Nata-Gweta battle lines drawn

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FRANCISTOWN: Nata-Gweta constituency will soon play host to an interesting political battle between incumbent Member of Parliament (MP) and Assistant Minister of Agriculture Olifant Mfa and Specially Elected MP, Botsalo Ntuane.

It is now official, when the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) opens its campaigns for primaries, ahead of the 2009 general election, Mfa and Ntuane will come face-to-face.
When Ntuane announced that he would not be contesting any party position at the next party congress in July, " so that I can focus my attention and channel my energies towards the constituency", it became apparent that the Nata-Gweta battle lines were drawn.
There is a strong lobby though that Ntuane should also stand in two of the Gaborone constituencies - Gaborone West North and Gaborone Central.
On the other hand, Nata-Gweta people are pressing that he should stand. "Unfortunately for me, I can't announce where I will exactly contest before the party opens the primaries for open contest," he said.
Even with this explanation, Mmegi can reveal that Ntuane and Mfa are going to face each other in a contest that is likely to send ripples among the BDP rank and file. Mmegi is privy to information that the Nata-Gweta lobbyists seem to have prevailed over Ntuane, whom they regard as the "favoured son" at the expense of the "dark horse".
Rivalry between Mfa and Ntuane peaked last year during the 40th anniversary of Indepe-ndence held at the Nata Kgotla where a section of the committee preparing for the celebrations had invited Ntuane as a guest speaker only to be reprimanded by an irate Mfa.
The assistant mi-nister changed the programme, insisting that he was the only area MP and there was no way another MP could be invited to officiate without his knowledge.
"Let alone that MP invited as a guest speaker," Mfa had said in an earlier interview and warned that people should wait for the right time for campaigns.
In Mfa's view, Ntuane was trying to use a wrong forum to launch a campaign in his (Mfa's) area. He warned: " As long as I am the area MP here, people will not do as they wish."
The situation was not helped by the one-sided intervention of Khama at an open meeting where he (Khama) chided Ntuane for invading his blue-eyed boy's area.
The duel between Ntuane and Mfa is no ordinary one, as it goes beyond the fight for obtaining a ticket to run for the area.
For starters, Ntuane's supporters view their man as more ' son of the soil' than Mfa who hails from Nshakazhogwe village, outside the constituency. Perhaps, in their endeavour to bring in a ' suitable' representative, they will rope in their man.
On the other hand, Mfa's supporters find nothing wrong with their choice as MPs elsewhere represent areas that are not necessarily their home villages and have been representing the people well.
Even at the time when Khama addressed the villagers on the issue, they accused Ntuane's supporters of preaching divisive politics by clinging to the old order of 'sons of the soil'.
In the last party primaries, Mfa garnered over 1,300 votes with the runner-up receiving just over 300 votes.
To some extent, even without the statistics, he could be right as he is always touching base and feeling the pulse of his people.
Ntuane knows well that dislodging Mfa from his area is no easy task, which is why he has decided to pull out of the race for a party position.
" I will be defending my position given that I got overwhelming support during the party primaries and general elections in 2004. If anything changes along the way, I will make the announcement stating otherwise," said Mfa yesterday.
He oozed confidence that his popularity was not in doubt in the area and he would use the same strategy that has won him support over the years. " So far, I have been pulling together with my supporters in the constituency, who have been voting for me despite the fact that I originate from outside Nata and nothing will ever separate us," said Mfa.

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