BDP primaries marred by protests

The recently ended first phase of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) primary elections has stirred up animosities within the party and drawn protest from candidates whose voices include some of the party’s more prominent figures.
The casualties from the primary elections, commonly known as Bolela Ditswe, include eight Members of Parliament amongst them, two Cabinet Ministers and three Assistant Ministers.
Perhaps the biggest upset of the primaries was the defeat of Minister of Defense, Justice and Security, Dikgakgamatso Seretse after Kgotla Autlwetse emerged victor in Serowe North. It is alleged that Seretse has indeed protested his loss and according to Park Tafa, party lawyer and chairman of the electoral board, “Pitwane ward (in Serowe North) is the one affected and that means we cannot release any results until everything is finalised. At the moment there is no council candidate in Pitwane. For parliamentary candidates, it means that after the elections are held afresh and the numbers will be added to the current outcome. We are restricted from releasing any outcomes of the elections yet. We are going to hold the elections as soon as possible because we have to finish in that constituency. We will announce when in a few days,” he said.
Seretse is reportedly crying foul that one ballot box from Taukome ward appeared to have been opened prior to verification. The BDP had not announced the winner in this constituency at the time of going to press.
Dr Gloria Somolekae, Assistant Minister of Health, is also protesting in the Mmadinare constituency after Kefentse Mzwinila won by a slight margin of just three votes.
Somolekae confirmed to The Gazette that she was querying the outcome of the Mmadinare primaries.
“I can confirm to you that I’m working on my petition and will submit it to the party,” she said. Quizzed on what exactly prompted her protest, she said that she could not reveal the reasons before lodging an official complaint with the Party. “I can’t do that before writing to the Party, it will not be right for them to learn about my complaints in the media,” she said.
It was not only Members of Parliament who complained about this year’s primaries. In the Tswapong South village of Makwate, Councillor John Masala told The Gazette that the whole election process was disorganized and marred by irregularities.
“The election officers took advantage of the elderly who do not know how to read and write and manipulated the whole voting process. Instead of showing the observers who the elderly voted, as a form of verification, they just folded the ballot papers and led the elder to the casting boxes. That issue was brought to our attention by the observers and the election officers refused to address it while there was still time,” he said.
Masala said after voting was concluded, the observers raised their concerns. “From their concerns we as the candidates doubted the credibility of the voting process. We all refused that election officers could continue to count the ballots. We wrote a letter and we attached it to the boxes highlighting that we will not accept the outcome of the elections. The election officers then took the boxes to Mahalapye where we leant that they did the counting on their own. The electorate, the candidates and the observers did not witness this counting so in short, we do not recognise the outcome of the primaries in Makwate,” he said.
Reached for a comment, an election observer in Makwate, Godiraone Tidimalo said everything ran smoothly at the beginning but as the time passed, they realised that some people voted despite not carrying national identity cards, they carried membership cards only. Tidimalo said that some of the voters came with expired national identity cards.
“We questioned the election officers why they allowed people to vote without IDs and we were never given answers. Instead, the election officers ended up not talking to us even though we were mandated to observe the elections. As observers, we stand by our position that the normal procedures were not followed during these elections. We hear the rumours that the ballots were counted in Mahalapye and we question how that was possible,” said Tidimalo.
In Moletamane ward in Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture, Shaw Kgathi’s constituency, Bobirwa, protesters reportedly stormed the polling station and kicked the ballot box while election officers fled the scene. At the time of going to press, it was not clear as to what led to the violence. Voting was cancelled until further notice and the parliamentary results are still on hold.
Political analyst, Lesole Machacha said the elections were neither fair nor transparent and they must be audited. “These elections were tailor made to favour some people, yet again it can be puzzling that someone like Ramadeluka Seretse got defeated in his strong-hold. How the primaries were organised is questionable. If these results were from a fair election process, that would mean that our democracy has grown,” he said.
He further said; “BDP needs a private consultant to look into this elections to avoid further protests. If things go the way they are, it is going to cause a lot of problems and the BDP will never be united in 2014. I am anticipating an increased number of court cases if these issues are not attended immediately.”
Tafa said that he was not aware of any protests or complaints coming from the weekend primaries, but said that it was too early to dismiss that possibility.
“I think it is too early to dismiss anything at the moment because all the candidates who participated have seven days after the primaries to put through their appeals. When they appeal, they must have grounds and I think they do not want to hurry to put through the appeals before analysing their reasoning,” he said.
He said that the party procedure is that the appeals go to Regional offices “and it is quite possible that some might have done so.”
University of Botswana political analyst, Leonard Sesa said members of Parliament must be warned that nowadays electorates are not old fashioned. “These days they measure how their representative performs and act by voting during elections. In the past, parliamentarians could hold their posts until death. These days it is not the case, there are youth and they are vocal. The youth participated in large numbers in these primary elections. That means that the MPs have to deliver in the five-year term they are given,” Sesa said.