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Serowe voters sing the blues in the queues

MBONGENI MGUNI
Monthe says he received no help from IEC officers
SEROWE: Elderly people, community members with disability, expectant and breastfeeding mothers here rued this year’s polls, complaining officers failed to cater for them.

They feel the preparations of the just concluded national polls disregarded them.  Modiredi Monthe defined the past polls as the worst in his view since he started voting during the nation’s second polls in 1969.

He was a 14-year-old primary school pupil at Mahalapye in 1965 and by then, was not eligible to vote. After the country gained Independence in 1966, he moved home to Serowe.

He is a resident of Mmopi Ward. In his first participation at the polls, the sole polling station in Serowe was at Lady Khama Memorial Hall.

“I cast my first vote at Lady Khama and ever since then, voting has become a ritual. I have not missed a single general election,” he said.

He reminisced how in previous elections, elderly people were assisted by police vehicles to polling stations and back home and it was at an era when people were farmers based at the cattle posts.

Then, it was common practice each general election that government vehicles transported elderly people to the polling stations. Monthe lived through the leaderships of the late first President Seretse Khama, his successor the late Ketumile Masire, Festus Mogae and Ian Khama and transportation arrangements did not change until now, he said.

“In the last elections I elected Mma (Pelonomi) Venson-Moitoi and she took good care of us. She ensured we were provided with transport to the polls and back,” he said.

“Now the candidates ignored us. They just want a vote from an elderly person like me but they don’t care how we arrive at the polling station, what I eat and how I get back home. Ke gore hela re a bo re raya gore re thophe,” Monthe complained.

He also experienced a problem at Bakwena Kgari Polling Station where he was rejected

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because he had registered twice. “I registered first and mistakenly registered again in the supplementary registration having misunderstood the announcements.”

His initial registration station was Manonnye Primary School Polling Station. When he got rejected at Bakwena Kgari he was told by the returning officer that his rightful voting station would be Manonnye.

“Mothophisi o mpolella hela gore ke ye ko Manonnye a bo a kgaogana le nna. Ga re bone ba re ba thophang ba ka bo ba le ha ba re thusa. Ke molwetse ga ke ka ke ka kgona go ralala letsatsi le ka dinao,” Monthe who was eager to vote said.

Another elder, Mothanka Batsweleng who walks with the help of crutches, was still waiting to cast a vote in the late afternoon on Wednesday, four hours after he arrived at Central Primary School Polling Station.

He applauded that the returning officer had made an arrangement for the elderly voters to avoid the queue although he found it far from satisfying.

“It’s a good thing they are trying to help the elders but the problem is voting here is way too slow. As for us (the disabled) it appears there is no arrangement.

I am still far at the back of the queue.”A breastfeeding mother, Goitsemodimo Olebeng of Mothwaoeme Ward in Serowe, arrived at the Newtown Primary School polling station in Serowe North with her toddler at 6am.

She could skip the queue despite her exceptional circumstance. “Ke tshaba bone Batswana, ba omana. Batho ba dingalo. Bathophisi le bone ga ba re thuse, ba re re kope mo lineng,” she said.

She added that the other breastfeeding mothers who were also turned down decided to leave without voting. “Nna mme ke tla itshoka gone ha go hithela ke dira tshwanelo yame.”



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