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.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.