FRANCISTOWN: The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) will lock horns in the Kalakamati by-election tomorrow, where a lot is at stake on either side.
The ward is made up of the three villages of Kalakamati, Sekakangwe and Mbalambi.
The BDP has fielded Zibani Mbalambi while the UDC has under its ticket, Botswana Peoples Party’s (BPP) Madumela Matebu, a former councillor for the area.
The by-election comes on the heels of the death of BDP councillor, Israel Samu nearly three months ago.
The BDP will seek to regain its confidence having lost the Phillip Matante East by-election recently.
The by-election also presents the BPP with an opportunity to flaunt the fact that it is affiliated to the UDC, where it will be eager to send a bold statement that it is in the coalition to play a meaningful role, should Matebu win.
Should victory go the UDC way, it would deal a heavy blow to the BDP’s confidence at the polls, solidifying sentiments that state power is up for grabs come 2019.
The BDP, whose fortunes have been waning in recent years, has only won once in nine by-elections held since the 2014 general elections.
There are dynamics that can influence tomorrow’s elections.
Figures favour the UDC. At the 2014 general elections, the BDP garnered 556 votes against UDC’s 434 while the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) obtained 219 votes. The BCP will now back the UDC at the by-elections, meaning that the coalition has a greater chance of marching to victory on Saturday.
The BCP has also been visibly active during campaigns in Kalakamati.
The BDP may only survive on account that voters never treat by-elections with the same enthusiasm as they do the general elections, which may change voting patterns.
Should patterns change, this may favour either party.
The BCL factor may also cost the BDP a chance to retain the ward. Government’s recent decision to abruptly close BCL and by extension, its subsidiary,Tati Nickel Mining Company (TNMC) has attracted biting criticism. The controversial closure of the mines, headlined campaigns by opposition parties in the lead up to the by-election.
TNMC sustains the economies of villages near Francistown. Come election day, the recent decision by the government may still be fresh in the minds of the voters, who may retaliate by casting their votes against the ruling party.
As for the UDC, its candidate Matebu has been heavily criticised in the build-up to the elections.
There is strong talk that Matebu, who was the area’s councillor for 15 years, failed to deliver much-needed development in Kalakamati.
On the other hand, Mbalambi is credited with good education credentials and a good administrative history that he brings from the Botswana Railways, where he held senior positions. Questions over Matebu’s past and Mbalambi’s rich resume may aso be the ticket to the needed victory by BDP tomorrow.
In fact, Matebu’s loss at the 2014 general elections is attributed to talk that he did not help develop the ward.
The UDC lost the by-elections in Sekoma
Such talk (that Matebu has not developed the ward), is also found amongst UDC members.
The BDP has a tradition of mounting very visible campaigns for any election, but this time around the party’s presence in Kalakamati was wanting.
A hypothetical analysis by Mmegi shows that the UDC has been the most visible party in the area. In fact, the BDP joined the campaign trail later, which might also affect its chances.
However, the other favourable dynamic for BDP is that Samu was a highly revered figure in the ward. He was very close to Mbalambi who he considered his advisor. It is possible that some voters may go for Mbalambi on account of his association with Samu.
The BDP was even selling the notion that voters should go for the party as a way of honouring Samu.
This week, the BDP campaign manager for the elections, Dikitso Mandevu told Mmegi that the party was unfazed by talk that it has not been visible during campaigns.
“We have changed our approach. Maybe that is why people think that we have not been visible. We have deployed a lesser number of people because we do not want to deplete our resources.
“A campaign does not need many people and hype to be a success. What is needed is a sound strategy to win an election and we believe we have the right strategy,” he said yesterday.
Mandevu also said that they might have started campaigns late,but they have covered much ground.
“For more than a week, we have been able to hold two midweek rallies, in separate villages that make up the ward, in a single day. These are some of the activities that have helped us make up for lost time,” he said.
Mandevu also scoffed at talk that the UDC has an advantage by virtue of its relationship with the BCP.
“Usually, in an election there are moments when you can feel your opponents, but with these by-election, we are not feeling the opposition,” he said.
Yesterday BPP secretary general, Botho Seboko maintained that his party was mainly banking on UDC winning the weekend election.
Seboko said that history showed that the relationship between the BCP and UDC was very effective during by-elections.
“We also have a candidate who has (a) good track record and enjoys a strong relationship with the electorates. He only lost the elections in 2014 due to voter apathy,” Seboko said.
He added: “It is only that the BDP government has sabotaged major developments in the area. There have been constant calls for government to develop roads in the area, but it has failed to do so”.
He said the BPP is confident of UDC’s victory because it has covered much ground.