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Botswana’s main opposition party, the Umbrella for Democratic Change is challenging the outcome of the October election that was won by the ruling Botswana Democratic Party. The BDP has been in power since independence in 1966 when it won the election with 38 out of the 57 seats in Parliament. An opposition party that cries foul, sounds like a story that has often repeated itself in elections not only in Africa, but also elsewhere in the world. What makes the challenge of the opposition in Botswana slightly more complicated is that it is not one of Africa’s strongman hanging on to power; the opposition in this country is backed by former president Ian Khama. Khama has fallen out with his hand-picked successor in the BDP, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and then decided to back the opposition UDC party. The UDC is challenging the election on the grounds of suspicion of double-voting by rivals. Forensics for Justice says it has evidence from whistleblowers that the 2019 Botswana General Election “was fraudulently rigged to favour the BDP” by the leadership of the party, assisted by intelligence services in the country. It is a story of missing electoral pens, creating duplicate voting cards; a job that was so boring that one whistleblower gave it to his children; queue marshals who enabled repeating voting and the involvement of an intelligence officer, called “Trouser”. – Linda van Tilburg
By Thulasizwe Sithole
In a forensic report seen by Biznews, the founder of Forensics for Justice, Paul O’Sullivan says he was tipped off before the election even happened on the 23rd of October 2019 that there were efforts to rig the election to favour the BDP. He decided to contact the leader of the opposition in the country, Advocate Duma Boko to inform him of the information he had. At this stage O’Sullivan was not at liberty to reveal his sources as the whistleblowers chose to remain anonymous.
With former President Khama backing the opposition, all indications were that Botswana was heading for a hung Parliament as it appeared that the ruling party, the BDP did not have enough support. But the BDP managed to secure a convincing majority. Forensics for Justice were then contacted by a group of whistleblowers who confirmed early suspicions that the BDP had with the help of the country’s Police and Intelligence services described as captured, rigged the elections.
The conclusion is based on three sworn statements by Dikabelo Selaledi who said he was promised a position by President Masisi as a ‘nominated councillor’ that would have paid him Pula18,000 a month after the election; Moemedi Dennis Baikalafi who worked in the BDP Communications Office and Emmanuel Seretse Mohalodi, who is a BDP Team leader.
Selaledi described how he “loaded about 10,000 duplicate voters and created the same number of duplicate cards” on a laptop that was “lent” to him by an IT manager of the country’s electoral commission. As the task became too much for him, he even got his children to help him fill in cards. These unsigned, duplicated cards where handed to BDP team leaders. Selaledi had received Pula50,000 in successive e-wallets supplied by the Secretary-General of the BDP, General Mpho Balopi to pay off the IT manager at the electoral commission. His evidence also included paying bribes to Church members and soccer teams, and he talks of the use of thousands of Chinese phones “to prove people voted for the BDP when casting their second vote.”
Baikalafi confirmed some of Selaledi’s claims that IEC officials were “recruited” to help the BDP to “win” the elections and that they were paid between P2,000 and P5,000 each. Baikalafi also described other practices to rig votes including the use of so-called queue marshals who were supposed “to hold places for 50 or more voters at a time” so that they could repeatedly vote. Busses, tents, food and accommodation were discussed to enable voters to go to the polls.
He also revealed the absence of electoral pens which are used to prevent double voting. According to Baikalafi “intelligence funds were channelled through dummy companies set up” by Brigadier Peter Fana Magosi, the Head of Botswana’s Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services. As proof of his claims against the BDP, Baikalafi has supplied copies of e-payments and he has handed over 40 pages of names of duplicate voters. He has also “supplied his cell phone with the password for forensic downloading.”
The third whistleblower, Mohaladi has corroborated Baikalafi’s and Selaledi’s evidence and he also claims that vote-rigging was supported by Balopi and the BDP Chairman, Mr Tsogwane while the intelligence services helped to co-ordinate on a regional level. Mohaladi also mentions an intelligence officer named ‘Trouser’ who was involved in central region coordination. He “lists at least 20 locations where vote-rigging took place to his knowledge” and how the country’s electoral commission assisted in vote-rigging. The names of IEC officers who were involved in facilitating the rigging have also been supplied by Mohaladi. Mohaladi also revealed an Intelligence slush fund used to carry out the vote-rigging exercise that amounted to Pula15m.
Forensics for Justice founder Paul O’Sullivan has examined the predicted results for the Botswana elections and the actual results that were achieved and says the seats that are being challenged by the opposition party corroborates with what the whistleblowers have said. O’Sullivan believes there is evidence of fraud, corruption and money-laundering and “there can be no reason other than fraud, why the intelligence services were involved in the elections.”
Recommendations by O’Sullivan includes that a proper audit of the election needed to be performed overseen by an independent body. If their findings “are confirmed by the audit, the results should be nullified and criminal charges preferred against the leadership of the BDP, who were engaged in election rigging.” It is also recommended that a new election with proper oversight and the full use of electoral pens at all stations should take place. “Those involved in vote rigging should face criminal sanction and be banned from future involvement in the electoral process.
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