Following the much publicised narrative that the newly-formed Botswana Patriotic Front(BPF) was barred from using Tsholofelo Hall for their meeting on Saturday, it has emerged that actually the party never made a booking to use the facility.
If anything, according to gathered information, the Gaborone City Council (GCC) employees were misled by the person who booked the hall earlier last week. The hall was purpotedly booked for use by the BPF but mysteriously shut down on Saturday morning when the party’s meeting was due to start. Curiously, Maharaja Conference Centre was immediately available for use by the BPF.
It is not clear who exactly booked the hall, the official response is that a lady who only identified herself as Disoso – her real name known to this publication – approached the City Council to make the booking. But BPF Convener and Member of Parliament for Tati West Biggie Butale says the hall was booked on Monday and paid for by their member on Tuesday. Asked to say who paid, he said:
“I think it was our Roselyn Panzirah who went to pay, the revenue officer did not ask her what kind of a meeting it will be, and she too did not tell them what kind of meeting it would be,” he said.
Butale adds that they did not experience any problems until Friday evening when the City Clerk, Lebuile Israel called Panzirah enquiring if it was true the BPF had booked the hall and what they were going to use it for.
This is because, according to Israel in a separate interview with The Midweek Sun, there was no written information on the City Council records suggesting that the BPF had booked the hall for Saturday. The City Clerk says he was only prompted to ask when on Friday evening he saw announcements and invitations on social media saying Tsholofelo Hall, a facility under his care, would host the first meeting of the BPF on that Saturday, when the City Council had no such record supporting the booking – hence his call to the party officials to enquire.
Israel says the booking record they had for a Saturday morning meeting on June 8, which was also paid for and receipted, was by an individual who had given the impression it would be for a small private gathering, not a political party meeting. There was not even any mention of BPF on the booking and receipt book. It is because of this false information that the City Council Management then called the BPF convenors to tell them that they would not be allowed to use the hall as the right procedure was not followed.
He said by law, where “political parties make requests for use of community halls, there is need for submission of a permit issued by the Botswana Police Service which will inform the Department responsible for bookings of these facilities, of the nature of the meeting to be held as the Public Order Act Chapter 22:03 states.” Such police permit was not availed. The order states that any person who wishes to convene a public meeting or to form a public procession within a controlled area shall first make an application to the regulating officer of the area concerned. This procedure, according to Israel, was flouted.
However, Butale gave a different version, saying the City Clerk asked if Ian Khama would be there, and that if so, they would not be allowed to use the hall. Asked to clarify further, Butale could only say to this reporter, “O motona o itse se ke se rayang.” (You are an elder you know what I mean.) He said this led to Panzirah calling the Mayor, Kagiso Thutlwe, who told “us that there is no such policy and gave us the go ahead to use the hall.”
Butale said on the strength of the mayor’s confirmation they then went to clean the hall and arranged the seating arrangements only to return in the morning to find the placed locked down. Butale said they had to move to Maharaja where they immediately started their gathering. He could not field more questions as he said he was going into a meeting with H.E. (former president Ian Khama) and promised to call back.
Curiously, yesterday Mayor Thutlwe and Israel co-authored a statement in which they clarified that they only got to be aware on Friday evening after working hours that the said booking was for a political gathering, and that it had not met set requirements as proper procedure was overlooked. According to the response, these requirements are for purposes of ensuring that government procedures are followed especially in terms of security provision.
Responding to claims that the City Clerk was acting on instruction not to allow the BPF access to the community hall, the GCC responded: “We wish to reiterate that the Town Clerk did not act on any instruction but rather in accordance with procedure as per the Public Order Act Chapter 22:03 cited above.”
Regarding the statement that certain individuals were denied entry into Block 6 Park, GCC clarified that the park booking “was never made and this was confirmed by the area Councillor.” GCC said that all Batswana citizens and any other persons requesting to access and use its facilities including community halls are allowed to do so for as long as the right processes and procedures have been followed, reads the statement co-authored by the Mayor and the City Clerk.