Ahead of the impending BDP Bulela Ditswe primaries in opposition held constituencies, it is apparent that the ruling party is set to capitalise on the cracks in the opposition collective under the guise of the Umbrella for Democartic Change (UDC), especially after the split of a UDC partner Botswana Movement for Dermocracy (BMD). In a series of analyses Staff Writer, RYDER GABATHUSE and Correspondent, SIKI MOTSHWARI JOHANNESS analyse minister Eric Molale’s suitability as an unopposed BDP candidate for 2019 general election
The 2019 general election promises to be the most gruesome the country has ever had. It is going to be a do-or-die for the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). If for the past five elections the BDP could afford the luxury of taking the opposition for granted, this time around it can only do that at its own peril. Alive to the looming danger, the BDP has decided to go on the offensive in opposition held constituencies on a date to be announced after a recent postponement.
Early primary elections will be held in some constituencies while in others compromises will be clinched. Never short of controversy, the BDP’s Bulela Ditswe primaries has attracted controversy again before it could even start in opposition held constituencies with some section of the party challenging the participation of civil servants in the party internal democracy.
Though infested with its own flaws and limitations, Bulela Ditswe represents an attempt on the part of the BDP to ensure that those vying for political office do so with the consent of fellow democrats. It is a system that perpetuates and promotes democratic credentials. However, it has become a common practice for political parties to sacrifice inner party democracy on account of political expediency.
Recent by-elections have seen a rise in numbers of the so-called consensus (unelected) candidates on both sides of the aisle. This is a worrying and retrogressive phenomenon as it clearly tramples upon the very principles of democracy which have seen Botswana attracting accolades regionally and abroad. If as a nation we seek to uphold democracy as a viable and legitimate instrument in the settlement of political questions, then all activists across the political divide must rein in their respective parties to allow democracy to be the ultimate judge. Sadly, party leaders with the support of the rank and file are settling for cheap political scores at the cost of democracy.
Consistent with the emerging trend of consensus candidate, the BDP is reportedly settling for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration minister Eric Molale for the Goodhope-Mabule constituency. Prior to this compromise, the nation awaited with bated breadth for an appetising epic battle between the ageing Molale and the young Fankie Motsaathebe over the constituency. However, behind the scenes deals have taken away the excitement that comes with Bulela Ditswe competition.
Motsaatshebe is believed to have been persuaded to yield and grant Molale a blank cheque to run unchallenged for the parliamentary office.
“My stepping down from the race for thre BDP ticket for Goodhope-Mabule was voluntary. Look, this issue of party unity, I personally take it seriously. Irrespective of who has won, this Bulela Ditswe divides the party,” Motsaathebe confirmed his voluntary exit from contesting the BDP primaries race this week.
Really the stakes are high. The opposition appears to have tightened its grip on the constituency. The BDP is not only contending with the might of the united opposition under the guise of the Umbrella for the Democratic Change (UDC) but also with royalty in Goodhope-Mabule. In the last by-election the UDC strategically deployed Kgosi Lotlaamoreng II who won it for UDC with relative ease. Lotlaamoreng, in his maiden appearance for the UDC, had garnered 6,152 votes to Molale’s 4,272 votes whilst the opposition Botswana Congress (BCP) represented by Comfort Maruping settled for a paltry 385 votes.
Attempting to dislodge a chief from his constituency (his subjects) has always proved an insurmountable task. The experience of former president the late Sir Ketumile Quett Masire in Kanye where he lost his constituency to Kgosi Bathoen is instructive.
Prospects of BDP victory in Goodhope-Mabule constituency are slim. Gone are the days when the BDP brand on its own did wonders. The electorate used to vote anybody standing under the BDP ticket without much scrutiny. Now under the current political climate, the calibre of the candidate is an issue. If the BDP is seeking to reclaim the constituency, it must back and rally behind a strong and appealing candidate. The big question is whether Molale is the right candidate for the job or is an act of folly which the BDP will live to regret?
After the 2015 by-election necessitated by the abrupt resignation of former UDC MP James Mathokgwane to join the corporate world, which Molale lost, a quick evaluation blamed a number of factors for Molale’s loss.
By stature, there is no doubt that Molale was more prominent but still lost to a political rookie, Kgosi Lotlamoreng of UDC. Molale was born in Phitshane-Molopo. What possibly continues working against him are reports that because of his work commitments in the civil service, he spent more time in Gaborone than his home village to the chagrin of the people.
Molale’s 2015 by-election loss amounted to rejection of the BDP’s head honchos, particularly President Ian Khama and Vice President President Mokgweetsi Masisi because they were the chief political salesmen who failed to sell him to Barolong. Their efforts to sell Molale before the 15,874 people who registered to vote in the 2014 general elections, backfired as the constituents were not convinced that Molale was the right man to represent them in Parliament despite his civil service credentials. It was during his reign as the Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) that a serious rift emerged between the BDP government and public servants. During the public sector industrial action in 2011, government poured scorn on workers’ demand for a 16% salary hike.
The government’s blatant refusal to at least meet the workers demand half way is attributed to his failure as PSP to dispense good counsel to the President at this critical moment. It was while at the helm of the public service that government took a more bellicose approach towards the workers as evidenced by attempts to undermine and emasculate trade unions’ collective bargaining powers. It seems the workers do not like Molale and he does not like the workers.
Those who could have entertained hopes that his switch to politics will bring about a change in his demeanour and disposition could not have been more dead wrong. There is no visible distinction between Molale the civil servant and Molale the politician. Expectations were that he will exploit his powerful portfolio of Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration to thaw relations with the working class. But the stark reality is that he did very little to win the confidence of the working class.
Deputy secretary general of BOFEPUSU, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa was scathing is his condemnaton of Molale’s arrogance this week.