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Villagers on the warpath

RYDER GABATHUSE KOKETSO KGOBOGE
Palapye villagers at the main Kgotla PIC: KOKETSO KGOBOGE
PALAPYE: The replacement of the Palapye Development Advisory Trust (PDAT) was the trigger for a militant campaign by villagers in which a ballot box was stolen.

Coupled with that, a senior district official denounced for abusing his office and dividing the community.

In January 2020, the chief executive officer of what was to be renamed the Palapye Community Development Trust (PCDT), David Jibajiba, proposed elections for members of the new Board and released a shortlist of 10 contestants.

His list, documented in a letter dated January 13, included two members from the outgoing PDAT board, former chairperson Comfort Molosiwa and former Board member, Benson Bojong.

That was a red rag to a bull. The villagers objected strenuously that there were “irregularities and a breach of the deed of trust” and laid down a tough set of conditions.

They petitioned the district commissioner’s office for the shortlist to include women, people living with disabilities and youth, with a clear quota for each. Furthermore, they demanded that an advert for candidates should be viewed nationally for at least 14 days.

The petition also required the candidates’ list to be flighted publicly on all Palapye’s public notice boards, including that of the District Commissioner and the main Kgotla. The trust started complying. They wanted the vetting process and composition of the vetting team to be transparent and open to the public for scrutiny and for the outgoing Board chairperson’s report to be made public at least 30 days before the Board elections.

Contrary to that, Deputy district commissioner Odiseng Moruti turned down the first petition, arguing that the PDAT’s deed of trust had been followed to the letter.

On the day of the election at the main kgotla, Moruti, who is an ex-officio member of the Board by virtue of his position, overruled the petitioners who still opposed the elections.

The election went ahead – but was abruptly halted when some residents stole away the ballot box. A new date was set for February 12. Moruti called a kgotla meeting on February 7 to

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clear the air. At the occasion, the villagers stuck to their guns, forcing the authorities to withdraw the shortlist and re-advertise.

They also wrote to Moruti complaining that he had abused his office, attaching a link from Mmegi Facebook page to a video of his performance at the meeting.

They also complained that the DC’s office did not promote unity, respect and integrity and that Moruti’s response was “corrosive and … detrimental [in] dividing the community”. In the letter, they also complained that Moruti dismally failed on several occasions to account by providing minutes of meetings, as well as the agenda and details of the vetting panel and process that produced the 10 shortlisted candidates.

They accused Moruti of ignoring a community’s request to recall and re-advertise the nominations to ensure that the deed of trust was followed and elections conducted freely and fairly.

The letter also said Moruti’s response to the petition was “unprofessional”, that he had acted in “bad faith and abused his position”. The letter further called for him to recuse himself from the election.

In yet another development, at a kgotla meeting that annulled the election, Umbrella for Democratic Change councillor Jordan Makhura rejected claims that PDAT Board chairperson Comfort Molosiwa had delivered a chairperson’s report last year at the Palapye Administration Authority.

“We have been kept in the dark about issues of the trust,” he said.

“The deed of trust doesn’t recognise councillors. Issues of reports delivered to the council (sitting) are false. We have never discussed nor heard about the chairman’s report,” he declared.

He was supported by Botswana Democratic Party councillor, Onkemetse Kgotlaetsile for Lotsane on the position regarding the non-submission of the report by the chairperson.  “I suspect people who claim to have presented a report to a full council wanted to use the council name to hoodwink the community,” suggested Kgotlaetsile without elaborating.



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