BDP officials quarrel over dagga insult

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A senior Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) officer at the centre of the controversy surrounding the primary for the Tonota North by-election has accused the party's Electoral Board chief, Parks Tafa of insulting her by calling her a dagga smoker.

BDP Political Education and Elections Committee (PEEC) member, Lamodimo Dikomang, said Tafa used abusive language in reference to her at a meeting held in Gaborone last week to determine whether it is necessary to recount the votes from the Tonota North primary. A visibly angry Dikomang said that she was shocked when Tafa uttered the words "that I must have smoked dagga. I don't smoke nor drink, as I am a Christian. I wondered why he would use such abusive and belittling words against me. But because I was in his office, I kept quiet and swallowed his insults".

The former Francistown deputy mayor revealed that at the meeting, she disclosed that she had in her possession marked ballot papers she found the day after the results of the primary were announced. She had gone back to get something she had forgotten at the counting centre in Mathangwane when she found the ballot papers in an envelope under a table.

The politician said as far as she was concerned, she did no wrong. She insists she kept the ballot papers in her possession until the meeting in Gaborone last Thursday because she had realised that some electoral (BDP) officers at the counting centre were dishonest and had a hidden agenda. "So I decided to keep the ballot papers until I could hand them over to the Electoral Board as I did last week Thursday. The matter was discussed and after the meeting, we all decided that it would be brought before the central committee to deal with. But I was shocked to learn Tafa called a press conference where he accused me and told the media I tried to cheat," she said.

She wonders whether Tafa thinks he embodies the BDP and its central committee such that he can solely judge her actions and decide by himself to call a press conference to lambast her. "We are all BDP members. I might be poor but I deserve to be treated with respect. No one is more BDP than others," she stressed.

Dikomang said she will write a letter of complaint to the party leadership to direct Tafa to explain what he meant when he said: "I smoked dagga. Dagga is an illegal drug and what is he implying when he accuses me of smoking it?" 

Tafa has explained that he used the phrase 'that person must have smoked dagga' in reference to the person who found the ballot papers before Dikomang disclosed that she is the one. He said he did not know Dikomang before the Thursday meeting and that he did not use the phrase in relation to her.

"I was told that someone had found ballot papers and with shock and disbelief, I said that the person must have smoked dagga because I had had in my possession, for a whole week, the ballots for the Tonota North primary election. After the counting and announcing of results, they (ballots) are normally brought to me as chairman of the Electoral Board for safekeeping. I keep them in a locked safe. Besides, I didn't know that there was anyone in the meeting who had said she had the ballots. It was afterwards during the meeting that she disclosed that she is the one," he explained.

Tafa said that he would not want to be drawn into a personal feud with Dikomang as it is unnecessary and should not be used to divert attention from the real issue of the BDP official trying to manipulate the results. "That is a serious matter. It is the first time in BDP history that a senior electoral officer has been involved in such an act. We have made our recommendations to the central committee," he said.

The Electoral Board chief said he did not take the decision to call a press conference by himself. He explained that the Thursday meeting, which was attended by Fidelis Molao, whose victory at the primaries is being challenged by his runner-up Onkabetse Daniel, was also in attendance. "That lady (Dikomang) was also there. I don't know why she is now saying I took the decision alone. I had also consulted the party chairman, Daniel Kwelagobe, and later in the evening had called President Ian Khama, both of whom gave me the go-ahead to hold a press conference.

Besides as chairman of the Electoral Board, I don't need to seek anyone's permission to hold a press conference and explain our processes or whatever the media might be interested in knowing about our electoral processes.We are a transparent party," he said.

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