Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) operatives have been accused of coercing former students of Shakawe Senior Secondary School, who have been given a second chance to repeat their Form 5, to vote for the ruling party in the next general elections. Opposition party candidates have vowed to investigate allegations that the students were recently given strict instructions to vote for the ruling party.
On arrival at the schools where they were re-admitted for their Form 5, the students were reportedly ordered to produce their election registration cards and then given strict instructions to vote BDP in the general elections. Information passed to Sunday Standard indicates only 177 of the 251 students who were admitted at Good Hope Senior Secondary School turned up for registration.
Upon arrival at the school last week, the students were reportedly asked to produce their election registration cards. Reports also indicate that those who had not brought their registration cards with them were driven all the way back to Shakawe the next day to collect them. It is further stated that the students were told that arrangements will be made for them to transfer their votes from Shakawe to Good Hope. It is also understood that on Saturday government released some buses to transport the students to the Consumer Fair in Gaborone as a way of enticing them to vote BDP. Last week Educational Director in the North West region, Acronews Maseko revealed that so far 450 students have been dispatched to other schools to re-sit their Form 5 examinations. He added that the Ministry’s priority is for the students to learn and pass their finals next year. He was however unable to respond to allegations that the students were coerced into voting for the ruling party. “I am not the relevant person to discuss politics with you.
I can only tell you that the Ministry wants the students to learn and pass their examinations. They are already at their respective schools where they have been admitted,” he said. Contacted for comment, Member of Parliament for Okavango constituency, Bagalatia Arone of the opposition Botswana Congress Party (BCP) said he was aware of the rumors and promised to investigate further. “I have heard such allegations and I ordered my campaign team to investigate further. We are fully aware of the dirty tricks that the ruling party is employing and we are ready to take them head on,” he said. For his part, BDP parliamentary candidate for the area, Mbahahanka Kambimba said the transferred students were a loss for him as they would have voted for the BDP if they had stayed in the constituency. “It is unfortunate that I will lose some of the votes from the students because they have been dispatched to different schools across the country. Funds permitting, I would transport them from their respective schools to Shakawe so they could come and vote where they have registered,” he said.
Osupile Maroba, spokesperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) said any person is allowed to transfer his or her vote to an area of their choice, provided they are able to convince the IEC with reasons why they want to transfer their vote. He however warned that the application will be rejected if the grounds are not reasonable. Asked if he was aware of any special arrangement for students who were transferred from Shakawe, Maroba said he was not.