Unless you are a temporary voter registration officer in Mmaphashalala, living in a close-knit community is supposed to be a good thing.
The undoing of the youthful officer who is now being investigated by the police for voter registration fraud was working in her village and being supervised by a fellow Mmaphashalala resident.
People in small villages tend to know each other as well as each other’s business. When someone from outside visits, everybody in the village gets to know about that in no time and that information is shared freely.
The supervisor, Montsi Sefedile, made the discovery that the officer had spiked the registration book with names of people who had not visited the village in months. One was Sefedile’s own cousin who lives in Gaborone, another was a furniture shop employee in Palapye and the third was a non-resident Gumare woman whose only connection to the village is through an ex-boyfriend. In addition to electoral fraud, the latter case would amount to voter trafficking. Some of the people whose names were fraudulently added to the list did not even know about it until they were alerted by telephone.
Sefedile says that when the Mmaphashalala station closed on June 4 no one had registered that day.
However, when he inspected the book the following morning, he found new names entered for the previous day. Perusing the book he found more suspect names of people who had not visited during the registration period. By his account the officer (a young out-of-school and now out-of-work youth) was petrified when he confronted her with his discovery. In her panic, she owned up to the fraud, revealing every bit of information.
Although Sefedile has implicated the village councillor, Neo Magowe, the police are not taking any interest in him ÔÇô for now at least. Sefedile says that the suspect told him that she yielded to Magowe’s pressure to break the rules. On the other hand, the Dibete police station commander, Superintendent Nkhori says that parties they are investigating have not implicated Magowe. As a result, the police have not interrogated Magowe on the matter.
However, that is not how the matter has been received by some villagers. When Magowe did not turn up at a funeral last Saturday, the village rumour mill quickly manufactured a story that he had been detained by the Mahalapye police. Indeed he was in Mahalapye but not in a police cell but at the village community hall where vice president and Mahalapye West MP, Mompati Merafhe, was being launched as a parliamentary candidate.
Magowe, who is a member of the Botswana Democratic Party, has described Sefedile as a Botswana National Front activist hell-bent on destroying him. Sefedile denies such links.
What is supposed to have happened is that a list of names, along with national identity card numbers, was submitted for registration by political operatives with vested interest in the outcome of the general election. This information was then used to complete Forms A and Form B and the suspect forged signatures of the applicants.
Nkhori says that their investigations will also determine whether any signatures were forged. Should confirmation with regard to the latter be made, the suspect will face criminal prosecution. The alleged breach is also in contravention of Section 146 of the Electoral Act and makes the suspect liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding P1000 or both. The police have recovered the suspect cards.
The registration process laid out in the Electoral Act is that people must apply for registration in person and that a registration officer shall not register any applicant who does not produce his national identity card. Applicants also have to sign the registration card.
IEC spokesman, Mpho Maifala says that at this point the Commission can neither say nor do much because it is still awaiting the outcome of police investigation.