The circus that was the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) primaries is far from over as the party may find itself in a predicament of primary elections rerun in some constituencies . Currently, the electoral board has ordered a repeat of elections in some wards following the discovery of a controversial clause in the rules and regulations.
The clause 9(f) which has rekindled the hopes of the Member of Parliament for Serowe South, Ramadeluka Seretse, provides that, “where an irregularity has occurred or the process of election has for unforeseen circumstances failed in any polling station there shall be a re-election in the whole ward if it were an election of a council seat or re-election for the whole constituency if it were election for a parliament seat.”
If the BDP electoral board interprets the clause to mean that a re-election at ward level for parliamentary elections necessitates re-election in the whole constituency, the ruling party will have to conduct reruns in the Serowe South and Ngami constituencies because of controversies in Patikwane and Sehithwa-Kareng wards respectively. This is likely to further divide the embattled party which has emerged disunited from the primaries which saw many incumbents including ministers trounced by youthful and new activists.
One such case is that of Kgotla Autlwetse who recently won Serowe South against Ramadeluka Seretse and whose victory hangs in the balance after the said clause was invoked.
“As usual when I am winning they break the ballot box and destroy the ballot papers. The same scenario happened in 2003, and there was a rerun after I won with a margin of 21. There were five contestants at the time including myself. After the rerun was called the other four contestants pulled out of the race. I was now faced with Seretse and he won the constituency with a margin of 27,” he said.
Autlwetse said what is happening currently happened again 2009 in Topisi. “They destroyed the ballot box and then it was decided that Moromabele and Topisi ballot box be counted again and the numbers were added to other numbers from other wards. Seretse was declared the winner. I then wrote to the Regional Office that there were irregularities in Topisi and I asked for a re-run. The Regional Office turned me down at the time and I left the issue as it was,” Autlwetse noted with sadness.
He added that the same scenario is repeating itself in 2013. “Today the same thing has happened in Taukome. I still have to respond to the rerun letter I received this morning. And I will be writing the response this afternoon (Monday) therefore I am restricted to say much on the current situation.”
Asked why he keeps on contesting in the same area though he is continuously faced with same obstacles, Autlwetse said he knows he has the support of his constituency. “That is why I continue to contest. That is my constitutional right. The BDP constitution allows everybody to contest,” he said.
Political analyst Lesole Machacha said BDP primary elections will never be fair until the party engages independent person(s) who do not have interest in the conduct of the elections because the central committee can influence the outcome.
“In Seretse’s case we understood that in other wards the numbers have been balanced and they are ok except for Patikwane ward which the minister is protesting. The returning officer said it was not necessary for the rerun in all the wards except for the affected one,” he said.
Machacha said the way he sees it, the rules and regulations of the primaries must be followed and that will be fair, “but at the same time it means any candidate in other constituencies protesting the outcome may take Seretse’s route and the party will be forced to conduct reruns in all the constituencies. I have a mixed feeling about this section. You can look at it from the feelings perspective and conclude that it is not fair but if a rule is there, it must be followed whether it is fair to other people or not,” he noted.
He said a rerun may confer advantage on minister Seretse. “He could use time and resources to traffic people from all over the country. If the rerun is allowed, it will not be a surprise if Seretse wins it. There is a high chance of the outcome not being fair.”
Another political analyst Olerile Kobotlo said before the party can consider a rerun it is important to consider cost implications. “If you look at the people who ousted the big giants, most of them are new comers and in terms of financial muscle they are low compared to the ministers and MPs. It will be unfair to them if the party calls for a rerun,” he said.
Kobotlo doubts that there will be a united BDP to 2014 whether there are reruns or not. “I have to state that the BDP lead by Guma Moyo is being pampered,” he said.
Kobotlo said to a certain extent the electoral process is not fair, “A rerun sometimes is a move for people with power to save their allies. They are not based on democracy or intra- party democracy but just to save certain candidates,” he said.
According attorney Kgalalelo Monthe, the clause is unambiguous and suggests that reruns are imminent.