Why Molale lost Goodhope/Mabule by-election


FRANCISTOWN: The ruling Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) loss in the Goodhope/Mabule constituency by-election was a disaster waiting to happen.

It was inevitable that the BDP and its parliamentary candidate, Eric Molale, were set to lose. Molale’s charisma and eloquence were doubtful. His oratory skills could not match those of the opposition, led by youthful politicians. His civil service leadership experience did not inspire confidence.

He went into the by-election after about 10 months as minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration -- a number three position in the government enclave after the President and the Vice President.

Therefore, he was more prominent by stature but lost to a political rookie, Kgosi Lotlamoreng of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).

Again, Molale’s weekend failure amounted to rejection of the BDP’s bigwigs, particularly President Ian Khama and Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi because they were the chief political salesmen who failed to sell him to Barolong.

Their efforts to sell Molale before the 15,874 people who registered to vote in the 2014 general elections, back-fired as the constituents were not convinced that Molale was the right man to represent them in Parliament despite his civil service credentials.

Lotlamoreng won with 6,152 votes against Molale’s 4,372  and Comfort Maruping of the Botswana Congress Party who garnered 385 votes.

For an ordinary BDP member, the obvious winner in the weekend by-election was supposed to be Molale given his position of power in government but voters had other ideas.

He was a specially elected Member of Parliament before he resigned to contest the Goodhope/Mabule constituency.

The loss means that Molale will not be a candidate for the vice presidency when one is needed at the end of President Khama’s term of office in 2018.


But what precipitated Molale’s loss?

Inside the BDP, it is common knowledge that Molale lacked grassroots appeal, which is a powerful ingredient for one to win an election.

His son-of-the-soil tag was not in doubt at all, as Molale was born in Phitshane-Molopo. What possibly worked against him were reports that because of his work commitments in the civil service, he spent more time in Gaborone than his home village to the chagrin of the people.

Dubbed civil servants enemy number one, Molale went into the race knowing that his share from the civil servants was reduced because of his previous dealings with them.

Civil servants’ troubles with Molale are documented, especially from the perspective of the Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU) since the time of the 2011 public sector strike.

The federation’s position was that it would not support Molale because of stand-offs with him when he was permanent secretary to the President and when he was minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration.

The union says it flexed its political muscle against Molale by supporting the opposition UDC.

Although Molale received 4,372 votes, the margin of his party’s loss against the UDC widened from 611 during the 2014 general elections to 1,780 in the by-election.

The BDP and Molale seem to have ignored an important factor by trying to sideline the primary elections loser, Fankie Motsaathebe, who had made a last minute compromise after his attempt to take the party to court, citing irregularities in the primary elections that produced Molale as the party candidate. Motsaathebe has since indicated his desire to join the UDC.


Party organisation

Reports from Goodhope/Mabule suggest that BDP was not organised in its campaign.

An insider confided to Mmegi yesterday: “I literally blame no individual for the party’s loss, rather the party was not organised. It was purely divided”.

Observers say given access to intelligence, the BDP leaders were the first to know that James Mathokgwane would resign from Parliament, and could have started planning the campaign.

“Political expediency dictates that the BDP should have avoided primary elections just like the UDC did and identified a more suitable candidate to lift the party flag,” one source said.

The BDP might have blundered in unleashing the cabinet to lead its campaigns in a rural set up like Goodhope/Mabule instead of leading the campaigns through people who understand grassroots politics and dealt with issues peculiar to the area.

Furthermore, Molale had nothing to lose because Khama would make him a specially elected Member of Parliament again.

“Really, BDP has become its worst enemy as it does not address pertinent issues like bread and butter issues peculiar to the constituency,” suggested a source who preferred anonymity.

He feels that the BDP should have moved swiftly and offered Lotlamoreng a counter offer upon his resignation because they are the party in government.

“Even Motsaathebe, the party should have attended to his query on time and avoided carrying some of the issues into the by-election.”

A political analyst, Anthony Morima, says Molale lost because he had no relationship with the people of Goodhope/Mabule through community structures such as the Village Development Community.


The Kgosi factor

Molale stood against the Kgosi and it was likely that Barolong would pay allegiance to their chief regardless of what another candidate offered.

There is also a perception from Barolong that Molale did not support sections of the tribe that wants to be led by a Morolong instead of a Mongwaketse Kgosi.



Morima feels that probably Barolong have found in UDC a uniting factor that has given them hope to satisfy their political needs.

Quizzed about what could have cost the BDP loss, the  ruling party secretary general, Botsalo Ntuane said yesterday his party had not yet completed its evaluation of the by-election.

“As a party we are yet to make evaluation of the elections, an exercise which will involve a good number of people and come up with a comprehensive report,” said Ntuane emphasising that they will not depend on speculation.

“I will not even attribute our loss to any single factor until a report is made on the by-election,” he said responding to a question on whether the loss could be attributable to the party candidate.

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