Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), has this week not taken kindly to reports that the Commission has, in concert with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP, rigged the just ended 2019 General election.
The main opposition party Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), particularly the affiliate Botswana National Front (BNF), has been decrying and suspecting foul play in the election results on the part of both the BDP and the IEC. The UDC has been insisting that the BDP is sleeping with the IEC, hence raising eyebrows and suspicion that they swayed election results in favour of the ruling BDP.
The misgivings have not been held by the fact that IEC, although presumably independent, is strategically placed under the auspices of the Office of the President (OP). According to the IEC official information, BDP won with a popular vote of more than 52%, garnering 66% of Member of Parliaments as per the election system of First Past the Post (FPTP).
In most parts of the South, the ruling party won with the widest margins (almost double in many areas), something which has never been experienced in the country in recent intervals. The results have led to talks of a looming court case that will be brought forth by the UDC against the IEC protesting the election outcome as “doubtful.” Speaking to Weekend Post this week, IEC Principal Public Relations Officer (PRO) Osupile Maroba, dismissed the rigging allegations citing that they are impossible and laughable.
“I confirm that elections went very well. The elections, like those that came before, have never been rigged and are not rigged, and therefore are very credible as the law was followed to the letter,” he insisted to this publication. He maintained that the elections were very credible and in accordance with provisions of the Electoral law.
According to Maroba, people never complained from the beginning of the electoral cycle/process as they gave the polling agents the voters roll, to check whether names are written correctly on the roll, whether the numbers tally, to check any voter trafficking suspicion and so forth and they were satisfied with the voters roll hence no complaints were registered. “Everything went in terms of the Electoral Act. It was applied to the core, we are a non-partisan institution. We only implement law as is, simple.” the IEC official maintained.
In terms of the looming court case, Maroba said the IEC remains ready to defend the case and that the party, UDC in particular, are within their rights to do so as law allows them to request for remedy at court on the elections. â€¨“They have the right to do so. The High Court will mediate us,” he insisted. He therefore dismissed the much talked about Gantsi North rigging case, in which the former area legislator has approach court to protest the results saying they were rigged as there are fears some boxes were not counted.
“I don’t know how the truck from Gantsi with ballot boxes is special or different from the rest of others. I don’t know how this one is peculiar to the other. Procedure was dully followed and nothing is out of line. Every Returning Officer delivers it to the High Court. And this was the case,” he highlighted. In terms of the law, the IEC mouthpiece cited sections 71, 72 and 73 of the Electoral Act which explains the process of election, and that after counting at elections, ballot boxes are sealed and delivered to the High Court.
“Returning officer can’t count votes without all the boxes being delivered. They know all the wards and boxes and only counts the ballots in front of the polling agents. All the time there are party representatives at polling stations and counting centre,” he explained.He added that the ballot boxes then are sealed in front of the party agents and they don’t let their eyes off the counting process while stressing that the government car also should be followed from polling stations to the counting centres if parties wish to and that polling agents can ride in or follow the car, as it is allowed by law to allay fears of any suspicion of rigging.
Maroba pointed out that after every elections, the IEC always has allegations of election rigging but they haven’t escalated to this level: “why I don’t know.” It’s a normal issue after the elections, he said adding that the “BDP has also accused us of rigging in the past.” Maroba denied that they are sleeping with BDP, as some want to allege and that it is a perception which does not hold water.
He observed that the parties only challenge the election results when they feel disadvantaged or having lost like the UDC, in this case. “BDP clearly has a landslide victory because we are dealing with different people with different minds and voters can promise to elect candidates or parties but end up voting the others, which is why probably we are in this state,” he concluded.
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.