BPF runs out of options

BPF leaders Khama and Butale. PIC.KENNEDY RAMOKONE
BPF leaders Khama and Butale. PIC.KENNEDY RAMOKONE

PALAPYE: As the memory of pulling multitudes at the weekend congress and rally slowly fades away, Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) leadership could now be running out of options.

Even the ‘strategic alliance’ BPF prefers to have with the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) is slowly overtaken by events as the general election gets closer and closer by the day.

Ahead of last weekend’s inaugural elective congress and massive rally in Palapye, the BPF had promised to break the news of the form of alliance with the UDC and the strategic constituencies where they preferred to contest. However, nothing has yet done in that realm..

And yet one of the party’s many failed promises ahead of the weekend elective congress and rally was the launch of its elections pledge card, which was never done.  It also did not parade nor launch its parliamentary and council candidates, contrary to promises.

BPF was seemingly formed with a view of unseating the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) from power but the challenge now is how to execute the plan.

The BPF will be able to release information where the party will be contesting, unveiling of the pledge card and other important data only on Monday next week, according to the new party’s national organising secretary, Ford Moiteela.

Sample this; even the Palapye constituency was this weekend hit by confusion over who was going to be the parliamentary candidate for the 2019 general election. The situation in Palapye speaks for many constituencies in which the UDC has equally declared interest and yet the BPF is eyeing.

In Lerala/Maunatlala, UDC candidate Kabo Ketshogile is crying foul that he has been told to pave way for Prince Maele.  The issue was apparently raised at a political meeting in Lecheng recently. This is despite that Ketshogile was long launched by the UDC president Duma Boko.

Another contentious constituency is Tati-West where incumbent legislator Biggie Butale is eyeing re-election. His desire to contest with the UDC backing comes at a time when the umbrella has already launched Tshepo Makhani as parliamentary candidate. Butale who besides being an attorney is also a pastor, still beams with hope of contesting though his chances seem to be getting slim with time.

Another catch is that majority of the politicians who defected from both the BDP and the BCP had lost their party primaries and out of frustration jumped ship. Now, if the BPF/UDC possible alliance could deny them an opportunity to contest, that might see the defecting primary elections losers fleeing from the BPF as well.

In short, the defectors are fairly still fragile and they will have to be treated with extra caution lest, they lose hope and dump the BPF if it can’t help them jump-start their troubled political careers and put it on a rebound.

When the BPF founding patron, Ian Khama briefed his followers during his meetings in Serowe around May, he presented Palapye as one of the areas where the party would support the opposition coalition because the alliance was already ahead of the new party.

When it was least expected, Khama just shouted from the podium checking if there was anyone who was interested in contesting the Palapye parliamentary seat and Lincoln Malala stepped up to the podium.

There were loud murmurs of disapproval from the crowd with some people claiming that they didn’t know Malala, as he was not a BPF activist in Palapye.

It seems banking on the Khama promises, the UDC in Palapye, for instance has legitimate expectations on possibly benefitting on a fall out between the ruling BDP and its offshoot, BPF. Now, it seems a fall out before anything concrete could start in earnest between the UDC and the BPF .

Palapye has 10 wards.  Already Mmegi is privy to the details that the BPF is demanding half of the wards and leave the parliamentary seat to the UDC in return because it is already advanced with the campaigns.

On the sidelines of the BPF rally in Palapye, former Botswana Congress Party (BCP) activist, Dineo Tumotumo was not amused by a possible alliance partnership with the UDC in Palapye.  BCP is a coalition partner in the UDC.

Tumotumo lost the BCP primaries and defected to the newly formed party and now he doesn’t envisage the UDC leading in Palapye. He is even accused of singlehandedly leading Malala, former BCP and Alliance for Progressives (AP) activist in Gaborone to be BPF parliamentary candidate in Palapye. Lawrence Bodilenyane, formerly BDP operative in Palapye and now BPF Palapye constituency chairperson expressed shock when he saw Malala stepping to the plate to declare his interest to contest Palapye constituency as a parliamentary candidate.

“Once he had stepped up to the podium, we couldn’t do anything about him. He has been at the AP in Gaborone and had shown the desire to contest lately, but he was not our member,” clarified Bodilenyane, a pro-Khama ally.

But, last Sunday, the BPF, Palapye constituency was able to sort the matter out and Malala does not qualify to contest the parliamentary seat after the party’s vetting process. “We have since corrected the situation and there is no parliamentary candidate for the Palapye constituency so far and we will revert to the old order of supporting the UDC as was the case before unless the status quo could some what change,” added Bodilenyane.

Bodilenyane’s opposite number at the UDC, Gaosego Rantseane chose to be diplomatic when quizzed about how the UDC was going to work with the BPF in Palapye.

“As for now, we can’t count on the BPF as we don’t have any formal working relationship with them. The new party is yet to approach us in Palapye as we have been campaigning as the UDC bigger team,” said UDC Palapye constituency chairperson, Rantseane. Well, Rantseane has learnt through BPF Palapye constituency chairperson, Bodilenyane that the man who was paraded by Khama, Malala, that they knew nothing about his interest as the constituency leadership.

Tumotumo explained that indeed he took Malala from Gaborone and caused him to come to Palapye and join the BCP and now the BPF.

After UDC parliamentary candidate Onneetse Ramogapi spurned the BPF efforts to share council wards in Palapye, Tumotumo and others spoke to a number of people who could possibly stand for the parliamentary seat, including civil servants he could not name.

Whilst Tumotumo had explained to Malala that it was early days for him to declare himself the Palapye candidate since the BPF was still talking to the UDC, it happened that Malala declared his interest at an open rally.

“Our idea was that Malala should be on standby so that if the UDC could not endorse our desire to share the wards, then we should have someone ready to contest the parliamentary seat as it is not too late,” said Tumotumo who stressed that Rantseane even called him notifying him that it was now official that the UDC doesn’t need the BPF. University of Botswana (UB) political science lecturer, Leonard Sesa doubts if the BPF and the UDC will easily iron out their political differences that are seemingly escalating by the day.

“I do not think that it will be possible for the UDC and the BPF to iron out various dynamics in relation to forming a strong strategic alliance ahead of the elections. I also think there will be no enough time for a majority of members of both parties to understand the purpose of the alliance,” analysed Sesa.

The UB political scientist is adamant that some UDC members who might be prevented from contesting the elections as a result of an alliance with the newly formed BPF might find it hard to accept the development.  As a result they may sabotage the alliance going into the elections.

“Already in Lerala-Maunatlala we have a situation where Khama’s ally Maele is contesting as an independent candidate. The UDC has fielded a fairly good candidate in the area. Both of them want to leverage on the influence of Khama who is a BPF patron.

 I wonder how the two parties will deal with the situation so that it does not harm any of the two. That is if at all the two parties form an alliance.”  As far as Sesa is concerned the BPF is not ready to contest the elections. He described them as new and do not have formidable structures and ideology.  “The goal of the party is to just remove the BDP from power. It’s too late for them to have an ambition to contest the elections,” the UB don highlighted.

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