Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Reverend Butale admits retrieved ballot papers are authentic

Winner of the 2013 Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Bulela Ditswe Tati West parliamentary primaries Reverend Biggie Butale candidly admitted before the appeal hearings tribunal that the ballot papers that were retrieved from a rubbish skip at Masunga a few days after the polls are authentic. Butale however contended that the authenticity does not in his view embolden the appeal by his rivals who have protested the results citing numerous irregularities.

Tati West results were protested by Farai Bonyongo, Robert Muzila, Peter Ngoma and Badziili Nfila in addition to 16 council candidates. Ngoma has since withdrawn from the appeal and relocated to his erstwhile constituency of Francistown West that has of late been engulfed in controversy after the ruling party failed to nominate a parliamentary for the 25th January by-election. BDP failed to submit Ignatius Moswaane’s name for the by-election after Whyte Marobela successfully through a court order barred the party.

Marobela had also complained of irregularities in the primaries before going the court route. Butale explained that his initial reaction when the matter was brought to his attention was that the ballot papers were fake until after launching an investigation which proved their authenticity. “If anybody at the hearing concluded that my admission to the authenticity amounted to concession of irregularities, they definitely misheard or misunderstood my version of events.

I was not in any way conceding irregularities cited by the protesters. I was candid to the tribunal. I told them the truth as I have now come to know it. It would have been morally wrong and unchristian of me not to tell the truth” said Butale adding that he is shocked that details of the proceedings that were held in camera had been leaked to the press. He said initially he was of the view that the ballot papers were fake but was later convinced of their authenticity after a cousin of his, who was also contesting the council primaries at Masunga ward informed him that the ballot papers were destined for Vukwi polling station after the latter had run short due to increased number of voters mainly from Masunga village who were avoiding long queues. Butale added that the information he gathered from his cousin is that he (the cousin and another contestant in the ward) collected ballot papers from election officers in Masunga to deliver at Vukwi where a shortage had been reported.

They (Butale and his cousin) suspect that the other council candidate (name withheld) should have stolen some ballot papers which he after a few days threw in the rubbish skip after inscribing whatever he liked on them. “We suspect this guy wrote the names of the losing parliamentary candidates after the results were announced in a bid to embolden their appeal. This guy had lost and was bitter. We further suspect that after dumping the ballots at the skip, he wittingly notified one of the contestants in the ward who took the matter up with the police and rest of the other candidates”, said Butale adding that even if a re-run is ordered, he is confident of beating his rivals.

However, impeccable sources are adamant that Butale admitted at the hearings the ballot papers retrieved from the rubbish skip Masunga were real and part of the ballots issued by the BDP headquarters. The sources contend that it is surprising that Butale only admitted to their authenticity at the hearings despite his initial rejection at the time of discovery when he openly maintained that they were fake. The sources further pointed out that Butale confirmed at the tribunal that the ballot papers were given to his cousin who was contesting the primaries with clear instructions to deliver them at Vukwi polling station where there was a shortage. “How did Butale’s cousin come to be in possession of the ballot papers? It has not been explained why the election officers gave his cousin the ballots. Who wrote the names of the losing parliamentary candidates?

If it was the duo that did it, why did they not write their own names as they lost the contest? Even if these ballots are linked to the two who were supposed to deliver the ballots at Vukwi, how does one account for those found at Kalakamati bearing Muzila’s name”, said a source adding that a thorough party investigation should be instituted to bring the culprits to book as this proves that there was a clearly orchestrated plan to cheat other contestants. Further questions are being asked on who dumped ballot boxes bearing Mapoka, Zwenshambe and Ramokgwebana polling stations as well as manila papers at the Masunga dumping skip. “How did they get there and why? What does this all mean in relation to the BDP primaries rules and regulations? It is a clear contravention of the rules and regulations of the party’s primaries which render the constituency poll a nullity”, said an impeccable source.

The sources point out that to solve the impasse, the tribunal must recommends a re-run and it is in the best interest of the party leadership to accept such recommendation to save the constituency from going to the opposition which has of late made serious inroads. “A lot of democrats are aggrieved with the turn of events and are threatening to either defect to the opposition or stand as independents. They compare the primaries to what is happening in Zimbabwe where there are no free and fair elections”, said the sources. The sources are also not happy that the adjudicators appeared biased towards winners at the hearings. “There were some highly experienced and focused people in the panel but there was one guy who was so biased that it was clear that he had an agenda to pursue or some people to protect. Such hearings should impartial so that if need be, heads should roll.

Despite this guy being reined in by his colleagues, he continued his assault on the protesters. The protesters made it clear that given his attitude, they doubted if the tribunal would deliver a just verdict”, said the source adding that the outcome is expected in two weeks time. Meantime, the appeal for Tati East has been referred back to the regional committee with explicit instructions that Ford Moiteela and Ruth Dlodlo recuse themselves from presiding over the appeal which it appears will be strengthened by discovery of 600 membership cards for Ditladi ward.

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