LERALA: Anger, frustration and bitterness have gripped the Lerala-Maunatlala constituency as their legislator, Prince Maele charts new waters as an independent parliamentary candidate.
But, against all odds, the villagers have vowed to stick with their Member of Parliament (MP) as he starts a new journey into politics of opposition.
It was, however, Lesenepole councillor, Mmabesi Olopile who raised people’s emotions with her powerful address, albeit punctuated with tribalism, an evil that politicians have to guard against.
Olopile, clad in a t-shirt bearing the national colours, was ready to take the hit on behalf of her MP and Batswapong. She was concerned that when Maele arrived at the recent meeting, he was really missing the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) slogan of ae jeke Domkrag, which he nearly shouted but quickly restrained himself as he is serving a year’s suspension from the party.
“To me, that is a sign of loyalty to the party. It symbolises that he enjoyed every moment of his stay in the party,” Olopile told Maele’s sympathisers.
As a way of pitying Maele’s downfall from the party he loved so much, Olopile preferred to sing a hymn of acceptance of a loss: “Seileng se ile…pelo ga e robale.” She sang the song with such gusto and passion to help her gain strength again after a near-teary moment.
“Kwa bohelong, Prince ke Mopalamente wa rona, mang a rata kana a sa rate..Fa e le sengwe go ka sha legong ga sala molora. (After all Prince (Maele) is our MP, whether people like it or not. We are ready for any eventuality).”
In her element, Olopile threatened that otherwise; tribalism will reign in their quest to fight for their MP. In the vernacular she had said: “Semorafe se ka mpa sa tsoga”. She warned that otherwise, Batswapong of Lerala-Maunatlala were ready to fight with anything at their disposal.
“Re sentseng Batswapong, mo e taareng re na le dikeletso le ditshwanelo tsa rona, tsa bo di gatakiwa ka maoto? (What have we done as Batswapong when our needs and aspirations are simply trampled upon just like that).”
As if she was instructing Maele, Olopile encouraged her MP to go ahead with his desire to become an independent candidate, which in the vernacular is known as a mokoko.
She took the opportunity to warn those who are clueless about her tribe that they will soon know who Batswapong are.
Olopile said she would not to cry at that meeting, preferring to hold back her tears until the right moment.
She challenged party faithfuls to allow their MP to become an independent candidate in the coming October general elections.
On behalf of Batswapong, Olopile assured Maele of their undying love and support. Most importantly, she respected Maele for his stature and the manner in which he does things.
Besides being the area MP, Maele, a political science and public administration graduate is from the royal house in Gootau village. Olopile further observed that Maele does not need anyone to elevate his status as he was born a leader with undoubted abilities. Her take was that they did not vote for Maele as their MP basing on his riches nor was it because they knew his parents, “it was simply because you have impressed us by your abilities and the quest to serve your people”.
The Lesenepole civic leader promised Maele that Batswapong are going to break records in the next general elections by voting for him in large umbers as an expression for sympathy to their MP. She repeated Maele’s commitment to the BDP to the extent that she claimed that the MP had forgotten that his days were over at the ruling party when he (Maele) arrived at the Lerala meeting.
“I don’t easily cry, but Maele’s words have hit me very hard as that man loved the BDP so much and all the good works that are associated with him are a sign of a man who was determined to perform,” Olopile, who equally loved the BDP until the day it suspended Maele, said. Maele was suspended from the ruling BDP for his statement that he supported former president Ian Khama during the latter’s kitchen soup meeting at the Goo- Moremi village Kgotla last November. Maele was slapped with a one-year suspension from the party and his appeal to review his punishment was rejected thus technically barring him from contesting in the parliamentary elections under the BDP ticket. The programme of the day at last week’s Maele meeting was short and straight to the point, as there was prayer, welcome remarks and then he had to go into what the MP had called the people for and gave them a platform to say their views.
The visibly distressed Maele looked like his world was coming to an end. Even from his tone when he delivered his speech, Maele could not hide his unhappiness with how badly the BDP had treated him and his constituents by denying them a representative whom they have chosen and liked.
He spoke at length making sure not to leave any detail out including what he had discussed with President Mokgweetsi Masisi, as well as the time they spent together when he went to plead with him for forgiveness. Maele went to an extent of discussing the contents of a letter, which was written by his betrayers and stated their names.
He even swore to de-campaign those who will be contesting for the general elections, to be precise, Pinnie Morupisi and Dikakanyo Mojaphiri who are council candidates for Lecheng-Malaka and Gootau respectively. He made it clear that his main target was Setlhabelo Modukanele and Permanent Pecretary to the President (PSP), Carter Morupisi whom he said are likely to be brought by the party as parliamentary candidates. Boetelo Malope of Lerala, West who also looked obviously distressed, said the suspension was an insult to the constituents. Malope said it was not just the MP who was suspended, but the whole area as no attempts had ever been made to consult the people Maele represented.
Councillors in the area also seemed to have been really touched by the whole suspension issue and most of them promised to rally behind Maele.
Seolwane councillor, Abitseng Kganetso accused the BDP of treating Batswapong with total disrespect and undermining them. According to her, Lerala-Maunatlala constituency had long been sabotaged when it came to developments only because those who held high positions were against their MP.
In her own words, BDP has its own people and Maele was never really the party favourite hence such sabotage.
She said it was wrong to punish Maele only because he expressed his love for their Kgosikgolo, Ian Khama.
The suspension of Maele from the BDP is likely to impact the party negatively and also raise issues of tribalism.
Maunatlala councillor, Salome Lesole, told Mmegi that this decision would obviously break down the party as most of the people who endorsed Maele to stand as mokoko were the well known BDP diehards, who they (candidates) had high hopes in and were sure about their support.
“The main complaint from the constituents is that they do not know why Maele was suspended as they had never been consulted,” she said, “so they believe that because of such the party does not need them nor respect their views”.
She added: “It is a sad and disturbing state to see grey-haired people literally crying, people are crying for Maele in the constituency; they feel his pain.”
According to Lesole, it would be best if the party could come to the area and address the constituents on the matter and explain everything that transpired.
She said the whole thing would impact on them negatively as even councillors being party representatives in the area were never told anything.
“When there is an issue, which affects the area, the party leadership must go to the area to hear the constituents’ side of the story,” she added.
She said it was gloomy in the area as even elders were crying for their MP; something, which she said would make it very difficult for them to accept whoever might replace Maele. According to her, the elders’ main concern is that they were not given a chance to plead for forgiveness for their MP.
“We were already used to working with Maele and we won the primary elections with him, so his suspension is a big blow even to us,” decried Lesole.
“We were already far even with our campaigns and it will be difficult to convince voters to opt for whoever will represent our area as an MP candidate. We will need to work very hard during our campaigns because we will be forced to sell the new candidate.” However, Lesole made it clear that she was still a BDP diehard.
She, however, assured Maele of his vote as a mokoko regardless of who would be brought to replace him.
Councillor for Lecheng-Malaka, Charles Mabjeng who is a UDC candidate also assured Maele of his support saying Morupisi had long been abusing them while hiding behind his government office title.
He said what happened to Maele was a technical knockout, which is unfair and will impact negatively on the BDP.
According to him, they will lose the general elections dismally.
The constituents couldn’t hide their excitement when the MP announced his decision and that Khama promised him his support. Some even used the platform to showcase their, ‘Eseng mo go Kgosi Kgolo’ inscribed t-shirts, a true indication that masses saw no wrong in Maele’s ‘Ke eme tsii le Kgosi Kgolo’ utterances.