FRANCISTOWN: A fight for the control of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has ensued in the Francistown region as the party goes to the weekend regional election at Adansonia Hotel.
Last week’s plea by BDP chairperson, Slumber Tsogwane calling for a compromise, especially in the crowded race for the position of chairperson, where there are five contestants, hit a snag. Party faithful chose to go for the elections as a decider. Already, the BDP family has been polarised by the party’s presidential race, which brings the incumbent President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Serowe South legislator, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi face-to-face.
Five branches that make up the Francistown region are expected to slug it out for the region’s office bearers. The Francistown region is made up of Tonota, Tati-East, Francistown-East, South and West. By yesterday, all the party branches had elected delegates to Kang for the rather highly-contested positions ahead of the interesting genesis for the elections of party president. On paper, all the five Francistown region branches have allegedly elected delegates loyal to President Masisi. But, given that Tonota, Tati East, Francistown East and West have a leaning towards former president Ian Khama and by extension Venson-Moitoi, the reports are doubtful.
Between the two presidential candidates, Khama has openly endorsed Venson-Moitoi after his fall out with his protégé, Masisi post his presidency after April 1, 2018. Given the background that exists in his constituency of Tati-East Samson Moyo Guma, a self-confessed Venson-Moitoi ally who is almost a godfather in his area because of his financial muscle is highly influential.
It brings to the fore the debate of doubt about Masisi supporters dominating in the branch.
Francistown-West legislator, Ignatius Moswaane, a Khama/Venson-Moitoi ally is highly influential in his area and losing a battle is not part of his political nature raising surprises about reports of pro-Masisi delegates vanquishing their competition this week. At Francistown-East legislator, Buti Billy may be loyal to Masisi but has linkages to Khama and by extension Venson-Moitoi, just like Tonota MP, Thapelo Olopeng a known Khama faithful.
Yes, it is Francistown-South, which has been showing total support for Masisi led by its parliamentary candidate, Modiri Lucas.
Given these dynamics, there seem to be a ‘stealth operation’ to give the pro-Masisi camp a false hope that they go to the regional election in the lead when in fact, they have challenges.
Given that there are no permanent enemies nor foes in politics, the weekend BDP regional elections may be full of surprises, especially that President Masisi took his chances Wednesday afternoon to plead with the party faithful to vote for Team Masisi. Masisi met the Francistown region at a time when tempers were already flaring after his VP Tsogwane failed to convince party diehards to settle for a compromise.
The crowded race for the party chairpersonship has six contestants including the incumbent Baemedi Medupe, city mayor Sylvia Muzila, Botho Ntirang, Setshege Tapela, Ford Moiteela and Tebogo Duna.
Medupe, Duna, Muzila, Ntirang and Tapela are reportedly promoters of the pro-Masisi camp whilst Moiteela, a Guma acolyte is a Venson-Moitoi faithful. With five out of six contestants from the pro-Masisi axis, there is likelihood of split votes, which might benefit Moiteela.
Another interesting development is the fact that three out of the six candidates are from the Tonota branch, which suggests that, the Tonota constituents wants to conquer the region.
City mayor, Muzila and incumbent chairperson Medupe headline the list of the contestants. The challenge for Muzila is that she has never asserted herself within the party and the region in particular. She has never been considered a grassroots politician. Additionally, her rein as the city mayor has often attracted controversy.
Muzila has often been at the receiving end of the ruling party factional fissures in the Francistown City Council (FCC) chambers and her fellow party councillors have on several occasions made attempts to dethrone her as the mayor only to be saved by technicalities and party head honchos. It is not far-fetched to assume that the negative publicity she had attracted might work against her.
In the past, Medupe has proven himself as someone who possesses the mastery of winning internal elections, but this time around he may not make it on account of having Masisi acolytes already crowding the chairpersonship race. Late entrant, Tebogo Duna is also reportedly amongst those contesting for the position of chairperson but is unlikely to make an impact. Duna is relatively new in the BDP as he is amongst newly recruited cadres from the opposition Botswana Congress Party.
Attorney Motshegetsi Masoba and Douglas Letsholathebe from the pro-Masisi axis slug it out for the position of secretary.
Meanwhile, Medupe declared yesterday that all preparations for the congress billed for Adansonia Hotel have been completed. He said that they expect around 150 delegates to grace the conference. As part of his campaigns, Masisi is billed to officially open the Francistown region congress.