The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) primary elections saga took a different twist two days after the announcement of Thapelo Olopeng as the winner in Tonota North.
The ink had barely dried before Pono Moatlhodi complained of the many irregularities among them that many members were turned back at polling stations because they did not have membership cards or their names didn’t reflect in the voters’ roll. But most shocking is the revelation of unused cards, which were destined for Tonota East, but the box in which they were kept was discovered in Tonota Central. The latest is that Tonota Primary school received unexpected visitors composed of both the law enforcement agencies and politicians after a box full of BDP memberships cards was found in their hall, which was used for counting ballots three days earlier.
The box was allegedly discovered by the school head who immediately informed both the Councillor of the area, Botho Ntirang who is among those who have lost as well as the Tonota Constituency chairman, retired Major Bayendisi Thabano. Upon hearing that the BDP faithful thronged the primary school and some allegedly found their membership cards, which were not there during the election. An argument ensued, as to what action to take, and it was ultimately decided that the police be called in to get the cards for further investigation. Botswana Guardian team found the thousands of membership cards together with an envelope containing some receipts which allegedly belong to the election winner Thapelo Olopeng.
Both Ntirang and Thabano confirmed the incident. One of the candidates who lost in the council ward elections for South East ward Lapologang Moilwa said that he has seen some membership cards of his supporters.
“The cards were found in my area and we suspect something sinister took place, as they appeared to have been lost and found property. They will be kept in police custody with the hope that the constituency committee will call the democrats for a brief. Otherwise some of us especially those who have lost remain worried that our democracy is going down the drain,” he said.
He wondered how party that runs government could fail to run its own elections? Ntirang opined that the irregularities were dragging the party’s name into disrepute. For his part Major Thabano was shocked at the discovery of the box because as the regional leader “I was involved in loading of the material as well as cleaning the area. But what surprises me most is why is this box found three days later?”
Ntirang remained suspicious and has reservation because of the invoice that was found and had the name of Olopeng on it. For his part Olopeng confirmed having heard about the box as he came to Gaborone on Sunday in order to attend the Central Committee meeting. He said it is his belief that the alleged invoice or quotation that was found with the box is an old quotation that has nothing to do with elections and must have fallen during one of the errands he made to the area as he had used it to scribble something on the back.
Thabano corroborated the story saying the alleged receipt is a quotation Olopeng got from Sua Pan on 17 November 2011, and Olopeng used it to write the names of the polling stations at the back. Tonota Police Station Commander, Supt. Robson Maleka confirmed that they attended the case and have since taken the BDP membership cards into safe custody. Maleka could not be drawn to discuss the matter further. “We are still investigating,” he said.