Court of Appeal (CoA) has this week put to bed opposition parties’ 2019 general elections rigging claims by dismissing the last case on the matter as appealed by former Councillor for Mosolotshane/Morolane in the Shoshong constituency, Mogalakwe Mogalakwe.
When delivering the judgement this week in Gaborone, the presiding Judge, Justice Lakhvinder Singh Walia, upheld the verdict of the High Court. “The application is dismissed with costs, including costs of Counsel,” he stated.
The Judge further added that: “In the end results, Mogalakwe has failed, in my view, to provide any exceptional circumstances accounting for the delay, nor very strong prospects of success.” The CoA justified the previous High Court ruling: “The decision of court a quo to dismiss the petition was based on findings of fact and credibility. It is trite that an appellate court will not disturb findings of fact or credibility by a trial court unless such findings are manifestly wrong or result from a misdirection.”
According to Walia, there is no mention whatsoever of violation of any constitutional provision. “I must say at once, that the raising of section 65A of the constitution in the notice of appeal is a disingenuous afterthought,” he lashed out. This comes after another opposition, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) had also appealed the High court verdict that dismissed their contestation of the outcome of the said recent national elections.
Both parties had cited massive irregularities in some constituencies in some parts of the country which contend tilted the election results in favour of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). Following the matter, the appeal was later launched which was premised on the ground that the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) was in breach of its constitutional mandate to conduct a free and fair election.
Mogalakwe had lost elections in the Council ward representing the Alliance for Progressives (AP) in which the BDP through Kesebelwang Gaarongwe won the elections with 674 votes slightly ahead of Mogalakwe with 637 while Lucas Mokalake of the UDC trailed behind with only 72 votes.
Having lost with a slim margin, Mogalakwe then forged ahead to launch a protest to the results at High Court, the mater which was then dismissed by three panel of Judges; Omphemetse Motumise, Itumeleng Segopolo and Gaolapelwe Ketlogetswe.
Before the court a quo, Mogalakwe had sought court to declare the election held on the 23rd of October 2019 for Mosolotshane/Moralane ward in the Shoshong local government as irregular, null and void and not in compliance with the Electoral Act of Botswana, Cap 02:09. He also wanted court to set aside the election, and direct a re-run of the election within 60 days from the date of the order.
Mogalakwe complained about canvassing for votes at the polling station in which he said he got information from a source he did not disclose, and that a certain Kaudimba made a report to the presiding officer.
The second complaint, the Judge narrated, was about thunderstorms on the day of the voting, which prevented some voters from casting their vote and the election officers not having made adequate arrangements for their protection from the elements.
“The third complaint related to absence of adequate lightning during the voting process, a cadac lamp having failed and cell phones having to be used to provide lighting,” Walia pointed out. He further said that the fourth complaint was about lack of assistance to illiterate and disabled voters, and this related to inadequate training of electoral officers to assist non-Setswana speakers and deaf/mute voters.
He then observed that, “the next complaint was about the denial by the court of Mogalakwe’s request to call two additional witnesses who had not been listed in the list of witnesses provided to the court.” The Court of Appeal further explained that the other complaints were about the failure to enforce the law against canvassing within 200 metres from the polling station and the breach of section 121 (1) of the Electoral Act.
The case marks the end of the road for opposition in Botswana with regard to their vote rigging claims over the highly contested 2019 General Elections. In the matter, Advocate Patrick Kgoadi represented Mogalakwe while Advocate Otsile Rammidi and Lesego Babitseng stood in for Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and Busang Manewe and Itseng Mothibamele for Kesebelwang Gaarongwe and Lucas Ehutsahetse Mokalake respectively.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.