Battle for F/town mayoral positions in full swing

Francistown City Mayor Godisang Radisigo
Francistown City Mayor Godisang Radisigo

FRANCISTOWN: The battle for the mayoral positions of the City of Francistown (CoF), are in full gear.

While scores of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) councillors have confirmed that they will throw their hats in the ring for the positions of the first and second citizens of “The City of All things Precious”, as Francistown is also called, the current mayor, Godisang Radisigo, and his deputy, Ramolotsana Gaethusi, are still keeping their cards close to their chests.The contest for the coveted mayoral positions will be decided in June.

While the expectations of some people is that the contest for the mayor’s chain would naturally attract hordes of aspirants in the 24-seat CoF council chambers, which consists of 19 and five elected and nominated councillors respectively, only two, Radisigo and Eric Mabengano have set their eyes for the top seat.

The council is dominated by BDP councillors with 12 and three elected and nominated councillors respectively.

After the 2019 general election, the ruling party had a total of 14 councillors but now has 12 following the defection of councillor Kago Philime and Otsile Moses to the UDC.

The duo is elected and nominated councillors respectively.

Philime and Moses were following the footsteps of Francistown West Member of Parliament (MP), Ignatius Moswaane, after the latter’s defection to the UDC.

Moswaane had accused the BDP of corruption and poor governance amongst a host of maladies.

However, even in the aftermath of Phillimeme and Moses defecetion to the UDC, the BDP also gained Lillian Griesmier from the Alliance for Progressives (AP).

Traditionally, opposition councillors (both elected and nominated) never take part in the mayoral elections. They usually spoil their votes or abstain from voting. The BDP normally holds a caucus to determine who should be elected for the mayoral positions a day or few days before the mayoral elections. However, an exception happened during the last mayoral elections when some voted with BDP in an effort to oust Radisigo.

The Radisigo coup d'état bid occurred following quid pro quo deal between some BDP and opposition councillors.

The opposition was promised the deputy mayoral position but in the end, people who were voted during the BDP caucus prevailed albeit with small margins.

When asked about whether he was contemplating to defend his position, Radisigo said that only BDP councillors will give him the go ahead to contest or not.

“I am yet to decide if I will defend my position because I have not yet met and briefed my fellow BDP councillors about that issue. They will give me the go head regarding the issue you are asking me about,” said Radisigo.

For his part, councillor Mabengano, who is said to be also eyeing to be the next city mayor briefly said: “I will declare my intention of whether to contest or not after the BDP sanctions that we may publicly declare our intentions.”

In the same vein, Radisigo would not deny or agree if he was contemplating to defend his position.

“The elections are going to take place in June and when the time is right I will inform you,” he briefly answered. Down in the pecking order, Griesmier is among civic leaders who have stated that they want to have a bite of the cherry for the title of the second citizen of the CoFC.

The only aspirant among the men said: “Yes I will try my luck for the position of the deputy mayor.” Another challenger for the position, Gilbert Boikhutso, echoed Griesmier’s words.

“I will try my luck. Forward ever backward never,” he politically stated quoting Kwame Nkurumah, first Prime Minister and President of Ghana.

For his part, specially nominated councillor Modiri Lucas also confirmed that he is going to throw his hat in the ring. “I am willing to serve the people of this city as a deputy mayor. I hope I can deliver in terms of the developments of this city by working hand in hand with my colleagues from across the aisle,” a hopeful Lucas expressed.

While the contest for the position of the mayor has attracted only two contestants and a few BDP councillors for the deputy mayoral position, a source privy to the underground campaigns for the positions said in the scramble for the mayor’s post, Radisigo has an upper hand over Mabengano.

“Radisigo is has an advantage over Mabengano. The number of councillors who have promised him their votes is significant. In the battle for the post of the deputy mayor, the real contest will be between Griesmier and Lucas. Griesmier has a slight advantage because of the gender card. However the contest is balanced and may go either way,” the source revealed.

The source added that there is more than meets the eye to the campaigns.

“Some politicians who aspire to become legislators after the 2024 general elections are using the elections to position themselves for Parliament. Behind the scenes, money has been doled out to the councillors not to vote for certain councillors who are considered heavy weights for the parliamentary seats in looming BDP primary elections next year. A lot will be at stake during the upcoming mayoral elections. However, politics is a very unpredictable game and surprises may also emerge,” the source said.

According the source, Radisigo is believed to have made in roads to defend his seat and has allegedly entered into a marriage of convenience with Lucas to be his vice.

“The duo campaign on the basis that because Mabengano and Griesmier are both from Francistown East constituency, it would be unfair for the mayor and his deputy to come from the same constituency. Hence Lucas who is from Francistown South is widely favoured to be next deputy mayor in spite of the gender card that those who want Griesmier to be the deputy mayor are using as her campaign strategy. Lucas is said to have four votes from Francistown South that Radisigo badly needs to retain his seat.”

The source added that although opposition councillors do not traditionally take part in the elections of the mayoral polls, their votes are also crucial to who will ultimately win.

“Since a secret ballot is used, aspiring BDP councillors may also canvass for votes in the opposition camp. Their votes may determine the mayoral contests.”

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