The Secretary General of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Botsalo Ntuane has issued the strongest indication yet that the ruling party is developing cold feet on the use of scandalous Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) in 2019.
The EVM’s were transformed from simple idea to bill and lastly into an Act of parliament in controversial fashion with the speed of light and VIP right of way. The chief opposition parties’ gripe with the election machines is concern that the ruling party intends to steal a mandate to prolong their stay in power in an election where the opposition bloc is projected to be at its peak. The unease with the voting machines is proliferated by the fact that they coincide with a time when most observers believe the ruling party is in its last days in power.
Ntuane stated at a panel discussion this week that the EVM question will be top priority at the party’s elective congress in two months’ time. The discussion was hosted by Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung and Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations. He however, repeatedly stated that he believes that the solution that will come out of the congress will be in consonance with the views of the larger public. “We have since decided that this issue will form a natural agenda at the July congress. We are flexible and we remain open-minded.”
Ntuane further described the issue as “a lightning rod that we must discuss and recognize as such because ultimately when we win as a ruling party we should win legitimately.” He continued: “From here we are going to engage. We are going to discuss. It’s an agenda at the next congress. It’s a much larger platform. Let’s go and discuss this matter. It will come to conclusion one way or the other.” “We are very much alive to the controversy but it’s a natural debate. This is ongoing but we are confident that it will be to the satisfaction of this nation. I can comment her without fear that the position we take will be in good terms with the public.”
Ntuane however sought to absolve his party from formulating the EVM idea stating that it is a conception of the Independent Electoral Commission and that they will not throw the commission under the bus in the face of vitriol. “IEC brought this idea to us; however we are not throwing IEC under the bus. We can’t disown laws passed by our own majoritarian caucus. Debates are going on inside the BDP.” IEC in the same day also sought to absolve itself of conceptualizing the EVM voting process.
When asked why the commission is hell-bent on fixing a functioning system, EVM coordinator Gabriel Seeletso responded thus: “I don’t know. Somebody who saw that it was broken decided to fix it. We only implement. That question is beyond the audience, Bharat and the commission to answer.” The Spokesperson for the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) Dithapelo Keorapetse and former Gaborone Mayor and Botswana National Front representative,Nelson Ramaotwana issued the chilliest warning as yet with regards to the use of EVM’s in the 2019 general elections.
Keorapetse stated that they are not only going to boycott elections and fold their arms but will ensure that they do not take place and that they will take to the streets. “We will not go to the polls that will be rigged and we will take to the streets.” He warned. Keorapetse also sounded the same warning in parliament recently on an EVM debate. Keorapetse described the EVM concept as ‘an unwelcome development’ which comes at a time “when the BDP legitimacy has been eroded since independence.”
He also state that the citizenry was not consulted in the introduction of the machines into an Act, something which is of fundamental importance in a democracy and matters of elections. “Democracy presupposes that people be consulted by the rulers. Real participatory democracy and not paternalistic democracy where a parent decides for the child.” he stated. He further noted that there is a factual finding in a top Indian court that EVM’s are not foolproof. Ramaotwana also wondered why government is intent on introducing the same machines that are causing strife where they originate.
He stated that the introduction of EVM’s did not follow a referendum in contradiction to a Court of Appeal ruling on general elections. “When you come up with a system that determined who gets into power, we are saying, are we going to have a dictatorship of the people in voting or dictatorship of machines.it will cause chaos in the country.” Ramaotsana said.
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.