For the first time in the history of the country, ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), has no guarantee of winning the 2019 General Elections. According to the Africa report titled “Botswana unravels: unmasking Africa’s democracy poster child”, released on Wednesday 28th August 2019, the BDP finds itself not in the obvious books of old glory and landslide victories.
“The election is too close to call. For the first time since 1965, despite having a slight edge, BDP has no guarantee of electoral victory,” the report boldly states. It posits that a lot hangs on how BDP supporters react to former president Ian Khama’s new party, Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF). “If the majority of BaNgwato follow their chief, the BDP hegemony will be dented and the first past the post system will not help BDP. It is likely that the BDP already, losing numbers, will at least lose some supporters,” it emphasizes.
The report insists that the Khama factor cannot be ignored, and that although he is loathed in the urban areas, he is still popular in the rural areas, in particular in BaNgwato (Central District). It is not yet clear what impact the entry into opposition politics by Khama is likely to have on the outcome of the upcoming 2019 elections in October. However, the best case is Khama, riding on his chieftainship, will haemorrhage BaNgwato votes from the BDP, causing it the greatest damage ever. It further says that only a united opposition would be devastating and likely defeat BDP.
The central region in the country is huge and the biggest. Of the total 57 constituencies, it has 15 constituencies. In the past election, in 2014, BDP won all of them. Khama’s influence on his subjects to turn against the BDP not clear Africa report further says however, that it is not clear whether he (Khama) can influence his “subjects” to turn against the ruling BDP. “But, the politicisation of ethnicity or the ethnicisation of politics is not a good thing. It has been the foundation of Africa’s problems. However, this may not matter to Khama as the Paramount Chief of the BaNgwato,” it states.
The report highlights that although when he left office last year, Khama backed his Vice president, Mokgwetsi Masisi, to succeed him, and the relationship between the two has soured since then. Moreover, it makes mention that the jury is out on what the impact of the fallout – played out in public – between Khama and incumbent President Masisi will be. “He has fallen out with his predecessor and formed his party, the BPF; the worst-case scenario would be to add to the already divided opposition and only increase the vote split, to the benefit of the BDP,” report posits.
Khama’s legacy working against him and the opposition
But Khama was not universally loved, the report asserts while adding that he was said to be dictatorial, running the party and government as he did the army, which he headed before becoming president. His intelligence unit was widely feared and allegedly intimidated and abducted people, report continues.
It further says that he attacked judicial independence by threatening, intimidating, and even suspending judges and forcing them to apologise. He also muzzled the press with the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), arresting and detaining journalists for exposing corruption, it points out.
In addition Africa report explained that the feared Directorate for Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) arrested and detained journalists, charging them with sedition for reporting on allegations of corruption related to R250-million purchase of train wagons by Botswana Railways. Under Khama, the report asserted that the country slid into authoritarianism. “Policy decisions related to land and wildlife directly benefited Khama financially. Critics of his unfair treatment of the indigenous San – original inhabitants of the country – were intimidated if they were local and expelled if they were foreigners.”
The San themselves, it says, have been pushed off their land, which has been appropriated for mining, allocated for large-scale agriculture or for wildlife tourism – in which Khama is believed to have personal and financial interests. “Public funds have been used to build a luxurious holiday villa for Khama. The hushed whispers and grumblings were that Khama was running the country as a paternalistic feudal chief would a chiefdom, or as an army general would run his army.”
Skewed electoral system may still benefit the BDP, but not cast-iron
According to the Africa report, the first-past-the-post electoral system can help elect into power candidates or parties with very little popular support. In previous years, BDP’s support was narrow, ranging between 51% and 55% but was still kept in power. “In the 2014 election, for example, the BDP won 37 out of 57 possible seats. In numbers, 37 seats translated to 320,657 votes. The opposition and independents collectively garnered 369,595 votes translating to only 20 seats. Aided by divided, single-minded, and individualistic opposition parties, unable to come together to defeat it, the BDP successfully retained power minus “popular” support,” report highlights.
It seems preposterous that, with far fewer people voting for it than they did for the opposition, the BDP not only won 17 more seats than the opposition in Parliament but also the mandate to govern, reports highlighted adding that the skewed nature of the electoral system is what has kept the BDP in power.
“Irrespective of the allegations of vote rigging by the opposition, clearly the system is rigged. Unless it is reformed to make it more inclusive by ensuring that actual votes translate into some say in government, the BDP will continue to retain power even as the numbers of Batswana that vote for it compared to the opposition continue to dwindle.” There are many permutations, report says adding that the first-past-the-post system continues to present a challenge and unless the opposition unites as one unit and presents single candidates, it is likely to favour the ruling party.
The Tshesebe-Mosojane-Masunga road estimated costs stand at P500 million, the tender which was awarded to Bash Carriers in 2017 has not taken shape four years after the project was commissioned.
Tshesebe-Mosojane-Masunga road when it was commissioned, was estimated at P500 million in value, this included construction of 22.50km of the two lane carriage way and 28.70km of access roads including associated bridge works, cross drainage works, storm water drainage works and relocation of services.
When it was first tendered the contract was awarded to Bash Couriers but was terminated after it was alleged that the contractor failed to deliver. It was said that Bash Couriers Construction Company was lagging behind schedule.
This publication visited the sites of Tshesebe-Masunga road last year December and it was evident that the project was at a standstill as deserted machinery on site could be seen with the gravel road also in a devastating state.
Information revealed then indicated that there had been issues of mining rights for aggregates, availability of structural engineers and manpower and a criteria for awarding tender to the specific company when the contract was terminated.
In 2016, as part of the ESP projects, government funded the 25 kilometres (Km) road project to link Tshesebe and Masunga.
Construction of the road, which also connects some of the villages within the district, commenced early in 2016 and was scheduled to be completed within 18 months.
The company had done nothing when their contract was terminated with allegations that it never had the capacity to carry out the project in the first place.
The major ESP project had ultimately robbed a lot of people potential employment when it succumbed to termination.
It was then that the government restarted the tendering process.
The project was awarded to Bango Trading Company and Zebra Construction in a joint venture at a value of P319 Million Pula.
However, information reaching this publication from the Ministry of Transport and Communications confirms that indeed there are no current works carried out on the Tshesebe Masunga road.
Responding to a questionnaire sent to them by this publication through their Public Relations Officer Doreen Moapare, the Ministry indicated that the Tshesebe-Masunga road project is before the courts therefore their response is limited by such a pending outcome.
“As a background the project had been awarded to Bash Carriers at a contract sum of P400, 044,365.68 to begin the works in May 2017 and complete the project in January 2019. Scopes of works included 51.2km main road inclusive of seven access roads. Due to non-performance, Bash Carriers contract was terminated on the 25th of September 2018. ”
Further, Moapare indicated that upon termination of Bash Carriers, a process began to ensure that the development project completes.
Five companies went for a selective tendering bid which she listed as; Lobkom Investments (Pty) Ltd, Landmark (Pty) Ltd and Truck Hire (Pty) Ltd Joint venture, ACE /Excavator Hire (Pty) Ltd and Asphalt Botswana (Pty) Ltd Joint venture, Cul De Sac, Bango Trading and Zebra Construction Joint venture.
“Some companies have since queried the results of the tendering adjudication landing the issue in the courts. We are currently awaiting a ruling expected in February/March 2021, and this will determine the course of action thereafter,” concluded Moapare.
At one point last year, reports indicated that Bango Trading Construction Company had faced raiding by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security, Botswana Police and Botswana Unified Revenue Services, with allegations that there was an emerging pattern targeting overscheduled construction companies with powerful political connections.
Bango Trading Managing Director, Moffat James, was reported to have had close links to former DIS Director Isaac Seabelo Kgosi. Bango Trading and Estate Construction Company which has obtained close to P 1, 5 billion government contracts under former President Lt Gen Ian Khama has been the subject of a parliamentary probe due to the many government contracts awarded to them.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.