FRANCISTOWN: Reuben Kethoilwe's persistent desire to secure a place at the council chambers finally paid off when he was voted Moselewapula ward councillor at the weekend by-elections.
Kethoilwe of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) who are now under the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) has been contesting national elections in various wards within Francistown since 1999 to no avail.
He has contested under various opposition parties since 1999. At the 2014 general elections under the BCP ticket he was destined for a triumph (at Moselewapula) but surprisingly lost to late entrant Lechedzani Modenga of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) who many pundits had thought was a weaker candidate than the former. Modenga died early this year before the end of his council term which necessitated a by-election.
At the by-elections the veteran Kethoilwe attracted 317 votes, while Gilbert Boikhutso of the BDP managed 285 and Alliance for Progressives’ (AP) Odireleng Ditshotlo came a distant third with 139.There were five spoilt votes. The election was punctuated by a relatively low turnout which was not surprising as voters are usually less enthusiastic about voting during a by-election. During the 2014 general elections 1700 cast their vote in the ward.
“I attribute my win to my revamped campaign strategy. In 2014 I never focused on youth during campaigns because I thought that they will continue with their trend of not voting. After losing the elections I did an evaluation and realised that voting patterns have changed and the youth voted in large numbers. Then, my assumption was that they voted the BDP because I and other candidates never tried to reach out to them. This time around I focused more on reaching out to them. Their response was very positive and I have got no doubt that they are among those who voted me in large numbers,” a visibly excited Kethoilwe said.
He added, “I also have experience of organising for an election than other candidates and I guess that is why I had an upper hand”.
He added that the strong backing of those he defeated at the primaries also played a key role in his win.
Heading to the by-election many pundits gave the ruling party no chance on account of various dynamics that have been taking place in recent months. To some Kethoilwe's victory also solidified the fact that the BDP often struggles in by-elections where
Where the party has held primaries it has emerged divided. Since the 2014 general elections the ruling party has not won any by-election where it has fielded a candidate who has gone through primaries. On the other hand it has also walloped the opposition in all by-elections it has gone for compromise candidates.
Some of those who lost the party primaries at Moselewapula are said to have had a strong hand in the BDP loss over the weekend. They reportedly mobilised some BDP members and encouraged them to vote the AP.
Last month the BDP Moselewapula primary election losers publicly vowed that they will do everything to make sure that Boikutsho does not emerge victorious. The rationale behind their position was that the party did not effectively deal with their protests in relation to the primaries that were “characterised by cheating”.
In addition they said that they will punish the BDP on account of appointing Francistown West legislator Ignatius Moswaane as the chief campaigner for the by-election. In the build up to the primaries some BDP members accused Moswaane of supporting Boikhutso something that they said was against party procedure.
Something that Boikutsho confirmed, as he said just moments after Kethoilwe was declared the winner, “The UDC did not work hard for this win. They were helped by our members who lost the primaries. I have strong evidence that those who lost the primaries encouraged people to vote the opposition”.
“They also withheld vital information that they got on account of working with Modenga in 2014. The information could have helped us win. I hope that the party will take stern action against those who helped the opposition. My view is that those who sabotage the party should be expelled,” added Boikhutso.
Last month Boikhutso labelled those who lost the primaries as bitter losers after they bemoaned that they were cheated.
“I have gathered a lot of experience that can help me effectively mobilise for an election in future. I picked a lot of positives than negatives from my loss,” said the former trade unionist.
There was no readily available comment from Ditshotlo or any AP representative who many believed he stood no chance of winning.