The hopes of the nation are on the offshoot of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) to unseat the ruling party from its 53-year-old rule since 1966. The new kid on the political block may not necessarily take over power, but it stands as a kingmaker in a possible alliance with the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). The Monitor Staffers RYDER GABATHUSE and CHAKALISA DUBE speak to BPF inaugural president Biggie Butale on his priorities just after his election
PALAPYE: The BPF has gifted the Tati-West legislator, Butale with his 47th birthday at the Majestic Five Lodge in the outskirts of Palapye. The Masunga-born politician was elected unopposed to lead the BPF into the 2019 general elections, the country’s 11th elections since Botswana went to the polls for the first time in 1965. The BPF has to hit the ground running with Butale in the lead.
“I concur, this is a big responsibility. The hopes of the nation are on the BPF to help in removing the ruling party from power,” thunders the visibly elated Butale post a massive rally at the Magotlho Freedom square near their Palapye railway station.
He adds: “If we fail, history will judge us harshly.
This thing is not lost on me and I pray that we work together within the BPF and in the bigger opposition with no one pulling in the opposition direction.”
His wish is for the BPF to have an alliance with the UDC so that they can shift the scales of power beyond the BDP reach.
Explaining the form of alliance envisaged with the UDC, Butale says it should be a strategic one and how strategic it should be he stressed that the alliance should work to achieve its objective.
The BPF new leadership is meeting Sunday morning and Monday and by next week, Friday, they should be done with the matter of constituencies.
“I don’t think we will surpass 36 constituencies, just closer to 20 seats,” Butale kept on shifting numbers until he conceded that he was not certain of the actual numbers.
To borrow his own words, Butale was 100% certain that he was going to contest as a parliamentary candidate in Tati-West, where the UDC recently launched Tshepo Makhani as its parliamentary hopeful together with the council hopefuls.
He was adamant that his candidature will not affect the strategic alliance and was unwilling to share what he was talking about.
In terms of governance, what new is the BPF bringing? He was quick to point out that one of the reasons the BPF was formed was because of the undemocratic nature of the BDP.
Now, they stand hurt as they know what it entails when democracy is ‘raped’. He is even more sensitive to the environment when it comes to democracy because, “I have suffered under that in the same way when we were at the BDP”.
He has a concern over the rule of law citing abuse of State apparatus like the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) sleuths whom he reported were always following him almost 24 hours.
“When I hold talks with businesspeople soliciting for funds or any form of assistance for our party, the businesspeople cry foul that the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) Services sleuths visit them and enquire on my purpose of visit,” he cried foul worried about how strange some human beings can be wondering if they would do the same once they take over.
Although the BPF is an offshoot of the BDP, Butale sees them different from the ruling party in that their trials and tribulations have made them completely different. “You might think tomorrow, once I am up the ladder of power I might do a similar thing to my opponents. Yes, it is possible, but I am a different person altogether because of the experiences at the hands of the BDP.”
He cited the chaining of the Tsholofelo Community Hall doors as one cruel acts perpetrated by the BDP government and the UDC president Duma Boko when the umbrella manifesto was impounded during the launch in Maun followed by the grounding of the UDC campaign airplanes. “Do you think for a person who has such experiences he will be the same under the circumstances. It can’t be. We have been baptised literally with fire.” Butale has an ex-military intelligence friend who keeps on asking him when he started realising that he was being followed by the DIS sleuths. “We were at my house. Just as we left the house, we spotted them and he agreed with me that he had worked with some of them during his days at the military.
I will definitely show you this man after the general elections,” Butale wears a serious face as he relates these experiences.
The BPF helmsman travels around a lot with Kamal Jacobs, another former BDP parliamentary aspirant who lost the party primaries and took the party to court.
On a number of occasions, Butale has been taking pictures of the DIS mules out of frustration, but the problem is far from abating.
Since leaving the BDP, Butale has never been covered by the State media. He views this lack of coverage as a very bad habit of the ruling party using the State media for its gains and launch political wars against its opponents.
He is familiar with the feelings of fear, of being naked without any level of protection.
The reason why the BPF has chosen to give its alliance partners some constituencies is that it does not have the human and financial resources to contest in all the 57 constituencies.
Without giving names, the BPF president revealed that his party was expecting a total of 15 BDP MPs to defect to their party – five before the elections and 10 after.
And the 15 seats are from within and without the Central District, a popular district for the BPF, which has a total of about 19 constituencies.
Within two weeks, the BPF will have a full list of constituencies it will contest and where they will cooperate with the UDC.
After looking at the overwhelming numbers that thronged the elective congress and the political rally, Butale was elated as he concluded that the BPF was bigger than they have even thought.
“We were told that we don’t have members in Kanye and may be we were starting to believe. We were, however, shocked at the overwhelming numbers. Palapye was even worse.”
The BPF believes it is social justice, equal access to opportunities for all.