Botswana Football Association (BFA) Elections Appeal Board this past Thursday overturned the Elections Committee decision and cleared Tebogo Sebego and Ookeditse Malesu to contest the association presidency.
The reinstatement of the two aspirants, who will now compete against incumbent Maclean Letshwiti, brings a sigh of relief to their respective camps, which faced the prospect of going into the BFA elections without leaders.
While the decision of the BFA Elections Appeals Board brings a sense of justice and independence of the association’s electoral processes, there are still lingering thoughts about the independence of the BFA Elections Committee.
Following its largely unpopular disqualification of both Sebego and Malesu, the elections committee came under a lot of fire, with many accusing it of being partisan towards the current Letshwiti led regime.
Whereas the BFA Elections Committee is always adamant that it is independent, the ruling of the BFA Elections Appeals Board and the events preceding the appeals have only fostered the belief that it is not independent, at least among the current regime’s detractors.
Speaking in an interview with Sunday Standard Sports following the overturning of the decision to bar him from contesting, Sebego said he was not convinced of the independence of the Elections Committee.
The former BFA president’s consternation stems from the elections board’s weird and out of character decision ‘to oppose his appeal at the Elections Appeal Board.’
“Normally, you expect a decision-making body like the BFA elections committee to be bipartisan. It was our expectation and belief that the current elections committee is such,” Sebego explained.
While events leading to the vetting exercise undertaken by the committee pointed to possible interference with the elections committee, the former BFA president said they gave the committee the benefit of the doubt.
He however said following his and Malesu’s disqualification from the BFA presidential race, the decision by the Elections Committee to oppose his pointed otherwise.
“As a decision-making body, just like in the judiciary, the Elections Committee is not an interested party and can never be a respondent,” he explained.
“It thus came as a surprise for me when the elections committee decided to oppose my appeal against its ruling to disqualify me,” said Sebego.
He likened the decision of the BFA Elections Committee to oppose his appeal to that of a magistrate or lower court judge opposing an appeal of his or her ruling at a higher body as a respondent, something that is unheard of.
Speaking to his appeal, Sebego said it was also surprising that the Elections Committee would disqualify him from the race over a minor offence that does not affect his credibility.
“The Law Society of Botswana wrote two reference letters on my behalf to the effect that I was of ‘good character and repute.’ The BFA Elections Committee then somehow overruled the references of the same body and failed me an integrity test over a minor offence,” he explained.
In hindsight, Sebego said looking at the structure of the BFA Elections Committee eligibility questionnaire, he is tempted to believe they were tailor made to disqualify him and Malesu from the BFA presidential race.
Malesu, who opined that the eligibility questionnaire was drafted with hope that it will ‘hold water against me and Sebego’, holds the same view.
Speaking in an interview, the former BFA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) said he does not believe the current BFA Elections Committee can be trusted to hold fair elections.
He however said he was happy that things turned out the way they have as this exposed the current BFA regime, which he said would avoid competition to cover its own inequities.
Malesu was also lost for words as how to the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) could have written a letter to the BFA Elections Committee informing it he was under investigation.
He questioned if the BFA Elections Committee had enquired from different sporting bodies to check whether other BFA National Executive Committee (NEC) are under investigations or if he alone was singled out in a bid to disqualify him.
“The BNSC would have not known about my candidature for the BFA presidency or about the eligibility test unless they were asked by the elections committee or someone with interest in the proceedings,” he opined.
Despite a letter purportedly written by the BNSC CEO Falcon Sedimo to the elections committee proclaiming that he was under investigation, Malesu said he is still not aware of any investigation against him.
The former BFA CEO said he even gave the BFA Elections Appeal Board a letter from the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC).
Malesu said in the letter, the DCEC vouched it had not interrogated or questioned him on the said allegations and that it would not have informed him if there were any investigations against him.
Going into the BFA elections, the former BFA CEO said if it were up to him, he would have dismissed and replaced the current BFA Elections Committee to give the upcoming BFA elections some credibility.
“I am sorry to say this because the men and women in the current committee come with high reputations, but I believe they are compromised,” he concluded.