FRANCISTOWN: In Botswana, as is the case with most African countries, people who live in rural settlements tend to stick together unlike their kith and kin in urban areas.
But that norm was thrown out of the window when the election of Tati Siding village deputy chief, which was scheduled for Thursday last week, was postponed again (for the third time).
The post of headman of records is a new position, according to Kgosi Simon Nkgageng of Tati Siding.
There was an uproar at the village’s main Kgotla as the beleaguered election was postponed again for the third time.
Villagers had gathered at the Kgotla as early as 7am hoping that as the morning wore on, they will exercise their constitutional right of voting for their headman of records, but that was not to be.
In the morning, residents of Tati Siding thronged the Kgotla but as the day went by, the numbers dwindled to negligible proportions, which led to another postponement of the election to April 27.
The decision to postpone the election was taken by the residents following a unanimous decisdion.
The villagers said that if many people take part in voting for the headman of records, it would give the incoming deputy chief a semblance of authority over the people because he or she would be voted by scores of residents.
From the beginning, the election of the deputy chief of Tati Siding was fraught with controversy.
In December 2017, the current chairperson of the village development committee (VDC) Kopano Maruping, who is also one of the people who have publicly expressed interest to stand for the elections, was voted by the villagers to deputise Nkgagen, but was barred from ascending to the post because of a past criminal record.
After Maruping won the election, tribal authorities advised him to apply for a presidential pardon which he did later.
According to the Bogosi Act, a person who shall resume chieftainship duties shall have no criminal record.
In the case of Maruping he said: “In 1984, a charge of common assault was laid against me. It was in relation to an incident in which I assaulted a boy who had stolen our family donkey. The police took my fingerprints, but I was later acquitted and discharged of the offence…
“Even though I was discharged of the offence, I heeded the advice of the tribal authorities and on December 27, 2017, I wrote a letter to the Office of the President (OP) asking to be pardoned…”
Nkgageng showed The Monitor a letter of pardon from the OP, which legitimised him to enter the fray to contest the election.
The letter dated March 27, 2018 from Anthony Dijeng on behalf of the permanent secretary to the OP partly reads: “… I am directed to inform you that your request for presidential pardon has been successful. His Excellency the President of
The letter continues: “The gravity of the presidential pardon restores to you civil liberties such as the right to work and the right to hold public office, amongst others, that you lost as a result of the offence for which pardon has been granted”. Before the election was postponed, some villagers were overheard saying that political considerations were hindering the smooth holding of the elections but they did not elaborate that claim further. Be it as it may, if political considerations take centre stage in the election, they have the potential to tear the usually close-knit community apart.
This will obviously not bode well for the development of the village.
Around 11 am, tribal authorities called the few people who remained to gather inside the Kgotla, after droves of the residents left because there was no sign that the election will take place.
This was compounded by the fact that tribal authorities who were entrusted with conducting the elections were uncommunicative, not informing residents if the election will go on as scheduled or not.
Onneetse Rakoma, tribal secretary of the North East began by telling the residents that the government was not going to impose its will on the people whether the vote will take place or not.
She said that it was the people who will take that decision before giving the stage to villagers to decide if the vote shall go ahead or not.
She informed the residents that the reason why the election will begin late was because they were still waiting for the district commissioner of North East District who unfortunately told them that he could not make it to Tati Siding because he was indisposed.
Dipotso Amos said that she did not agree with those who said that the election should go ahead because the few people who were at the Kgotla could not make decisions for the majority.
Her sentiments were echoed by Chandapiwa Baliki who said some people who wanted to push their agendas wanted the election to continue while it was clear that a few people were left in the Kgotla unlike in previous occasions when the Kgotla was filled to the brim.
However Aubrey Motlhabane and Meshack Mungero wanted the election to continue because not holding it will set a very bad precedent because the election may not take place again in future at a date that will be set.
However, at the end of the tempestuous meeting where unpalatable words were occasionally bandied about, cool heads prevailed and the election was postponed to April 27.
The authorities agreed to the residents’ request for maximum publicity of the election to avoid further postponement.