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Electoral Board’s tragedy of errors exposed

STAFF WRITER
Seretse PIC: KENNEDY RAMOKONE
The challenge to the Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Central Committee against the decision of the Electoral Board by the incumbent Member of Parliament for Lentsweletau-Mmopane constituency, Vincent Seretse, is likely to open a Pandora’s box regarding the breach of rules and regulations guiding that party’s primary elections that took place during the last cycle of Bulelwa Ditswe.

Seretse is demanding that the results of the first Bulelwa Ditswe held in that constituency on August 25 be upheld as the legitimate results, a plea that he made even before the re-run that was held two weeks later.

Section 12(b) of the BDP constitution, under Appeals states that if there is any complaint regarding the conduct of the primaries the complaint will be lodged within seven days of the announcement of the results. In the case of Lentsweletau-Mmopane a re-run was ordered without a written complaint from any of the candidates. As if that was not enough, the re-run was ordered by the Electoral Board, a structure of the party which is not mandated to make such a decision. According to clause 12(h) of the party’s constitution the determination that can result in a re-run being declared is the province of the Central Committee. This was not done in the case of Lentsweletau-Mmopane.

The grievance procedure as outlined in the party’s guidelines is such that the complainant must route their complaint through the Regional Committee, which does its own evaluation and then makes a recommendation to the Central Committee for the final decision. This was not done in the case of Lentsweletau-Mmopane. The Regional Committee was completely cut out.

The practice in the BDP is that when there is an allegation of wrongdoing, an investigation is carried out to establish the facts. If it is established that indeed there was breach or an irregularity, the Party can order that a re-run be done. In the case of Letsweletau-Mmopane there was no investigation done.

The re-run was ordered on the basis that someone had reported the following morning that there was a sealed box that was found with ballots, and on the basis of that, without any tested evidence, the Electoral Board questioned the integrity of the election.

It

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would be interesting to know if the alleged wrongdoing was of a criminal nature or not. If it was criminal then it should have been reported to the nearest police station. Without an investigation report the Electoral Board is unable to say with any certainty what exactly happened.

Having said that, even if an investigation was done and established wrongdoing, the practice in the BDP is that, if a re-run is ordered it will only be confined to the specific ward that is affected, as opposed to doing it for the whole constituency. That was not to be the case in Lentsweletau-Mmopane as the re-run was done for the whole constituency.

Another sore point in this saga is that in its haste to “correct” the “wrong” the Electoral Board gave candidates seven days to prepare for the re-run, which was obviously too short a time. The party’s guidelines state that “adequate” time will be given to prepare for elections.

The results that were announced following the primary elections that were held on August 25 were as follows: V. Seretse – 1,514; N. Makwinja – 1,469; C. Letlole 779; M. Sebego – 227; B. Molefe – 215; R. Mokopaina – 171; and P. Manthe 165.

Mmegi is reliably informed that during the verification exercise that followed the final figures had Seretse lead by 1,798 votes followed by Makwinja with 1,576 votes.

These figures were confirmed in the presence of the returning officer, Andrew Bosilong, the Branch chairperson, Sekhala Ramphala and members of the Electoral Board.

All that was brought to nought, when the Electoral Board ordered a re-run, which was held on September 8 on the grounds that “there were irregularities in the manner in which the elections were conducted” on August 25. 

The subsequent round of primary election was won by Makwinja.



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