Monday, May 16, 2022

New names were added to BNF voters roll after deadline

Contrary to a statement that the Botswana National Front spokesman issued denying that the computer system used to process membership cards was shut down on April 20, 2022, Sunday Standard has been favoured with information that proves otherwise.

“We would like to confirm that on Wednesday 20th April 2022, the BNF Executive Committee met and resolved to have the computer system processing the cards shut down and should not be accessed by anyone until the youth congress (30th April 2022) is over,” said Justin Hunyepa in an April 22, 2022 press statement. “This has been effected by a private consultant and no one has since accessed the card-processing platform since Wednesday. This means that no new membership forms are being captured; no new cards are being printed.”

However, we learn that a private IT technician, who has a contract with the BNF and routinely provides services at the party’s head office in Gaborone, was brought in to determine whether the system had been tampered with. As a result, he found a digital trail that led him to a total of 101 names that were registered a day after the April 20, 2022 deadline that Hunyepa referred to in his statement. The names are printed out on a total of eight pages and on each one of the pages is a heading that reads “New Registrations Between 20/04/22 -1700 and 21/04/2022 -1200.” On the first page is an explanatory note that reads: “Total of 100 new registrations were created on Thursday 21/04/2022 before the registrations were disabled in the system.” The correct is actually 101 and not 100. The printout contradicts Hunyepa’s statement about the system being shut down on April 20, 2022. A fight broke out at the party’s office in Gaborone over what some members perceived to be a plot to rig the outcome of an upcoming elective congress.

The people whose names are on the controversial list are from mostly Kweneng and North West regions – only three names are from the South Central Region. The entries follow in this order: ordinal number, surname, first names, membership number, region, constituency, ward, day, date and time of registration. The first name, of membership number 11786, was registered at 1700 hours and is of a member from Kweneng Region, Mogoditshane Constituency and Mogoditshane East Ward. The last name was registered on Thursday (21/04/2022) at 1102 and is also of a member with the same locational details. So registered, those names became part of the voters’ roll.

The list is at the centre of explosive allegations that have been made as the BNF prepares to elect new leadership at a national congress in July. At this congress, Dr. Baatlhodi Molatlhegi will challenge Duma Boko for the presidency. The rigging allegations were first made in the wee hours of April 22 when some of Molatlhegi’s supporters made a surprise visit to the party head office in Gaborone in the dead of night.

An online news outlet called Parrot News Online despatched a reporter to the scene and later posted on its Facebook page: “Hiding their faces two youth came out of the BNF office running. Out of nowhere a Honda Fit appeared, they got in and it drove away.” As a statement from the Molatlhegi camp would later say, its conviction is that “the strange activities had to do with the printing of membership cards that are being issued illegally to members who are aligned to the lobby lists that support the current leadership.” This camp made so much noise that the party was forced to act. The Central Committee appointed a task team to investigate the alleged fraud and from what we learn, the investigation brought in the IT technician who pulled up records that show that additional names were registered after the deadline.

While it has been easy to prove that additional names were added to the voters roll after the deadline, that is not the case with the printing of the membership cards and here the issue gets legalistic.

At a Central Committee meeting, Boko’s camp is said to have argued that there is no proof that any fraud, in the form of printing cards, occurred. Indeed, Molatlhegi’s camp, which includes some members of the Committee, has itself not been able to produce a single card with a name that appears on the controversial list in order to prove that such card was printed fraudulently. An IT expert says that ordinary printers, such as ones that would be used in the BNF office, would not readily yield the required information, namely the time when the printing occurred. However, he adds that computer forensics experts would be able to run the right software on the hardware and easily recreate what the hardware did. His estimation is that a job of this nature would cost between P50 000 and P100 000.

Owing to the apparent stalemate, the Central Committee resolved that people whose names are on the controversial list should be disqualified as voters at the upcoming elective congress. Ahead of the congress, the names have been blacklisted and will be used at the congress only for purposes of ensuring that they are not used to vote.

Notwithstanding the disqualification of people who names are on the controversial list, the Molatlhegi camp still has some more demands. Following the incident at the party office, it called for the suspension and investigation of Mmabatshidi Segwabe, a long-time Administration Officer at the head office. There has been concern about Segwabe way before Molatlhegi came long. The national congresses of 2013 and 2016 resolved that her employment should be terminated but such resolutions have never been implemented. At some point in the past, a private lawyer who is a party member, is said to have been so anxious to see Segwabe leave the office that he was willing to pay her terminal benefits. The action sheet for minutes of the January 15, 2022 Central Committee meeting show the status of restructuring the head office as “pending.” The restructuring includes implementing the 2013 and 2016 resolutions to terminate Segwabe’s services.

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