Botswana is known as Africa’s longest standing democracy, venerated for holding free and fair elections successively since 1965 without any blemish. The 23rd October 2019 general elections has however may left a blot on Botswana’s copy book, according to the opposition parties and forensic investigators engaged by the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
Botswana for the first time, has been plunged into ‘uncertainty’, with the results of 13 constituencies being challenged, as well as 16 council wards. The courts would have to deliver a verdict on Botswana’s future within 90 days, from the day of elections. In a 57 seat parliament, BDP won 38 seats, while UDC, which has brought petitions before the courts, won 15 seats followed by three seats of its ally, Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and a single seat of Alliance for Progressives (AP).
All the three opposition parties represented in parliament have joined hands to take BDP head on. Currently, BDP has only nine seats superiority, a number which means should UDC succeed in its suits, the ruling party may lose majority in parliament. In an interview yesterday (Friday), a prominent lawyer Uyapo Ndadi has revealed that if at all the courts will establish there was rigging, it will be bad for democracy, but if not it will boost the credentials that Botswana already enjoys.
He was however quick to point out that the UDC is right to seek legal redress if aggrieved. “They are free to seek justice. Anyone can exercise that, it is a constitutional right. But we don’t know the merits of the case but it will really put us on a bad light as a country if it is established that it happened,” he said. Ndadi, who is renowned human rights advocate could not be drawn to discuss whether as a nation we have reached a level where there could be rigging claims. “Unfortunately I don’t know how it is done.”
UDC spokesperson Moeti Mohwasa has told this publication that they are only hoping for “justice” and wants the election declared null and void and re-run be held. Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organization (BOCONGO) Executive Secretary Botho Seboko is also concerned by the petitions. “If indeed it is true that there was rigging, it will be very bad for our democracy. Not only that but it would be bad for the Office of President, it will be a shame. Countries will start to perceive us differently.
Again it would be bad for some of the institutions overseeing elections like Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and District Commissioner (DC) offices,” he said. Seboko, whose organisation was part of election observer missions in the elections, says this country is not yet at the level of rigging. “We are not yet there, Batswana are not violent, soldiers are not intimidating like in countries such as Sudan or DRC.” Another party which has joined the fray is the AP, and they are also going all out to ensure that justice prevails.
“As things stand we cannot downplay and dismiss these allegations. When people lose confidence in the electoral process it could bring the country into chaos. We should have thorough investigations so that we plug suspected gaps.” AP which was initially mute on the alleged rigging, says it has also received reports from their structures over irregularities and in due course they will make their position known. BDP Secretary General Mpho Balopi told this publication last week that the party is concerned by the petitions. Balopi who won the Gaborone North constituency also has his victory challenged in court.
“We are not worried but rather concerned by those Batswana who voted for the BDP to rule are now at a disadvantage because it seems people are questioning their decision to give us the responsibility,” he said. “On the other hand these petitions compromise the integrity of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). Following all the transparent process put forward before all the parties prior to the elections including inspection of the voters roll we are concerned by this.”
While Balopi is dismissing any worries as a party emanating from these petitions, informants say the mood was sombre when the subject matter was presented. The registration exercise had attracted around 933 627 voters who were eligible to vote. In the first voter registration, 753 470 registered; the first supplementary garnered 40 738; and the last having attained 139 354. IEC had targeted 1 067 218 million voters to register and used close to P134 million for the exercise
The UDC claims of duplicated names, Boko said this compromises Botswana‘s elections which observers have always hailed as free and fair. “Rigging might have already started and we are concerned by the care-free manner demonstrated by the IEC,” he said before elections. The party says it even sent a letter of concern through their lawyers to the IEC in regard to the matter and the election body conceded that it was a blunder on their side but they have since arrested the situation. But the UDC top echelons were still not convinced and suspected there might be a plan to manipulate the elections.
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.