TONOTA: The first beneficiary of money that was simply not accounted for but splashed out, as if it will regenerate, was Modiri Lucas, whose farm is located near the Tonota College of Education (TCE).
In preparations for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) 37th elective congress Lucas was favoured by circumstances to host the party’s elective congress.
There was no bidding but there was a host of other party diehards who had wanted to play host to the Team Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi.
This farm did not have electricity and water. But in no time, Masisi paid out money amounting to about P20,000 for water and electricity reticulation at the farm and the connections were instant.
As if the story of instant money was not enough, the shrewd businessman of Jack’s Gym and Township Rollers fame, Jagdish Shah bought quality camping tents about 500 of them estimated at about at a whopping P1,750,000.
There is another businessman (name withheld) and based in Francistown who also gave out his all in supporting the BDP with all sorts of foodstuff, which apparently had been returned after it, could not be all consumed by the thousands who had attended the congress for about three days.
Transport operators made a kill out of the party congress as a majority of delegates from 57 constituencies across the vastness of the country was transported by buses whose bill was footed by Masisi.
Villagers who helped in putting up the Camp Dubai, about 100 young men, went home P400 each richer. About 25 cows, 19 elands, 15 kudus, 15 impalas were bought and slaughtered.
Business Weekly and Review senior reporter, Keabetswe Newel is still reeling in shock after Roselyn Panzirah inadvertently opened her Gucci bag and counted about P1,000, unaware that she was sitting next to a scribe.
This reads more like a movie script, but it is real and it happened right in the poor village of Tonota at a BDP elective congress and under the nose of Newel, the scribe. This is how careless and with an ‘I-don’t-care-attitude’, Panzirah was.
“I saw a stack of money in a Gucci bag wielded by Panzirah. This was after her Masisi faction had won the position of secretary general.
I was relaxing outside the elections marquee tent, and she came out of the congress hall running and sat just next to me and she started counting the money without even caring who sat next to her,” remembers Newel who is still scared about the stack of hard cash he had witnessed from close range.
Newel joked to Panzirah in the vernacular: “Madi a o a mantsi o ntabolele foo (That stack of cash is too much, give me a little).” Panzirah responded casually: “ O tla nkgolega (You will land me into trouble)”, before stalking off with the cash.
Newel cannot make a rough estimation of how much Panzirah was carrying at the time, “but it was ordinarily too much for that money to be in her possession at that time for that matter”.
It is only that the cash lady found Newel at the spot and it was like she was in a hurry to make a quick payout to a person that Newel could not see.
“Money was in abundance to buy votes. Infact, on a Friday preceding the elections day, the same Panzirah bought beer for all those she could buy at the nightclub. Just anyone who was at the congress, they were literally spoiled at the local entertainment places including in Francistown at the Lizard nightclub,” he said.
Another journalist working for Mmegi who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed seeing a lot of money that he has only seen in that volume at a bank before.
“ I saw a lot of money contained in a light brown Gucci bag carried by Panzirah. It was a stack of money that she continued giving out to people although she is not the party’s treasurer,” declared Mmegi scribe.
Mmegi scribe would later have a bite of the BDP monies at Lizard nightclub as Panzirah spoiled a lot of them with the party money and a lot of party diehards who spent time entertaining themselves in the city.
A loser in the race for party treasurer, former Botswana envoy to America, Tebelelo Seretse may not be the right person to talk about the allegations of huge sums of money that flowed easily at the congress and used to buy votes, but she has heard the disturbing reports of votes buying.
“ I just learnt about this from amongst others the newspapers, but I wondered if it was possible for the party to raise such kind of money when the party financial status shows that we are in the red,” wondered Seretse who does not recall hearing that the party finances are okay. Seretse shared a rumour that the Masisi camp had raised about P10 million for the congress.
“If indeed that is true, then something is wrong,” she said. Her worry possibly stemmed from the fact that across the country, the BDP owns dilapidated structures, which are a real eyesore yet money is being used without prudence.
Seretse’s campaign was premised on the reality of improving the party’s properties across the country that have the potential to generate money if utilised properly.
BDP’s former, and longest serving secretary general who later became chairperson, Daniel Kwelagobe has not witnessed the real exchange of money, but was worried that if indeed money was used to buy elections, then democracy is under threat.
“We don’t have to buy people but instead people have to be allowed to exercise their democratic rights,” said Kwelagobe, responding to allegations that money exchanged hands and influenced people’s voting patterns.
Extended the right to reply, Panzirah was dismissive of allegations levelled against her pretending to be busy to comment: “ I am very busy and you are wasting my time,” she said before hanging up.
Satar Dada, the BDP’s longest serving treasurer of 26 years described money rumours as dangerous wondering where the story of money buying votes came from.
“It’s not true what you are saying. That is utter rubbish,” denied Dada although there are eyewitnesses to the bad practice.
Responding to the allegations that the BDP leadership has been captured by the businesspeople that spend their money on it, Dada was dismissive indicating that there is no Gupta in Botswana and that he will not allow it to happen.
“I can’t go to the government and start asking for favours. I am not that greedy. Masisi is a genuine politician and he is very honest and we are just willing to help where it’s possible,” explained Dada.
He dismissed it as a joke that there was rolling cash at the congress and he also denied that the Masisi team raised about P10 million as alleged although he was reluctant to state the exact amount that was raised for transparency sake.
In an earlier interview explaining why a plethora of donors put their money into the BDP, Dada said: “ As you know as the ruling party we have been doing a good job for the past 55 years and we are the best governing party in Africa so we attract attention of these businesspeople. They see the value of supporting us.”
He further explained that his relationship with the ruling party treasury is also premised on the fact that for many years the BDP government has given him and other party benefactors the requisite stability for their businesses to flourish.
As for Masisi, he sees no threat to democracy when so much money is openly used to buy people’s preferences. Cash was easily exchanged for favours at the just ended congress.
Masisi has dismissed reports of hefty amounts of money pumped into internal party elections being a threat a to democracy internal and external.
He said he did not know of any political party that has a reduced budget in its quest to “motivate” the people to vote for it.
“What we want is to do our best to treat our people with dignity. The money goes into those potable toilets which were not provided for in the past and the number of people who just come not as delegates but interested parties,” he had said without stating the source of their money and how else it was spent.
The accumulated funds from the friends of the faction helped in buying food, providing accommodation, water, sanitation and measure of entertainment to the masses, the Vice President explained.