The Member of Parliament for Lentsweletau-Mmopane constituency Hon Vincent Seretse has thrown a heavy ball into the court of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Central Committee which it may not be able to return if his largely legal appeal is anything to go by. Hon Seretse has in my view lodged a formidable legal appeal which is not only compelling but has shed a strong light into how other candidates in other constituencies may very well have been short-circuited, wittingly or unwittingly, by the very clear processes and procedures articulated in the party constitution let alone the Electoral Appeals Board headed by Rre Peter Siele. It appears all that could possibly go wrong has indeed gone wrong with the BDP as a political party firmly caught between the rock and the hard place in so far as ensuring that its own instruments meant to deal with its internal challenges like the bulela ditswe have somewhat been thrown at the back banner. But with the compelling and attractive legally strewn case Hon Seretse seems to have built, does he have reasonable prospects to overturn all that is before him to ultimately win the bulela ditswe contest once and for all? This conversation dear reader, seeks to answer this question.
Mmegi newspaper dated 5 October 2018 reported extensively on the appeal by Hon Seretse to the Executive Committee in two headlines: ‘I was cheated’-Seretse and ‘Electoral Board’s tragedy of errors exposed’. I am relying on the reports under these headlines on the assumption that they are the true reflection on the appeal papers by Hon Seretse. Before dwelling on the appeal itself, one should ask why there appears to be flaws in the management of the overall bulela ditswe processes and procedures given that there appears to be straightforward and unambiguous rules of engagement thereto? The answer couldn’t be far-fetched from the perception-cum-‘reality’ that deliberate efforts to disadvantage other candidates through some nefarious machinations could have been orchestrated by a hidden, ‘unofficial hand’ somewhere in the party. Surely, some authority in the party should be able to quickly detect and determine that a party rule has been breached or not as soon as a matter is brought to the attention of such authority. It would appear that some if not all party structures right from the regional committees up to Tsholetsa House are not, with respect, able to comprehend the dire consequences of ‘short-circuiting’ party rules. Back to the subject matter in earnest.
Hon Seretse argues that no complaint either from the returning officer or his fellow candidates in the August 25th 2018 elections in which he won by a thin margin of 45 was ever raised in writing to comply with Section 12 (b) of the BDP Constitution under Appeals. Yet and this notwithstanding, the Appeals Board Chairman Rre Siele ordered a re-run under the pretext that he (Rre Siele) had contacted the Chairman of the party Rre Slumber Tsogwane who in the context of Hon Seretse’s argument, was deemed to have been the Executive Committee. Hon Seretse argues rightly or wrongly, that the Chairman is not the Central Committee. Food for thought!It is important to note that Hon Seretse’s main challenger, Mmaetsho Nnaniki Makwinja immediately challenged the legitimacy of the bulela ditswe process the minute the results were announced highlighting the many irregularities. It is therefore not correct from Hon Seretse that there was no complaint from his fellow candidates. What he could rely on may be is whether Mma Makwinja’s complaint was properly lodged within the stipulated timeframe. If the complaint was lodged out of time, Hon Seretse could reasonably claim that the August 25th 2018 result stands and that he is declared the winner.
Another piece of BDP instruments mentioned by Hon Seretse and according to Mmegi, is ‘Clause 12 (h) of the party Constitution’ with respect to which structure has the authority to order a re-run should it be desirable to do so. Before such re-run is ordered argues Hon Seretse further, the regional committee would have made its evaluation subsequent to which a recommendation would be made to the Central Committee. It is apparent that he has, like other candidates who have lost, lost all the respect of his regional committee hence presumably, his resolve to take the Central Committee head on. Now that a re-run was ordered by the Appeals Board itself a substructure of the Central Committee (and won by Mma Makwinja), is another re-run ordered by the same Central Committee possible? It is not possible if it can be demonstrated beyond any shadow of a doubt that the first re-run fully and strictly complied with the Constitution of the BDP together with the legal framework of the Appeals Board. But is this the case? Hon Seretse doesn’t think so hence the current appeal.
Is Hon Seretse’s appeal likely to succeed or not? I have stated above that Hon Seretse is mounting an attractive and compelling legal case which on the surface, should be enough to get him his prayers. Ordinarily and in agreement with the grounds currently raised by Hon Seretse, one would expect that the Central Committee through the Appeals Board would have satisfied itself that issues raised in such grounds were dealt with to determine whether the first re-run was required or not. It is almost a given that the decision to order the past re-run was largely not informed by factors Hon Seretse now wants considered. And I am saying this on the basis thatwhile Hon Seretse is raising a fundamentally legal case given his reference to legal provisions of his party’s Constitution, he is appealing to a largely political structure which may not necessarily be legalistic in its approach like a court of law would. That is, political decisions taken to resolve a political matter like the subject matter are in most instances political in nature to derive a political outcome convenient to the party. A perfect example is the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) suspension of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD)wherein legality it could be argued is not the issue to the former but to the latter. I have always felt that politics and the law (given the unfolding events and decisions across the political parties) is like travelling on a straight road that splits along the way where political decisions would offend the law and the remedy thereto is to approach courts of law. Politicians particularly at the party level structures where political issues confront themdo not always make decisions based on any form of rationality at least to the neutrals.
In the circumstances, Hon Seretse will be advised to be prepared to take his matter to court for recourse should he muster the courage to do so. This could purely be on a point of principle that some wrongdoing was committed which consequently caused irreparable harm to his political career or that he wants to revive such political career. It would appear both are his immediate priorities.That said, one does not see the prospect of the Central Committee bending hard enough if at all to order a second re-run because it will certainly lose the little credibility it still has in the eyes of its members and the general public. If Hon Seretse’s prayers succeed, it could reason that other appeals, and while not necessarily submitted onsimilar grounds to his, could nevertheless compel the Central Committee to apply the same template whereupon a few if not all other re-runs could be on the offing. Should this be the case, the already toxic and contaminated post bulela ditswe environment would be further intoxicated and contaminated to the detriment of the BDP going into the 2019 general election.
Hon Seretse has in my view upped the ante to keep his political career on course with his compelling argument. But is he prepared to muster the courage to go where eagles dare to save his political career like Hon Tshekedi Khama did recently, or is he going to grow cold feet as soon as the Central Committee refuses to grant him his prayers should that be the case? If he is in the good books of the powers that be, he might opt to hold his horses for opportunities of public office are galore as long as the BDP is in power.Judge for Yourself.