On Saturday last week Barolong kgosikgolo Lotlamoreng II and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) candidate was elected a Member of Parliament (MP) for Goodhope/Mabule constituency in a hotly contested by-election.
He garnered 6,152 votes while Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Eric Molale trailed him with 4,372. Botswana Congress Party Candidate (BCP) came a distant third with 385 votes. The by-election followed an abrupt and shocking resignation of the former area MP James Mathokgwane over ill-health and a plum position at the Selebi-Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU).
The new MP will be sworn in at the next session of Parliament just before the President’s State of the Nation Address. At the same session, Parliament will be expected to elect a Specially Elected MP to fill a vacancy created by Molale when he resigned to try his luck in the by-election. It is highly probable that he will be nominated by the President and elected by the majority BDP MPs and assume his previous position. He’s a loyal servant of president Khama and may be further rewarded for that. It may be that his loss, celebrated by many in the ruling party, has also affected his master’s succession plans. Some in the ruling party are alleged to have abetted his loss.
The campaign period between the issuance of a writ and the election day was very short and all parties had a tight campaign schedule and clearly material and human resources became some of the important determining factors of the outcome, although not enough to secure a win in the case of the ruling party. There was what political scientists call political business cycle and or vote buying of some sort.
There was a manipulation of public policy by the ruling party through deployment of ministers, spending on some projects including poverty eradication programmes and others with a view to improve Molale’s election chances. Usually after elections everything goes back to normal and it would even be worse in Borolong because Molale has lost. Other than vote buying, state resources were abused; choppers, vehicles and other resources were used at the tax payers expense to try and secure Molale a victory. What also became clear in these elections is that the Khama magic, as has been the case before, is fictious. He’s a trickless magician! His much proclaimed magic yielded a paltry 1.7% increase of the BDP popular vote in 2009 from the previous polls. The fictitious magician plummeted the ruling party’s electoral fortunes deeper to less than 47% of the popular vote in the 2014 general elections. Now the magic has failed Molale. This was notwithstanding the abuse of state resource including military hardware and the media. During the Goodhope/Mabule elections, both Khama and his number two traversed the constituency using state resources and the former did his usual walkabouts to lure voters. The ruling party lost nevertheless. There’s no doubt that the UDC had a strong candidate in terms of social stature, a kgosikgolo. The party did not take the campaign for granted and marshalled all human and material resources to retain the seat. They engaged the services of a private chopper and the UDC candidate, the President and the campaign team covered a large part of the area. Other than the social stature of the kgosikgolo, the BDP has messed up the country and many people can see that and agree that it’s time is up. It couldn’t win back the seat it lost in 2014.
As for the BCP, it had no numbers from 2014 elections in the area and it is just where it was previously. Some seek to write the party off because of its dismal performance in the by-election. Some insinuate that the party is fading. The truth is that BCP won two council seats after the 2014 general elections. The party commands more than 20% of the popular vote, something which other opposition parties elsewhere in the region, Africa and the World can only envy. This new meaning of fading defies logic. Whereas the party wasn’t a factor in Goodhope/Mabule, it is a factor in the country’s politics. While calls for opposition cooperation are legitimate and timely, Goodhope-Mabule can’t be the basis for calls for acceleration of the process.
It is a good thing that the opposition is back to 20 seats in Parliament. It is also a good thing that Molale has been rejected by Barolong, he is a serious problem and an obstacle to democratisation and progress. He would have served the interest of one man and not Barolong if he had won. If kgosikgolo applies himself and learns fast, he will amplify the opposition voice. His House of Chiefs experience and legal background should enable him to adjust quickly. He joins his peers in Tawana Moremi and Khama in Parliament. The two dikgosi in the opposition should also advise more on traditional affairs that Parliament may deal with. In a nutshell, the Barolong have spoken, unequivocally and with a clear voice that they respect their kgosikgolo and support him and the party he represents.