Big winners and losers

Boko, Butale and Gaolatlhe all lost their respective constituencies. PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES
Boko, Butale and Gaolatlhe all lost their respective constituencies. PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES

Big winners and losers in the 2019 general elections.

LOSERS 

DUMA BOKO

The ‘Gladiator’ has fallen much to the astonishment of many, including friends and foes. This is a man in whom many people had invested a lot, in terms of resources, goodwill and of course emotions. He is the leader of the largest opposition party in the country, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). This is a man who, arguably, pulled the largest crowd by a political party in the history of Botswana only last Saturday. 


It was at his launch last week that he had an ‘Obama’ moment, as he introduced his family and mother to adoring fans and supporters as they chanted “Boko, Boko, Boko”. It was a feeling out of this world! That moment is still trending on social media platforms to this day. 

But alas, four days later the man they like to call by his initials, ‘DGB’ or MminaThoko, has fallen from grace. How cruel fate can be! This particular episode in his life could provide exhilarating content for scriptwriters for the next blockbuster ‘The Rise and Fall of DGB’. This is a man who had so much going for him. He had promise as a politician. He has the looks. He is an orator and thinker, and always captivated his audience, save perhaps for some, for that fateful televised presidential debate! And this may have been Boko’s undoing, his lack of Wisdom of Solomon, and perhaps, emotional intelligence. 

He modernised the UDC and was able to mobilise resources from different quarters, enabling the party to compete favourably with the overcapitalised BDP during elections such as the ones we just had. 

But even as he tried to take the party to the next level, and project it as a viable contender and challenger for State power, he did not always take others along with him, as his detractors were pulling him down. His association with Khama, in particular could have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. It should not be a surprise if the party bays for his blood and ask him, and his entire central committee, to step down following this disastrous performance.

 

NDABA GAOLATHE 

Perhaps as maverick politician, Phagenyane Phage of the UDC, once said the affable, urbane and nerdy Alliance for Progressives (AP) leader, Ndaba Gaolathe, was not meant for the rough and tumble of opposition politics. 

The televised presidential debate held last week endeared him to even people who had never heard about him before. He did all the right things that one should do in a debate of that format. 

He was likeable, and any family sitting in their lounge or living room together watching the debate could connect with him because of his charm, composure and temperament, even when under pressure.  He is the ideal brother-in-law! 

It was expected, especially by Facebookers that being that kind of person, who tackles issues and not the opponent, voters across the board would vote for him as a cross-over candidate. But that was not to be. 

Unfortunately, politics, as they say, is about power and control of resources, and hence, dominated by men, because it is characterised by grit and aggression. And it would help him a lot, if he still wants to be a politician to be more spirited and assertive to gain more traction with voters.  

Most importantly, Gaolathe’s and others’ departure from the UDC to form the AP in 2017 dented their image in the eyes of many, and they were not going to forgive them for that. Many people had a sense that they were cheated, and given the opportunity they would punish them. The AP has a stigma of being a party of sissies who are always running away from bullies. This is why it is not growing. 

Like Boko, Gaolathe is still young and has an opportunity to bounce back one day, even if it means in a different party. The country needs him. And who knows, he could become a specially elected MP, and maybe, end up as our next Finance minister in President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s new Cabinet.

 

DORCAS MAKGATO 

Dorcas Makgato will always be remembered as the courageous woman who stood up to the bullying tactics of the Khamas. She has balls! And she was prepared to take the bull by its horns. She was also prepared to take a bullet for her boss, which is a mark of leadership. 

Makgato stood up to be counted and was not ready to trade-in this republic for a monarchy. She has affirmed the right of every Motswana to aspire to be what they want to be including becoming the president of Botswana. And she must be commended for that.  

Needless to say, Makgato is a big gun in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). She is the president of the Women’s Wing of the party, and that gives her immense influence in the BDP.  

Makgato is a woman of substance. The nation did not only get to know about her through politics. By the time she was roped into politics she had already distinguished herself in the corporate world and sports. Unlike most of our politicians she did not join politics because there was nothing going for her. And wherever she was she left a mark as someone who delivers. Even as a minister she was one of the most effective Cabinet ministers. 

Her tiff with the Khamas may have cost her the constituency. She fell on her sword for daring to challenge the Khamas on their turf. But she did it for principle, and because, as far as she was concerned, it was the right thing to do. 

We have surely not seen the last of Makgato. Do not be surprised if she comes back as a Specially Elected Member of Parliament. She deserves it because she has proven that she adds value. She brings something to the table.

 

PHENYO BUTALE 

Phenyo Butale, the secretary general of the AP, has also fallen. Elections can be cruel. It is not always the best candidate who wins. There are other variables at play in a political contest beyond one’s control. If one asked the people of Gaborone Central what kind of representative Butale was, they would most likely say he was receptive, consultative, and effective.  

But they did not vote for him because he most probably belongs to the wrong party. He should have known though, going into this contest that it was going to be doubly difficult for him, facing the ruling party, and a UDC comprising the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and the Botswana National Front (BNF).  

Hence, it was rather surprising that during the radio debates he tended to waste too much time fending off the UDC candidate while treating the BDP candidate with kid gloves. He should have known that the biggest threat to him was posed by the BDP, because they only needed to maintain their 2014 numbers, while UDC had to compensate for the votes that went with AP.  

As fate would have it, they have both lost, and the person they left unmarked pipped them to the post. 

Butale and his members of the executive committee, Gaolathe and Wynter Mmolotsi, have to decide whether AP is a viable project going forward or not. If they, and their members decide that it is not, they must disband it and join the BDP. If they decide to retain it then they should affiliate to the UDC.

 

WINNERS  

KENNY KAPINGA  

Kenny Kapinga is the new-kid-on-the-block in the arena of politics. A decorated policeman, he has had an illustrious career in the police force, although he was shunted to foreign service as the country’s high commissioner in Zimbabwe. This was after he was overlooked as a substantive police commissioner, which he was in line for. 

Kapinga, also a lawyer by profession, stood up against the fiery streetwise Bagalatia Arone who ascended very fast in Cabinet to become minister of Basic Education. 

Arone defected from the UDC a few years ago to join the ruling party. He should have known that Batswana do not take kindly to politicians who run away with their votes.  

He was disingenuous in the first place to do so, because the Okavango, since the days of the late Joseph Kavindama, has always been an opposition stronghold.  Kapinga like a great chess player made the right move at the right time, and he won the prize. 

 

ANNA MOKGETHI 

Anna Mokgethi’s victory must be the sweetest one. She has redeemed herself. She was being dismissed as a perennial loser only last week during the mammoth launch of her opponent, Boko at Diphetogo grounds in Gaborone. 

Many had written her off and did not give her a chance. She has contested in her home constituency in the Kgalagadi before and could not make it. She also contested in Lobatse and lost. And in 2014 she contested the same constituency that she just won this week. 

Mokgethi’s determination and never say die attitude is commendable.  She just does not give up. And as they say, patience is a virtue. She can testify to that. 

It was not going to be easy for her standing up against the president of the UDC, let alone someone of the stature of Duma Gideon Boko. Maybe the use of the illustration by Ndaba Gaolathe during the televised presidential debate relating to the small David versus the giant Goliath is more fitting in this particular instance. 

This is one 2019 general election victory that will always be remembered. 

 

DUMELANG SALESHANDO 

The vice president of the UDC, and president of the BCP, Dumelang Saleshando’s victory in this election should earn him the title ‘The comeback kid’. 

It was always not going to be easy for him moving from Gaborone Central, which he lost in 2014, to his home village, Maun. Many there regarded him as a tourist and traveller, who is taking a chance because he had been rejected in Gaborone. So, although he was home he was also the outsider. 

This kind of migration is always fraught with risks because many regard one as a reject, and it can make one feel worthless. But not Saleshando. He is indefatigable, and a man with a course and mission. He was not prepared to bat an eyelid amid such disparaging remarks by his detractors. 

His opponent, Reaboka Mbulawa, is a first cousin of the Kgosi in Maun, Tawana, who attended the BDP star rally on the eve of the elections in Maun. When they saw that, many people wrote Saleshando off. But he was unfazed. 

It is possible that issues affecting minorities in that part of the country, especially the Bayei, may have tilted the scales towards his side. The Bayei are supposed to be in the majority in Maun. 

Saleshando’s victory is a massive one for the UDC, especially following the fall from grace of Duma Boko. Saleshando is a former MP, and actually one of the best this country has ever produced. He should be able to provide the much-needed leadership on the opposition benches to keep the BDP front bench on its toes.

 

MEPHATO REATILE

 

Mephato Reatile’s victory gives him a lifeline in the BDP. He is viewed in the party as a Khama loyalist, so some people in the BDP were looking forward to seeing his back. 

Reatile took advantage of the tensions within the UDC to consolidate his support in the constituency to win it. His opponent, Shawn Nthaile, was bound to be a one term MP because of his being quarrelsome. This was compounded by the UDC’s inability to resolve disputes, which fester and end up adversely affecting their performance. 

During the last term of Parliament Reatile was a specially elected MP brought in by Khama, after having been in the political wilderness following his defeat in 2014. He knows how it is to be out there in the cold. It will be interesting to see what role besides just being a backbencher Masisi would assign him as one of the veterans in the forthcoming Parliament.

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