With few weeks left before Batswana head to the polls, Botswana National Front (BNF)’s stronghold in Jwaneng-Mabutsane constituency faces looming internal upheavals.
Last minute shudders in the form of urgent applications for the re-run of primary elections in some wards in the constituency are likely to loosen BNF’s grip. Now rivals, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) would be happy to pick up the pieces and fasten their own stranglehold on the constituency and ultimately power national level.
BNF’s unhappy members, Celsius Rambe and Fetumba Motsholopi are demanding a re-run of primary elections in some of the wards in the constituency.
Rambe contested the parliamentary seat against former Member of Parliament, Shawn Ntlhaile while Motsholopi lost against Merapelo Manoe at Khahea ward. Rambe wanted the court to order the BNF to hold a re-run for two wards being Sekoma and Kokong-Morwamosu. But Rambe on Monday lost the case with costs while Motsholopi withdrew the matter on Wednesday. The court said the matter was not urgent.
Now this changes the whole plot for BNF, which will contest under the Umbrella For Democratic Change (UDC) ticket.
Regardless of the ruling from the High Court, irregularities caused by the conduct of the primary elections last year will now haunt BNF as they step up onto the biggest stage of them all: the general elections.
The members are now divided and where there is division things are likely to go haywire, observers say.
BNF should have long brought the warring parties together and found a common ground before the tempest start gathering speed and turning into a deadly typhoon. Now that it seems too late to weather the storm, it would be interesting to see how cards will be played to handle the situation.
For his part, Rambe, strong at Sekoma ward, said he was going to consult some of his supporters.
“The truth about BNF politics is that when you take a party to court, know that you are likely to get suspended and be fired from it. My supporters are the ones who are going to give me direction. If any party approaches me, then I will have to weigh possibilities. It is not late for me to be an independent candidate. But I have not made up my mind about it.
The BNF has not attempted to reconcile us as members. It has been clear from the start that some central committee members want to favour Ntlhaile,” Rambe said.
However, Motsholopi said he was no longer a BNF member because the party has decided to question his membership.
“I got pissed off by the fact that BNF all of a sudden told my attorney that I cannot take it to court because I am not a member. The party claims that I failed to renew my membership card this year. If I had not done that, I could have not contested for primary election.
Even this year January, I went to party office to renew but it is unfortunate that I do not have the required receipt of membership renewal. I am free to join any party I want because I not a member of any party and BNF do not need me,” Motsholopi said.
The BNF secretary general, Moeti Mohwasa said they have a task team, which has been assigned to reconcile members in the party around that area.
“Our aim is to retain Jwaneng/Mabutsane constituency but we could only do that if we work together. The party has not been campaigning intensively in the area because of appeals regarding the rerun and lately, the court cases. We are now going to intensify our campaigns in the area.
One of the things that we had found out is that Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is taking advantage of the misunderstanding of our members in the area,” Mohwasa said.
Ntlhaile will battle it out with Tsietsi Oodira-Kwenje of Alliance for Progressives and Reggie Reatile of BDP.