) shall be communicated to democrats as soon as possible”, states Tafa in his communication which has been copied to party president Ian Khama. The party further floated an advertisement in the local press in which it outlined its new plan for the distribution of membership cards and the manner in which the final verification of the voters’ rolls would be handled. The final voters’ rolls are to be couriered and branch committees will be required to convene general meetings over two days of all the wards and affected candidates required to converge at one single venue in the constituency to carry out the verification process. In sync with Tafa’s communication, the advert states that membership cards shall be distributed by election officers at designated polling stations and the electoral board is looking at deploying election officers to the constituencies earlier than normal in order that distribution of membership cards could be done on Thursdays and Fridays before polling dates. The distribution will continue to be done at designated places by election officers at polling stations on polling day.
A number of interested parties interviewed by this publication said in light of what is being done, there are high prospects that the primaries will be held in a fair and transparent manner lest the party secretariat has not printed cards for some eligible members who want to vote. “On the surface, it looks like the mechanisms put in place are fair and transparent. However, if the secretariat has not printed cards for some democrats that will obviously taint the credibility of the primaries’ outcome. If, for instance, Candidate A can prove that some of his known supporters’ cards were not printed and therefore failed to vote, that will be calamitous and speak ill of the mechanisms put in place. It will no doubt taint the whole thing and we just hope Tafa has been up to the task to ensure that no democrat is disenfranchised.
This is buttressed by the fact that the electoral board chair is on record admitting that his board is aware that some candidates have been distributing cards without prior party approval”, said the interested party. Unconfirmed information reaching this publication indicates that the BDP has printed at least 650 000 cards, a number that should worry the opposition .