FRANCISTOWN: Unless something dramatic and unforeseeable happens, a hypothetical look at dynamics indicates that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) might be headed for a defeat at the Moselewapula by-election to be held in a fortnight.
The BDP has fielded Gilbert Boikhutso while the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), through the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) has Reuben Kethoilwe in their corner. Odirileng Ditshotlo of the AP has also tossed his hat in. But the real race at the elections will be between the UDC and BDP who both have strong structures in the area.
History, recorded since the last general elections, shows that the outcomes of the BDP council primaries have significant influence on how the party fares at a given by-election.
Where the party has held council primaries, it has emerged divided and went on to lose heavily (at a given by-election). On the other hand where the BDP has settled for a compromise candidate, it looked more united and won convincingly.
Even though the UDC has dominated the by-elections held since the 2014 general elections, the BDP has not lost a by-election where it has fielded a compromise candidate.
The BDP has won five by-elections while the UDC has clinched seven since the 2014 general elections. Following the recent party primaries at Moselewapula, divisions within the ruling party have become greater and more widespread, which is why it is not far-fetched to assume that it (BDP) will lose the by-election.
A UDC win would even reinforce the claim that the BDP primaries are divisive and are the reason the party has often fared badly in by-elections.Those who lost the BDP primaries have bemoaned cheating. They have even made it no secret that they will not back the winner of the primaries. The losers also accused the party leadership of not giving their protest due consideration. On the contrary, the UDC primaries were peaceful and the losers have pledged their support for Kethoilwe.
The BDP members in the ward have also vowed that they will never vote the party on account of the late area councillor Lechedzani Modenga’s behaviour and seemingly lack of action by the party (against him). They also accused Modenga of deserting the ward since he was elected the area councillor, but the party never acted. The late Modenga was often in the news for the wrong reasons and at the time of his death, he was subject to criminal investigation. Even those who have long-term psychological attachment to the BDP are said to have vowed that they will not vote for the party at the by-election mainly because of Modenga’s alleged actions.
Figures attained by Modenga at the last general elections can also be reversible because of various factors. At the 2014 general elections, Modenga scooped 663 votes while Kethoilwe managed 379.
Modenga is alleged to have trafficked a sizeable number of voters during the general elections. If such claims turn out to be true, this may give the BCP an opportunity to reverse the BDP fortunes.
Former area councillor, Johnson Moremi who stood as an independent candidate, attracted 220 votes. One hundred and twenty people voted for the UDC.
The BCP is now part of the UDC, something that can significantly increase their numbers. Additionally, not all the members decamped with Moremi when he rejoined the BDP. For this reason, it is inevitable that those who did not follow Moremi might have not joined the UDC nor the AP. This might give the BCP hope to win the ward. Deploying Francistown West Member of Parliament (MP) Ignatius Moswaane to lead the BDP election campaign team in the constituency might also cost the party. Some of those who lost the primaries claim that Moswaane openly backed Boikhutso, which according to them was not procedural.
They made it clear that they will exclusively and obsessively do one thing at the by-election: make sure that Moswaane fails to win the ward for the BDP.
Moswaane is known to be a good grassroots politician with strong mobilising skills, but the BDP primaries have proven to be so divisive that the party has lost by-elections even when it had deployed its whole arsenal of star campaigners including ministers and prominent Members of Parliament.
However, all is not lost for the BDP. Kethoilwe has taken part and lost in all the general elections held since 1999. In all occasions, he contested in a new ward.
He lost three times at BCP and once at BPP. Because of his nomadic nature, Kethoilwe is viewed by some of his critics as nothing but a mere opportunist. This is why he might not earn the confidence of some Moselewapula residents at the by-election.
The man does not come through as a genuine politician, as during a recent media interaction, he merely stated political rhetoric when asked about what he intends to do for his people should he win. He just laced his speech with innovative and progressive ideas, probably already heard before. The other plus for the BDP is that Boikhutso is said to be a well-known politician who has endeared himself to the people of Moselewapula through his work in the ward development committee where he is a committee member, amongst others.
In addition, news that the BCP has given its UDC partner Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), the Francistown West constituency has irked many party members in the constituency. Moselewapula is in Francistown West.
Should the matter be handled haphazardly, some BCP members might react by not voting the party at the by-election. Already, some of the aggrieved members are said to be toying around with the idea of quitting the party as a result of the recent developments in their movement.