Of BDP primaries and ballot papers in the dustbin

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) held the last leg of its primary elections over the weekend where a number of party heavy-weights were red-carded by voters.

Some of those who won, their victory was not without controversy.

In Lentsweletau-Mmopane constituency, minister Vincent Seretse was announced the winner but Tsholetsa house has withheld results of the constituency following complaints of irregularities and the discovery of ballot papers in a dustbin.

FRANCINAH BAAITSE MMANA speaks to Mmuso Letlole one of the candidates campaign manager in the same constituency.

Q: BDP has withheld results for your constituency, what is your take on that?

It shows that our complaints did not fall on deaf ears.

It is a sign that the party intends to do something about the irregularities that took place over the weekend.

It gives us hope and I believe there is going to be a rerun because a recount will not work in this particular case.

Q: What went wrong?

Firstly, there was a polling station which most of the candidates were not aware of.

There was a polling station in Sasakwe, a settlement with less than one hundred people and nobody knew about it.

Of course it appeared in the voter’s roll but we expected it to be under a larger cell just like the rest of the smaller cells were, many people did not vote there and in fact were not even aware of its existence.

We do not know whether the polling station was inside somebody’s farm or not.

Q: Interesting. Is that all?

No, a lot of irregularities happened. For instance parliamentary ballot papers from Hatsalatladi ward were never counted.

I was among the last group to arrive at Kopong secondary school where all the results were to be verified and announced.

Hatsalatladi polling agents did not have transport so we had to assist them.

Ballots for council candidates were counted in Hatsalatladi, but for Parliament they were to be counted in Kopong because the polling station was the last to close around 01:00 hrs and so we left for Kopong around 03:00 hrs in the morning.

When the presiding officer arrived with the ballots, the final results were being announced.

Initially we thought the returning officer was announcing results from wards but to our surprise it was final results.

Q: What happened next?

We waited there and later dispersed because there was nothing we could do.

However as polling agents removed their bags and blankets from the adjacent classroom in preparation to return to their homes they discovered hidden ballot papers.

One lady kicked the rubbish bin out of anger and frustration and when it tilted a stack of envelops caught someone’s eye.

Upon close inspection it was discovered that used ballot papers were stuffed inside the envelopes.

As though it was done systematically, they were stacked according to candidates names, but no envelope contained Seretse’s names.

Curiosity aroused and a thorough check was done in the premises and more envelopes were recovered from under the student desks.

Q: Whose ballot papers were inside the envelopes?

Every candidate was hit, except for the winner, Vincent Seretse. We had to call the police to restore order because angry youth threatened to vandalise school property.

We also called the police because we wanted them to hold the ballots as affidavit.

As we speak now, I believe they are in the hands of the police.

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