Lentsweletau/Mmopane Member of parliament Moeng Pheto spoke out for the first time about his decision to resign from the ruling party, and President Ian Khama had the worst of it.
In an interview with Sunday Standard, Pheto said the recent BDP Bulela Ditswe primary elections were stage managed to ensure that candidate favoured by the party leader won. “The system of Bulela Ditswe was manipulated in such a way that it produced certain candidates and not others.” Pheto lost the party primary elections to cabinet member Vincent Seretse in a tough contest which saw him garnering 2 024 against Seretse’s 2 032 votes. He was however not happy with the way the party handled his protest that there were irregularities in the way the primaries were held. He explained that party primary elections are governed by a set of guidelines and code of conduct, but during the recent primary elections, the guidelines were bent to ensure that preferred candidates won. These violations of the party regulations were ignored, “as long as those violations were done by certain candidates,” he said.
Pressed to clarify what he meant by favoured candidates, Pheto explained that “candidates favoured by the leadership, those so called ba ga Rraetsho who went about openly informing voters about candidates who were preferred as Members of Parliament.” Rraetsho is a popular BDP reference to President Khama and ba ga Rraetsho means Khama’s preferred candidates. “Those were the people who committed violations, talking about some issues outside the guidelines of Bulela Ditswe and could not be disciplined and yet some people in the party would claim moral high ground which they claim they would never compromise,” said Pheto.
The legislator said he resigned from the BDP to offer voters a chance to choose who should represent them during the upcoming general elections. “They were denied that opportunity as the BDP Bulela Ditswe was fraudulent; they did not necessarily produce candidates that voters wanted particularly in my constituency. I’m particularly taking this decision conscious of misgivings some people may have and labels that may be attached to people like us (independent candidates) such as self seeking,” said Pheto. He is of the view that voters should not vote “voters pushed on them by any political party.”
Pheto said people who were eligible to vote in the BDP primary elections were disenfranchised in his constituency. The legislator said 7125 cards were at the distribution centre adding that “we were to distribute them out to nine wards, they belonged to six wards, and we still can’t account for the number that has disappeared into thin air, which is more than 2000 cards.”Pheto added that the burnt or buried cards belonged to other three wards. He said at Gakutlo ward alone at least 2263 voters cards were not distributed and their owners and the party were aware of that, something which he said the BDP failed to address. Pheto said the system of Bulela Ditswe was manipulated and those who set out to do that seem to have archived their goal. Pheto who resigned from the party before being served with a letter of suspension told Sunday Standard that, the BDP was aware of his resignation prior to being served with a letter of suspension.
“Their letter suspending me from the party was just meant to embarrass and discredit me,” he said. Asked if he intended to join other parties, Pheto confirmed that he had been approached but said his focus was on retaining his constituency. “For now my focus is on elections, maybe I will think about after the elections,” he said. He added that some electorates from various wards in his constituency had approached him to consider standing as an independent so that he could afford them an opportunity to vote for a candidate of their choice.
Pheto also disclosed that majority of BDP members were unhappy but tend to be loyal to an individual. He paid tribute to speaker of the National Assembly Dr Margaret Nasha for disclosing in her autobiography how democrats were disillusioned with President Khama’s administration. “We have to be defenders of the Constitution of Botswana, protect freedom of speech among others but unfortunately some of us are more loyal to an individual than to a republic,” he said. Pheto added that “It was sad to quit but I have to pay tribute to first independent candidates because you become an independent candidate because of morality issues, it is because of your consciousness.
I don’t believe in the individual but in the Republic. You have to understand through my career that I’m not cheap and can’t sell my soul.” Pheto said democrats lived in fear and only think about their own welfare and do not want to be seen to be differing with the establishment. Sunday Standard has unearthed information that a number of councillors from Pheto’s constituency intend to resign and stand as independent candidates.