The controversy surrounding the ruling Botswana Democratic (BDP) Bulela Ditswe primary elections continued to play itself out on Wednesday as the Special Committee appointed to hear the appeals convened the hearings in the absence of key persons.
The committee sat for close to five hours to entertain an appeal lodged by Tonota MP Pono Moatlhodi in the absence of the winner of the primaries in the constituency, Thapelo Olopeng.
Francistown East MP and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Phandu Skelemani who protested his loss in the same inner-party polls to Buti Bully, also did not attend the hearing.
The reason for Olopeng’s absence remains unknown. Skelemani is said to have had to cut his holiday break short to attend a meeting of the United Nations.
His wife represented him at the hearing.
Olopeng’s absence denied him the opportunity to clear his name over a box, which was allegedly found at Tonota Primary School in Central Ward containing some voter registration cards and documents believed to belong to him.
The box has been kept by the police for safe custody and was supposed to be brought in as part of evidence A record 17 witnesses, whittled down to 13 after others were disqualified, were called to give evidence.
The Francistown Regional Committee, which covers Tonota, had recommended that Moatlhodi’s protest be forwarded to the Special Committee.
Botswana Guardian has established that all concerned parties were notified of the appeal meetings in writing or by telephone.
This publication was however unable to confirm with Olopeng if he had received the notification, save to learn that he is outside Gaborone on holiday.
Contrary to earlier expectations, there were only two appellants from Tonota - Moathodi and the incumbent Councilor for Mabesekwa ward, William Botlhe Selei, who lost to his estranged cousin, Lone Letlamo, under allegedly controversial circumstances.
Other complainants like the former Francistown regional chairman and Tonota Central Councilor, Botho Ntirang had a change of heart at the eleventh hour.
BDP Secretary General Mpho Balopi said that he was not privy to information relating to who attended or missed the sessions.
Although the outcome of the appeals hearings remains a closely guarded secret, there is a high possibility of the Special Committee recommending a re-run in the Mabesekwa ward after Letlamo confirmed that gates of the polling stations were closed before the stipulated time, amongst other things.
The outcome of the appeals will be made official within the next 30 days.