Botswana hanging by a thread but could tip over and cause mayhem

2019-12-08 14:23

Opposition alliance leader Duma Boko says an investigation by O’Sullivan’s company uncovered massive vote-rigging by the country’s ruling party

A once stable political system of Botswana is hanging precariously, and will tip over and cause chaos and mayhem, if not properly handled.

This was a warning from Advocate Duma Boko, leader of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).

He was speaking on the sidelines of a media briefing in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

Boko, together with forensic investigator Paul O’Sullivan of Forensics for Justice, addressed the media this week.

They claimed that Botswana’s general elections on October 23 were rigged.

O’Sullivan’s company had probed the alleged vote rigging and its report would be submitted as part of a court case lodged on Wednesday, challenging the outcome of elections.

The two teamed up in April this year after O’Sullivan received a tip-off about possible vote rigging.

Boko said he also received similar information at the time.

The UDC is a coalition of three main opposition parties – the Botswana National Front, Botswana People’s Party and Botswana Congress Party.

Boko alleged that his country’s elections in October were rigged by the ruling party – the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and that 15 million pula (about R20 million) – was used to buy votes.

However, responding to the allegations, the BDP’s secretary-general Mpho Balopi said they were a responsible ruling party unlike the opposition, which seemed to want to undermine a matter that was before the court.

He said that they were careful not to do doing the same.

“The Botswana elections were declared free and fair by all observer missions. The BDP also holds the same view. However, the BDP respects the UDC’s right to approach the courts, as they have done. We have since filed our opposing papers and our lawyers will present our arguments in court,” Balopi said.

As a matter of principle and out of respect for the court process, Balopi said the party could only speak in general terms in order to avoid offending the sub judice rule.

“We however assure all Batswana and the entire world that the BDP engaged in a fair electioneering process and that our victory was the result of our timely responsiveness to Batswana’s contemporary concerns. It is well deserved,” Balopi said.

However, Boko said Botswana’s “political set up” was fragile.

“For a very long time Botswana has been known as this island of peace, as this bastion of democracy. Part of the reason is that there was no real test to that democracy. It was peaceful.

“It was happy only to the extent that the outcome of any election since 1966 was easy to predict. The ruling party was safe and comfortable,” Boko said.

there is a rotten fragility about the political set up there
Duma Boko

“But down the years, it became clear that the BDP was losing support. So realising in this year’s elections that the opposition was more organised and it was much stronger and had a solid message, the BDP realised that in order for them to remain in power they would have to cheat, steal the elections. That’s what they conspired to do and have done.

“When they realised that their time was up and that they were losing [support] in every sphere, they resorted to these tactics. That’s why I’m saying there is a rotten fragility about the political set up there,” Boko said.

He said evidence gathered by O’Sullivan showed that the directorate of intelligence and security services was involved in the running of the elections.

Boko alleged that the institution deployed its own people and state resources to pay people who facilitated vote buying.

He alleged that voters were bused, in their thousands, to vote in areas which were not their constituencies.

“There was multiple or double voting. The way the elections were conducted, it was choreographed for exactly these things to pass.”

Boko also criticised the Southern African Development Community election observers for failing to pick up the alleged irregularities.

“They have absolutely no credibility. It’s very easy for one to see why [because some of these] people come from countries where elections are routinely rigged. Even structurally, election observers come for a very limited period.

“They sample. Some of them come from places were voters are beaten up and brutalised. When they come and see what is happening in Botswana and see nobody [being] assaulted, it’s peaceful. So then it must be fair. It’s something that they are not used to. The threshold is so low that when they come and see what happens in Botswana they think it’s heaven yet there is so much fraud taking place,” Boko said.

O’Sullivan said he had kept a close watch on the Botswana elections following the tip-off ahead of the polls.

And before the polls predictions from the US, the UK, Canada and Australia were that for the first time, the BDP may lose power.

“In fact, the opposite happened. They gained more seats and that for me was a big red flag. If you add all other factors in, for example, Ian Khama, three months before the elections, abandoned the BDP and asked voters to abandon the BDP and he is the son of Botswana’s first president.

We zoomed in on a couple of whistle-blowers who have decided to come clean. They have been actively involved in the vote rigging themselves
Paul O’Sullivan - Forensics for Justice

“That should have seen a massive swing to the opposition. There was a massive swing to the ruling party [instead].”

O’Sullivan said he sent people to Botswana to start asking questions.

“We zoomed in on a couple of whistle-blowers who have decided to come clean. They have been actively involved in the vote rigging themselves,” O’Sullivan said.

He said their findings were accurate. “What we are saying is that what we’ve uncovered is a tip of the iceberg. An independent audit needs to be done to uncover the rest of the iceberg,” he said.

O’Sullivan said he had informed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s adviser about his company’s investigation and hoped that the president would be briefed.

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January 26 2020