Masisi enters the volatile CDC

Masisi addressing Gamangwato kgotla meeting PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
Masisi addressing Gamangwato kgotla meeting PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO

After seemingly ignoring the vow made by the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) to bring the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) to its knees in the vast Central District (Council), CDC as it is popularly known, President Mokgweetsi Masisi has now moved into real action. He entered the CDC in earnest recently as his party canvasses for support in the Central District ahead of the October general elections through Kgotla meetings, which are political rallies in disguise. Mmegi Staff Writer RYDER GABATHUSE reports

FRANCISTOWN: It is apparent that the President’s handlers do not want to leave anything to chance by encouraging their man to take the bull by the horns.

The Kgotla meetings in the CDC might seem routine as some people suggest, but it is not mere coincidence that the meetings come at a time when the BPF had vowed to take the CDC by storm and demonstrate their strength in the area touted as the new kid on the block to the Central District masses as an alternative vehicle that will carry the hopes of the people of GammaNgwato.  There has been hullaballoo that the ruling BDP will bid farewell to State power.

The BDP had chosen to keep quiet without responding to some toxic remarks attributable to former president Ian Khama and his followers.

In fact, it was Khama who was the first to throw his old party’s membership card on the floor at a tribal meeting in Serowe held at the village’s showgrounds whereupon hundreds of his supporters followed suit, a development that some observers feared it marked the end of the ruling party in GammaNgwato.

This view was not helped by the silence of the BDP in the territory. But, after launching his Vice President Slumber Tsogwane recently in Rakops, where he had threatened to spill the beans on Khama, Masisi broke his silence explaining how life has been difficult since he took over from his predecessor, Khama.

At the forefront of the formation of the new party, Khama exploited his other title of Bangwato Kgosikgolo to draw support and sympathy from his subjects.

At the centre of the formation of the BPF is the desire to unseat the ruling BDP with a possible coalition with the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).  As it stands though, there is no commitment from both the BPF and UDC as to what form of coalition they envisage.

Khama had made an undertaking to traverse the length and breath of the CDC to de-campaign the party founded amongst others by his father, the late Sir Seretse Khama.

From their recent Kanye congress, observers are adamant that the BDP can only ignore the threat posed by the new party at its own peril.

Masisi, as the incumbent President, in an endeavour to counter the alleged threat posed by the new kid on the political block, has moved into action to remove all the possible obstacles that could threaten his return to the highest office in the land, as State President. He has all the resources at his disposal including the partisan State media.

It all started in Mahalapye, where he addressed a Kgotla meeting that helped him articulate the promises of his government to the people.

It was there where a few months ago that the police dispersed villagers as they were caught singing and dancing trying to showcase their support for their Kgosikgolo, Khama.

About a fortnight ago, Masisi addressed a Kgotla meeting in Palapye, where he took the villagers through the promises of his government and chief on his address was a promise to deliver a modern hospital and that his government will address the burning issue of land in the fast urbanising Palapye.

Masisi would then address another meeting in Shoshong this week, where his pattern of issues was uniform. As if his meetings have a template to follow, Masisi was on Tuesday in Shoshong where he advised people to vote well or correctly and in the vernacular he had emphasised, “lo tlhophe sentle”.

It became apparent that the gist of the meetings was basically to prepare people to vote for the BDP as the President’s address was that he wanted a proper term in office.

By yesterday morning, Masisi was in Bobonong. This is another highly contentious area that Khama had promised to de-campaign the BDP and its parliamentary candidate, Francisco Kgoboko in favour of the UDC parliamentary hopeful, Taolo Lucas.

Khama claims Kgoboko has betrayed him after he aided him to win the party primaries.

Masisi’s itinerary in the Central District will see him addressing meetings in Letlhakane, Nata and Tutume.

The meetings might not be one size fits all, but the message harped by the President is an appeal for votes ahead of the impending October general elections.

In his opening response to Mmegi enquiries, University of Botswana lecturer of political and administrative studies, Adam Mfundisi stated that all BDP leaders have used Kgotla meetings to campaign for the party during election times.

Mfundisi emphasised that the BDP leaders have used this public forum to save their party from defeat at polls. He, however, noted that this time around these public meetings would not save the BDP from imminent defeat.

 In 2019, the UB don is insistent that the ruling party is at its weakest point, lacking strategic leadership at all levels.  In particular in the CDC area, he emphasised that structures have collapsed and mass resignations and defections have taken place at an unprecedented rate.  To him, the BDP manifesto is uninspiring and reflects the interests of a minority section of the population.

“It does not appeal to the hearts and minds of the general population. BDP rallies do not articulate the manifesto, but they engage in political propaganda against leaders of opposition parties except the leader of the Alliance for Progressives (AP) Ndaba Gaolathe,” he posited.

 His considered view on the current tour by the President in CDC areas is that Masisi and his advisors were in panic mode.

Now they assume the appearance of the President in these areas will bring some political mileage to the BDP.

“This is misguided bearing in mind the continued and unabated attack on the former president who commands unquestionable support in the CDC. He is a household name in the CDC and has been close to his people over his presidency,” reasoned the political analyst.

“His walkabouts have galvanised his support. The policies that he championed during his presidency notwithstanding some flaws in them were geared towards empowerment of citizens,” he added.

To the UB political scientist, it is without any shadow of doubt, that the BPF has lent a shattering blow to the BDP.  Even those who overtly support the ruling party covertly disapprove of its current leadership and may not vote for BDP candidates.

Mfundisi described the current administration as more vengeful than the previous Khama administration. He cited the way it treats Duma Boko, the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament and the president of the UDC indicating that it is puerile.

He concurs that Kgotla meetings can have influence indicating that in this volatile environment, however, it will not resuscitate the dying BDP.

People in the CDC, according to Mfundisi have made their minds.  The combined force of the BPF and UDC is a defining factor in these elections.

If the political toxicity continues unabated between Khama and Masisi, public meetings will attract fewer attendants.  At the worst, he said they would become political playgrounds.

“The chances are high for the BPF to unseat the BDP as well as assisting the UDC to penetrate the hitherto BDP heartland.  UDC without BPF was still a serious threat to the political hegemony of the BDP in CDC and beyond,” said the UB academic.

Kagelelo Kentse, BDP chairperson for the sub-committee on communications and international relations told Mmegi this week that the President’s tour of the CDC was long planned and was not to counter the BPF.

“It just happens that the President’s last meetings are in the CDC. By no measure, this is not a plan to counter the presence of the NPF in the CDC,” Kentse emphasised.

He stressed that his party has recently proved the narrative that Batswana will repel the BDP in areas like the Serowe South constituency, where they recently launched the parliamentary candidate at a well-attended event.

“We are very happy that Batswana have moved on and they are behind President Masisi. In the CDC, it’s just routine check of the people and we have found out that people like Masisi so much as their leader,” Kentse stated.

Another UB academic and senior lecturer in politics, Dr Kebapetse Lotshwao concurs with Kentse, as he suggests that, “it appears President Masisi is addressing Kgotla meetings across the entire country, not necessarily the Central District alone. He has been to some villages in the South”.

“President Masisi would have had to change strategy and try to appease the Central District if the BPF posed a threat to the BDP.  At the moment, the BPF is not a threat to the BDP in the Central District or anywhere in the country,” Lotshwao suggested, describing Masisi’s Kgotla meetings as merely routine.

In his analysis, the BPF is not a threat because it is a very weak party formed by people who hoped to use it to force the BDP to negotiate with them.

Up to now, he said, its policy and ideological framework are unknown to the voting public.

He describes the party as also weak because it is not a national party as it is not present in many parts of the country.  Its association with Khama, an unpopular and failed leader buttressed the UB academic, does not help the party much.

Therefore, Lotshwao said that the BPF is not a threat to the BDP and instead the UDC would pose a threat.

He posits that the UDC too has many challenges, such as impending court cases and inconsistent leaders who keep on switching positions on many national issues, in the process alienating potential voters.

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