The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) once labelled Biggie Butale as a Biblical Judas Iscariot when he defected to Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) in 2019.
The BPF president has faced a challenging political career before, but he is now embroiled in a much bigger controversy after allegations of sexual misconduct were recently levelled against him.
His party wants him to step down for a while pending investigations into the matter. While there are conspiracies that the scandal was orchestrated from within to oust him from the BPF top seat, Butale’s journey has been a complex one and it raises the question, What kind of a man is Butale? But before all is considered, Butale who wears many hats had his energies focused on the church as the leader of Evangelist Fellowship of Botswana (EFB).
He was not a politician then, but he had always shown his steadfast and unwavering character. He sometimes speaks in hushed tones and always appears calm and collected even during stressful times.
Butale once stood against floggings in Kgatleng when pastors were allegedly flogged in the bush. The man who is a lawyer by training at the time condemned the unlawful floggings. “The directives by the tribal authority ignore the legal and lawful permits issued at the kgotla and by the Kgatleng District Council bye-law offices.
Such discrimination is unacceptable and we reject it outright,” said the then EFB leader at the time. Besides being blatant and vocal about issues happening in the society, Pastor Butale was known to be a Bible thumper because of the way he tried in a forceful or enthusiastic way to persuade other people to believe in the Christian religion and the Bible.
Still during his time as the head of EFB, Butale said the church would never accept the act of abortion or the legalisation of the latter. “Such an act is morally inadmissible, because we can never support murder of innocent unborn babies that cannot retaliate.
As the church we unite in the defence of life, repudiating any attempts to legalise abortion in our country,” said Butale who was commenting on the former legislator, Botlogile Tshireletso’s plea to government to legalise abortion.
Moreover during his time leading the church, Butale unequivocally condemned lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and even led a vigorous crusade against gays and sex workers. He once welcomed the decision by government to appeal the outcome of the High Court to allow the Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) to legally register their organisation with the Registrar of Societies.
“I hope this is not the beginning of gay parades where grown up men with hideous beards kiss in public and make other un-wholesome demands.
Our nation has done well to keep these legally and customarily unacceptable, and we must resist any suggestions that would lead to homosexual marriages in our nation,” Butale was quoted in the media. For a morally upright man and a man of the cloth, Butale joined the ‘dirty’ game of politics and won Tati West BDP Bulela Ditswe elections against some BDP heavyweights.
Then as a parliamentary candidate for the party he joined at a tender age of 18, Butale eventually won the parliamentary seat at the 2014 elections. After defying all odds to become MP, Butale who was a new face, showed his hunger to lead by entering the seemingly fraternal race for BDP chairmanship in 2015 against President Mokgweetsi Masisi amongst others.
Although he was an underdog in this scenario the man’s resilience showed that if successful he could one day become a stronger adversary. He served as assistant minister in various ministries under former president Ian Khama. During his time at the Ministry of Trade and Industry in 2017, Butale was once almost arrested in what he deemed as a set-up by his political nemesis.
He admitted that he survived a two-day arrest plot over allegations of a fabricated gambling licence bribery case. The plot engineers who were allegedly helped by someone from the Ministry were said to have pressurised the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime to arrest Butale pending investigations and consequently tarnishing his image.
Now fast forward to constituency primaries in 2018, Butale lost to Simon Mavange Moabi. His relationship with the party that he loved from a younger age fell apart when he was accused of informing some of his electorate during kgotla meetings that he would be contesting at the 2019 general elections.
Butale was then suspended from the BDP for six months because he was suspected to have a hidden political agenda. He was accused of using government resources and kgotla meetings as platforms to campaign. The Masunga-born politician didn’t shake and after his loss in the primaries, he approached the Appeals Board that eventually dismissed his plea.
He did not despair and filed his case with the High Court. In his court papers, Butale accused BDP secretary general, Mpho Balopi of favouring Moabi with the intention to topple him.
He said Balopi displayed lack of fairness when the support was extended to Moabi, much to Butale’s disadvantage. Suspended without a party and no candidacy in his constituency, Butale had no time because the general elections were coming in few months and he had to strategise and rather fight in the opposition side for the first time in his life.
The BPF was born under his leadership and with Khama as the party patron on his side. “You might think tomorrow, once I am up the ladder of power I might do a similar thing to my opponents. Yes, it is possible, but I am a different person altogether because of the experiences at the hands of the BDP,” he told this publication at the time. Although he lost at the general elections, Butale led the BPF to a historic win in all the three Serowe constituencies. That was history in the making because never before had the BDP lost parliamentary constituencies in the heartland of Bamangwato.
Butale who was convinced that the Directorate of Intelligence and Security was following him since before the October 2019 elections had an encounter with Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) later that year when he and his wife were interrogated by customs officials upon arrival from South Africa at the Ramotswa Border Post. The couple was interrogated on allegations that they were carrying ‘undisclosed and undeclared’ amounts of money in their car.
Customs later seized his Toyota Wish car and continued with the search the following day to no avail. Butale later told the media that he was not shocked by what transpired because he had been followed to Sandton, Johannesburg.
Asked how much money he had in his possession, Butale then said his wife had around R20, 000 that he admitted was not declared. After the final search of his car, Butale said BURS recovered money amounting to R41, 800 from them contrary to R20, 000 that he had mentioned the previous day. At the time, Butale stated that the government of Botswana humiliated him by exposing his undergarments in full view of the public.
He has also been known as a supporter of women empowerment because he once highlighted that women should not only be recognised on election year. Before his recent sex scandal, the BPF’s Women Wing was following him in what was suspected to be a plot to oust him from the party.
It now remains to be seen whether this will change. Besides his political life Butale who issued an apology this week and one specifically to his wife Galaletsang, once said the institution of marriage should be nurtured and protected at all times.
Butale and his wife were celebrating 14 years of marriage at the time. Of course, the well-known things don’t make Butale the worst kind of a man but Mmegi went on to interview former Mmegi chief sub-editor, Pamela Dube who has worked with Butale. Dube believes that the BPF president made a mistake by allowing politicians to convince him to be politically active while still pastor. “That is the first mistake he made because politics is not for good people like him.
He was doing well as a pastor and he can do well as an attorney. He is a good man, loving and is also shy but he is a strong character when he faces a problem. Butale is a good listener and knows how to handle different fights quietly without making noise. He believes in facts and knows when to say sorry when he is wrong.
Take an example of what happened after BURS searched him at the border claiming that he was holding a lot of money that he had not accounted for. Those are some of the things he had invited to himself by becoming politically active,” Dube added. Dube said the issue about politics is that it could force someone to say untrue things and for someone who is a pastor, that is not a good sign because it is unbiblical. She said Butale has won and lost some political battles and that some have been undermining him.