Gus Matlhapbaphiri certainly left without saying goodbye. It has been a dreadful week for the man in-charge of ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s election machinery. With the much anticipated Bulela Ditswe in the vicinity, Matlhabaphiri’s schedule could not have been busier. Staff Writer ALFRED MASOKOLA traces the last moments of the BDP stalwart.
The Political Educations and Elections Committee (PEEC) is definitely one of the ruling party’s most important sub-committees. It handles the thin-skinned duty of running the party primary elections, known commonly as Bulela Ditswe. Due assiduousness is prerequisite in every stage, lest things go wrong and the party is thrown into turmoil.
Since 2015, subsequent to Mmadinare Congress, Matlhabaphiri had been mandated with leading the PEEC sub-committee by the party decision making organ, the Central Committee. Matlhabaphiri was a befitting candidate, having been part and parcel of the BDP furniture for over five decades; his presence in the committee was immeasurable.
Not only did Gus know the BDP machinery, he also knew the culture and the values of the party. Gus had been retained as PEEC chairperson, following the 2017 Tonota Congress. His schedule had been busy. Almost every morning and afternoon, Gus commuted to Gaborone from his village of Molepolole for committee meetings and elections preparations.
Gus could have easily stayed in Gaborone for convenience, but he was also running for a parliamentary seat back home, hence he had to divide his time to serve the party and as well as his constituents. Having lost the constituency to Mohammed Khan of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) in 2014, keeping in touch with constituents was of paramount importance.
Ever his people’s servant, the week he met his untimely demise, a family belonging to the constituency he was eyeing had been befallen by tragedy. In a shocking incident, three of the family members, the father, mother and youngest son were killed by unknown assailants. Gus ran helter-skelter to organise resources for the family; from food hampers to anything that would be of help.
Thursday 28 June was an ordinary day. There was no reason to suspect that it was notâ€•, Gus, as routine, left Molepolole for Gaborone the same way he always did. But this time, he was not to return home to Molepolole alive. This was probably one of his busiest days of the week. His first stop was the African Mall, where he was going for a business meeting, in preparation for an application of Botswana Qualification Authority (BQA) accreditation process for one of burgeoning schools, where he happened to be a shareholder.
Next, he would be at a PEEC meeting scheduled for 11:00 am at Tsholetsa House. This would be followed by collection of donations from different charitable individuals who had pledged. His last stop at Gaborone would be at the party Treasurer, Satar Dada’s office at Fairgrounds Mall. Later at 15:00, he was to meet the Molepolole family, together with party secretary general, Mpho Balopi, who was to stand in for President Mokgweetsi Masisi.
All the above followed the script to the letter, except the Molepolole setting. A few minutes after parting ways with Dada, Gus’s health condition changed, all within the blink of an eye. As they prepared to leave Fairgrounds Mall to depart for Molepolole, GUS orders his aide, Joseph Kgarebe, known mostly as ‘Satara’ to democrats, to refuel their vehicle.
He further orders ‘Satara’ to purchase mineral water as well as tissue paper; since the previous day, Gus had been complaining of flu. He had visited a pharmacy at African Mall the previous day to try arrest the problem but it seemed the medication had not been effective. This time around, Gus’ opted for different medication in hopes that it would do better. As ‘Satara’ leaves for Choppies, to purchase water, Matlhabaphiri headed to the pharmacy in the Fairgorunds Mall. The two men had agreed to meet at the pharmacy after ‘Satara’ had completed all errands.
‘Satara’ has been Gus’ aide for some time now. He accompanied him almost everywhere and helps Gus in discharging his duties as chair of the PEEC. ‘Satara’ was essentially, GUS’ new protégé. On his return from Choppies, to meet Gus at the Pharmacy, ‘Satara’ finds his mentor not yet done. GUS sends him back to Choppies, this time around to buy a lemon, which he initially forgot to include on the earlier list.
As ‘Satara’ approaches the pharmacy from Choppies, this time around he is met by a desperate plea from the pharmacy assistant, who had just veered off the door, urging him to hurry, as Gus was not well. From a distance, ‘Satara’ sees a picture of his mentor, heavily leaning against the counter. He rushed and calls with desperation … “MP…MP… MP…what’s wrong?” Gus explains in low voice the pain he is going through. He guides him to a seat, but Gus is experiencing extreme pain.
Immediately, Satara calls 997, informing them that ‘a former minister has just collapsed’. ‘Satara’ who has experience working with medics, tried to apply the little knowledge he had to try save his mentor, but nothing he tried worked. Within a short period of time, Gus’ voice began to fade, so did his breath. Within a short period of time, he was quiet, unable to explain what he was experiencing any longer.
By the time the ambulance arrived, only some minutes after ‘Satara’ had called, it was too late. The medics tried to resuscitate him hoping their last ditch would work. As the ambulance left the Fairground Mall, ‘Satara’ exercised another option, calling Gus’ doctor based at Marina, informing him to rush to the emergency section, and to be the one assessing him.
This particular doctor had known Gus’ medical history, a heart problem to be precise. Shortly after the doctor had assessed Gus, the doctor delivered the worst news. Gus did not make it. Receiving the bad news was ‘Satara’ in the presence of of Balopi as well as Dada, who had been called in during the commotion. Gus had left without warning, not even a goodbye!
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.