Central District BDP MP candidates face uncertainty

Ian Khama and Mokgweetsi Masisi PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
Ian Khama and Mokgweetsi Masisi PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO

Parliamentary candidate for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in the Central District Council (CDC) face a conundrum of some kind as they wade into their campaign trails. In the prevailing flux state of affairs, it is either they choose paramount chief Ian Khama or BDP Presidential candidate, Mokgweetsi Masisi.

The two represent the new reconfigured power dynamics in the country following the formation of the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), an offshoot of the BDP, which enjoys Khama’s support. There is no middle ground, the electorate tell the candidates, Staff Writers OARABILE MOSIKARE & TSAONE BASIMANEBOTLHE report

 

Political observers are of the view that the CDC will determine the winner of the October 2019 general elections. The vast district has 19 constituencies, majority of which are in BDP hands. And they view Serowe as their capital.


Only Selebi-Phikwe West constituency is under the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). Khama is the paramount chief of Ga Mmangwato and he recently did the unthinkable, decamping from the ruling party and declaring his support for the opposition.  He even disclosed a hit list of some BDP bigwigs in the general elections that he plans to dislodge from their seats.

Khama is somewhat an enigma in the district and the BDP to a large extent even the candidates are aware about that. Hence, voters more than often ask candidates to declare their stand in the war of attrition between Khama and his nemesis,  Masisi. The common question that the electorate ask the candidates is, “Are you with Kgosikgolo [Khama] or Masisi?” There is nothing like I am with the BDP. Compounding matters, BDP parliamentary candidates in the CDC do not want Masisi as the face of their campaigns as he might cost them elections. “They think the election in their constituencies will be a choice between Khama and Masisi and not the respective competencies of the candidates,” a campaign manager of one of the candidates alleged. Another source alleged that the candidates are however afraid to voice their reservations for fear of victimisation by the party. “The truth is that there is little they can do. The party constitution says a sitting President is the face of the party or campaign. If they think they will lose under Masisi, the only option for them is to join opposition or stand as independents. But knowing all our politicians they will not do it,” a frustrated BDP member in CDC said.

In his response, BDP Strategy and Communication Committee Chairperson, Dr Comma Serema said the party is still assessing the situation so that they could act from an informed position. “One should understand that when there is a new party, defections are likely to be there. But we were not going to run after every person who threatens to defect. We are not taking anything for granted because Central District is our stronghold. Now that things are becoming clear to us on what is going on, we are going to campaign vigorously in Central District. We are not going to leave any stone unturned,” Serema said.

In another realm, he explained: “We were waiting to have infrastructures like vehicle, posters, billboards, t-shirts and money for campaigns to roll out campaigns. Some of the issues we hear them as rumours and we cannot be running after every rumour”. He said they have been holding seminars in areas such as Serowe, Mahalapye and Tswapong with candidates and how they could address some of the issues they come across.

Serema said he is confident that Serowe residents would vote for the BDP.  Meanwhile, political analyst Lesole Lechacha said what is happening now is not new in Botswana’s politics. He said that is what is called political transfer window.

“The only different thing now is we see lot of sitting councillors and some who are in party structures resigning. In politics every number is important especially these critical few months towards elections. Some of these rumours might be true because Khama is the chief in some of these areas but there are those constituencies that have long asked to be taken from Central District. Those areas might vote BDP in large numbers because they do not want to be controlled by Bangwato,” Lechacha said.

Lechacha said the formation of the new party, the BPF would clearly tell or show where other members’ loyalty lies. He said he is not shocked that some electorates in Central might give their MPs ultimatum because Khama is their chief. The influence of chieftainship always has a negative impact in parties, which oppose the chief in their areas. The political analyst said some are going to use the difference between Masisi and Khama to their advantage.

“The BDP should just revisit and re-market BDP in Central District. If they do not approach members on what led to the new party and explain themselves well then they might lose those areas.  BDP should not take anything for granted. The party president could still use some of the government programmes to win votes in those areas. There are areas in governance that President Masisi has done well including salary increase for civil servants,” he said. Lechacha also said the BDP would have a strategy to counter damage that BPF might cause in some of the areas and the campaign manager or party consultant would advise accordingly.

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