The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) chairman of the Electoral Board, Parks Tafa recently landed in the country and he may just change the ball game as far as the party’s primary elections dubbed Bulela Ditswe are concerned.
The BDP legal guru is querying the party’s voters’ roll which is expected to be used at the primary elections. The BDP had scheduled primary elections for opposition held constituencies for 21st October but it is very likely that they could be delayed. BDP held an emergency central committee meeting on Tuesday to discuss the observations made by Parks Tafa. It was one of the rare central committee meetings that President Lt Gen Ian Khama missed. He was in Malta at the time of this meeting.
This publication learns that among some of the points he is raising is the fact that the Public Education and Elections Committee (PEEC) has no powers or legal authority to produce a voters’ roll. Following numerous complaints emanating from the voters’ rolls in the past elections, the BDP had taken a deliberate step to clean up its Bulela Ditswe. However, it appears a few steps were missed when the new dispensation was put into use. Tafa is of the view that if Bulela Ditswe regulations are to be amended then the BDP will need a Special Congress.
What has been happening as part of a calculated move to curb complaints about voters’ rolls, the PEEC had been assisting in registering party members at cell level. In the past names could just be registered at the party head office in Gaborone especially by those seeking to be voted at the primary elections. Most of those who lost the primaries queried the outcome of the primaries on the grounds that the voters’ rolls were doctored or names of potential voters were omitted.
Parks Tafa was not in the country during the BDP National Council and at the Tonota Congress. He is said to have advised that the regulations should have been ratified by congress. As the legal advisor of the party, many in the party fear that his word could become final because there is fear that after rendering such advice those who eventually lose primary elections could use this argument as grounds for appeal.
The party hierarchy is currently wrapping its mind on what steps to take, currently there are only two options – that of a Special Congress or reverting to the controversial old system of compiling voters’ rolls at the Head Office. While there are some candidates who are interested in the case where civil servants had argued their right to vote at BDP primary elections, insiders point out that it is not the biggest concern at the party, instead the procedural conundrum exposed by Parks Tafa is the real “headache”.
REPRIEVE FOR BARRED MOTSAATHEBE
But the news that Parks Tafa is arguing against the current voters’ roll could be music to Fankie Motsaathebe’s ears. Motsaathebe, who is challenging the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Eric Molale in the parliamentary primary elections in the Goodhope/Mabule constituency finds himself in a tight corner as the party alleges that his name does not appear in the current voters’ roll.
This development could mean that Molale is automatically the BDP parliamentary candidate for the constituency on a technicality because Motsaathebe, a favourite had not registered to vote. But Motsaathebe is disputing the allegation and insists that he is in the voters roll because he had registered to vote in the party primary elections. His supporters were alleging that there is a plot to bar him from contesting so as to give Minister Molale a free ride to the 2019 general election.
The Goodhope/Mabule constituency was won by the UDC’s James Mathokgwane in 2014 by 6 712 to the BDP Eric Molale’s 6 101 while Lesego Gatogang of Botswana Congress Party (BCP) only managed 717 votes. Mathokgwane was later to leave the MP position for a lucrative job of Selibe Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU) which prompted the bye election and was won by Lotlaamoreng. Lotlaamoreng accumulated 6 152 votes against Molale’s 4 372, while Comfort Maruping of the BCP got a paltry 385.
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.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.