Lotlamoreng snubs Btv, RB1 debates

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The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) candidate for Goodhope/Mabule, Kgosi Lotlamoreng II says he will not be participating in today’s Btv and RB1 debates.

Lotlamoreng said he was informed very late about the debates, scheduled to start this evening at 19:00 hours at Phitshane-Molopo. 

All the three candidates in the Saturday by-election, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and UDC, were expected to take part in the debate.

“The party has taken a decision that I should not participate in that debate because it was informed late about it. We are not yet prepared to debate. Again we do not know why the debates are being held in Phitshane,” said Lotlamoreng.

In the general elections last year, the radio broadcast debates were held in the constituency headquarters, and for Goodhope/Mabule, it was in Goodhope.  Opposition parties, UDC especially, suspect that the debates were moved to Phitshane-Molopo, to the advantage of BDP candidate, Eric Molale, as it is his home village and supposedly the party stronghold. 

Lotlamoreng would not engage on the questions of venue and the BDP candidate having been briefed ahead of the debate.

He instead insisted that to participate meaningfully, he had to be well prepared, saying his party decision is based on the fact that if the state broadcaster wanted a fair and informed debate, they would have informed the candidates well in time.

The deputy permanent secretary responsible for information and broadcasting in the Office of the President, Mogomotsi Kaboyamodimo yesterday insisted there had done everything by the book. He said he was not aware that the UDC would not be participating in the debates. 

“All three political parties contesting the Goodhope/Mabule by-election were invited to the debate by hand delivered letters to party offices in Gaborone addressed to the secretary generals of the parties.  This is the communication procedure that we use for all elections,” said Kaboyamodimo. 

He said they spoke to all three candidates in person - Lotlamoreng of the UDC, Comfort Maruping of the BCP, and Molale of the BDP - to give them details of the arrangements for the debates. 

“Kgosi Lotlamoreng was non-committal when briefed promising to update us at a later time as to whether or not he would  participate.  As of now neither his party nor he, have told us that he is not participating,” he said.  He denied that the BDP candidate had being provided with questions prior to the debates.

 “There are no prepared questions for the debate so there is no way that any one candidate could have been given any questions.  The contesting candidates are going to be interrogated on the spot by the hosts and none of them is privy to the line of questioning,” said Kaboyamodimo. 

Regarding the change of venue, Kaboyamodimo said Phitshane-Molopo is one of their coverage areas and service points. “It could have been any other place in the constituency from where we can relay a live broadcast,” he said. The BDP secretary general Botsalo Ntuane said their candidate would participate in the debate. 

“We cannot comment on speculation. But I don’t agree that our candidate has been given material for the debate. We are the ones who had been coaching him trying to prepare him for the debate,” said Ntuane.   Also participating is the BCP candidate.

The party spokesperson Dithapelo Keorapetse said his party is going to participate despite allegations that the BDP candidate had been given material for the debate. 

“We have been participating in the Btv debates despite BDP candidates being informed about what is going to happen. The BCP is aware that these debates are not fair and neutral,” said Keorapetse.

The UDC has every right to refuse to engage in debates they feel are planned to favour an opponent, argued the University of Botswana political scientist Zibani Maundeni. He said that if a party has information that another party has been given material to use to disadvantage them, there is no obligation to participate.  

“Debates are not supposed to be used to benefit another party at the expense of others. The platform of debates is supposed to be neutral and fair. It should be clear why debates would be at Phitshane when the constituency’s main village is Goodhope,” Maundeni said.

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