- Pre-meeting clashes ensue as suspicions set in
- Gripen jets, EVMs, Constitutional Review, all party conference revival on the agenda
- OP cancels Saleshando’s meeting with Masisi at last hour, invites other opposition parties
- President Masisi says Botswana election integrity is at stake
President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s envisaged meeting with the opposition parties’ leaders has already attracted controversy and political conflicts two days before the scheduled date following suspicions that he is using it as a political strategy amidst opposition chaos, to portray himself as a tolerant and unifying president, sources say.
Those close to the issues suggest that the move was used to steal Botswana Congress Party’s president Dumelang Saleshando’s one on one opportunity with Masisi and turned it into a Masisi-Opposition gathering. Opposition leaders are currently embroiled in a war of words and have not yet met to plan for the scheduled meeting.
While the presidency has revealed that Masisi has invited opposition parties, leaked conversations suggest the truth of the matter to be that the BCP is the one which initially requested for a meeting with Masisi and was given a July 2018 date as shown by a Short Messaging Service-SMS from Masisi’s private Secretary Bezark Maphakwane.
The BCP wrote to Masisi on the 13th of June 2018 saying they request to meet with him on matters that concern the party and the nation.
In the said letter leaked to this publication, BCP party president Saleshando says, “the key specific issues that we would like to discuss with you concern the following, the Electoral Amendment Act, that introduced Electronic Voting Machines and repealed supplementary registration, the need for all party conference to be convened, planned military expenditure for new fighter jets, legislative agenda and oversight and corruption and as well as review of Botswana constitution.”
In an interview with this publication, Saleshando confirmed that there was initially confusion on the matter and that he raised the issue with the presidency and has thus allowed it to settle. “We as the BCP wrote to the presidency requesting for a meeting on specific issues to be discussed and our request was successful only to be snubbed on the eleventh hour where I was told that the matter has now been broadened to include other opposition members. We do not have a problem with that but we had specific issues as the BCP and the whole thing appears to be a political strategy,” he said.
Masisi’s private secretary had responded to Saleshando in an SMS- saying, “Good morning Mr Saleshando. Please take note that HE will meet you on 5th July 2018 in his office at 1130 am. He expects the meeting to be a one on one between him and yourself. Thank you sir, Maphakwane/Senior Private Secretary to HE.”
Following that, Masisi somersaulted and decided to broaden the invite to other opposition parties in what appears to be a political strategy to portray himself as a tolerant and unifying president, sources say.
The office of the president then wrote a letter dated 28th June as a follow up to their SMS to Saleshando informing him that the president has invited him to a meeting with other members of the opposition leaders to dialogue on matters of national interest. In the said letter no explanation is given as to what happened to the initial one-on-one meeting.
Saleshando says this was wrong and should be corrected. “We can’t be playing politics every-time even on serious matters,” he said further adding that there were specific issues that the party wanted to discuss with Masisi as an individual party and not opposition block.
The Minister in the presidency Nonofo Molefhi confirmed that the displeasure has been raised with him but said he was not in a position to speak on the matter as the issue at hand falls under the private office of the president.
“I informed Saleshando and the BCP that I will express their concern to the relevant officers and have a discussion with them on the matter,” he said. Maphakwane’s contact rang unanswered at the time of going for press.
Addressing members of the media yesterday, Masisi revealed that one of the matters to be discussed at the Thursday meeting with opposition parties leaders is the controversial electronic voting machine which is expected to be used at the next elections should the opposition parties lose their bid to stop the process.
Masisi made these revelations yesterday when briefing members of the media. “The invitation to opposition party leaders is part of our efforts to build national unity and coherence and one of the issues to be discussed there is obviously the electronic voting machine,” he said.
He brushed aside criticism that the machine is being imposed on the nation. “There have been numerous consultations on that matter. Go to parliament and access the Hansard. The independent Elections Commission-IEC has also done exhaustive consultations around the country hence the development,” he said, further saying the machines were envisaged to counter against counting delays, modernise the voting process and avoid many other issues associated with the traditional paper system.
Opposition leaders of the four opposition parties are questioning lack of consultation on the introduction of EVMs saying they have always been consulted on political reforms. Botswana Congress Party (BCP) is currently suing the IEC on the matter.