Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) parliamentary candidate for Gaborone South, Murray Dipate has expressed frustration at the sluggish pace adopted by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the Botswana Police Services (BPS) in response to complaints that he raised about irregularities that occurred in his constituency during the October 24 general elections.
Documents passed to Botswana Gazette detail how on election day at Therisanyo Primary School polling station, Dipate and one Sebapadi Baakanyang reported one Aubrey Molefhe to Naledi police after they found him in suspicious possession of voters’ cards that did not belong to him. The police then arrested Molefhe for questioning in relation to the incident and made him write a police statement. Molefhe was described as an employee in Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) candidate Kagiso Molatlhegi’s parliamentary office in New Naledi.
In an interview with The Botswana Gazette on Monday, Dipate revealed that he has long reported the matter to the police and informed the IEC that he intends to challenge Molatlhegi’s victory. However he expressed frustration with the slow pace adopted by both the IEC and the police in dealing with the matter, saying he has not received any response from them to date.
“They are taking too long to respond and the 21 days within which I should have filed a petition at the High Court will soon elapse. At the moment I am in consultation with my lawyer to map the way forward,” he said.
Gaborone South was won by Molatlhegi with 3872 votes, followed by Dipate with 3629, Akanyang Magama of Botswana Congress Party (BCP) with 2318 and independent candidate Meshack Mthimkhulu with 1475 votes. On Friday, Dipate’s lawyer, Tshiamo Rantao of Rantao Kewagamang Attorneys, wrote to the Old Naledi Police Station Commander informing him that his client considers Molatlhegi’s win to have occurred under mysterious circumstances. Rantao also requested the police to have urgently furnished him with a report on the incident including all statements and other relevant materials on or before November 5, to enable Dipate to consider his legal options in terms of the Electoral Act.
In terms of Section 117 of the Electoral Act, Chapter 02:09 Dipate is entitled to file an election petition at the High Court within 21 days of receipt by the returning officer of the return of election expenses from Molatlhegi if he is of the view that an illegal practice has been committed.
“Thus, time is of essence for our client,” said Rantao.
Asked to comment on the issue, BPS Acting Public Relations Officer Near Bagali said investigations into the matter are near completion. In a letter dated 03 November, the police also confirmed that investigations into the matter are on-going, but said they are not in a position to furnish Rantao and Dipate with the documents they had requested. For his part, Principal Public Relations Officer of the IEC, Osupile Maroba said one cannot make a formal complaint to the IEC regarding elections, but can file a petition with the High Court.
“He must push the police to give him the police report before the 21 days elapse,” he said.