Former president Ian Khama is at loggerheads with independent candidates over launches and fielding of Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) candidates. Initially, Khama had promised that he was to launch independent candidates in different constituencies where they are contesting.
Khama met the independent candidates on Wednesday to discuss the matter, but the meeting ended in a deadlock after the parties failed to agree. Khama made it clear to Mmegi that he would not launch independent candidates unless BPF and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) give him the go-ahead.
This has, however, not gone well with independent candidates who have been supporting him, Mmegi has learnt.
Some of the independent candidates who met with the former president included MP for Lerala/Maunatlala Prince Maele, Ramadeluka Seretse, Tshepang Mabaila, Kamal Jacobs and Ian Khumo. “It is true we had a meeting with Khama. Our issue is very clear we cannot be told to join BPF now when we had already spent our money doing campaign materials. Even though the issue of forming a party came after, but there was a verbal agreement that we should register as independent candidates known as ‘mekoko’.
Khama and his party members cannot dump us now when we have been there with him from the beginning. Again, we do not want BPF to go and field in our areas because we are already there,” independent candidate for Lobatse, Kamal Jacobs said.
He said they had asked the former president to talk to his party members about the issue. Mmegi is informed that Khama had told mekoko that he does not trust them that they would defect to BPF after winning if he is going to support them. “The issue is that Khama says mekoko are difficult to be controlled after they win elections and they could defect to any party they wish to. Again, he said he had declared to support BPF and UDC, therefore those parties will have to be involved in any agreement, which concerns elections,” the source said.
Independent candidate for Serowe North, Seretse said he would continue to contest as an independent candidate. “The reason why I contested for elections is that people from Serowe North constituency persuaded me to do so.
They were very clear that they will cast their vote for opposition parties and we had our own agreement and therefore I cannot change symbols to voters because it will confuse them. Serowe North residents are the ones who will call me to talk about the issue and they will allow me to voice my opinion on the matter.
There is no one who could force us to defect to any party. People (constituents) are the ones that decide for us. I long started my campaigns before BPF was formed and no party can give me an ultimatum. It is up to BPF to decide if it wants to field in our areas or not,” Seretse said.
He said Khama did not give them an ultimatum when they met him because he knew their issues well.
He continued: “BPF has not consulted nor negotiated with us on anything. I cannot disclose some of the things we talked about with Khama”. During the interview on Wednesday, Khama said if there were any disputes regarding constituencies, he would get involved if both parties invite him to help.
He said there are launches where he would appear for both UDC and BPF. “I do not think there are supposed to be disputes on constituencies between BPF and UDC because that would not help both parties to win,” he said.
The BPF interim president, Biggie Butale had told Mmegi that BPF would field candidates in all Serowe constituencies and wards.