Massive vote rigging uncovered in Botswana elections, claims opposition leader

Polling officers are waiting with ballot boxes ahead of the counting at the Gaborone City Council Hall for the Gaborone Central constituency, in Gaborone on October 23, 2019. / AFP / Monirul Bhuiyan

Duma Boko says: ‘The alarm bells were ringing from the start when all the results were coming in.’

Leader of Botswana opposition coalition, Umbrella for Democratic Change, advocate Duma Boko, claims there was massive vote-rigging and fraud during the past Botswana elections by the leading party, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), to favour the current president, Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi.

This has also been uncovered by South African-based Forensics for Justice, headed by Paul O’Sullivan, during his investigation into the issue.

Addressing the media in Melrose, Johannesburg, on Thursday, Boko said his party delivered a successful campaign which delivered a win for the Umbrella for Democratic Change.

But, he said, this win was stolen from them “through electoral fraud and massive vote-rigging that took place and the outcome in constituencies that were held the Umbrella for Democratic Change were outrageous where the ruling party was whitewashing the opposition”.

“The alarm bells were ringing from the start when all the results were coming in,” Boko said.

He added: “It became apparent that something had gone wrong, terribly wrong.”

Boko explained that once he suspected wrongdoing he approached O’Sullivan.

O’Sullivan said there were a few reg flags which pointed to government interference in the elections and a “well-organised vote-rigging process”.

He has so far gathered enough evidence to bring before the Botswana courts.

He explained that in 2018, a decision was taken to cease the use of inedible ink pens to save costs for 2019 and that this allowed the electorate to vote more than once.

“We were then able, through the evidence we obtained, to discover that at least… ten thousand addition voters registration cards were manufactured,” he said.

“We received these voters’ registration cards from the person who made them… in fact, the process to make them was so great that he was having his children fill in the details from his house in the evenings because he couldn’t keep up with the workload.”

When his investigation was complete, O’Sullivan said his recommendation includes “a proper independent audit of the elections and it needs to be formed urgently. The audit itself needs to be overseen by an independent body”.

“If the findings are confirmed by the audit… the results of the election should be nullified, and criminal charges preferred against the leadership of BDP who were engaged in election rigging.”

One member of the BDP, Moemedi Baikalafi, provided a sworn statement as part of O’Sullivan’s investigation which details “first-hand knowledge of how the Botswana 2019 elections were rigged to favour Masisi”.

Baikalafi details how the rigging was pre-planned during a meeting between Masisi and senior party members including himself.

During this meeting, he says, Masisi expressed his concern that he would lose the upcoming elections.

He says they were told to “come up with a strategy that would ensure Masisi’s election as President of Botswana in the 2019 elections. It was clear that the instruction from Masisi was ‘win by any means'”.

The phases of this plan included bribing and recruiting Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) registration officials, the rigging of voter registration cards by the IEC officials, and the trafficking of voters to different constituencies who were then given these registration cards to vote again.

“We had expected the elections to be free, fair and the outcome to [represent] of the will of the people of Botswana,” Boko said.

“Where there is any indication, based on solid evidence… that shows that there was massive vote-rigging, it certainly becomes the responsibility of anybody who comes across such information not only to expose that fraud but also to share it as expansively as possible with other, in particular, any other body that has an interest in ensuring that the will of the people in any country is properly expressed,” he said.

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