Did the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) see this one coming? This seems to be a question asked by many following the party’s failure to snatch one of its stronghold constituencies, Goodhope/Mabule from the opposition.
BDP had expressed confidence that it’d reclaim the constituency it had lost to the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) in last year’s general election during last weekend by-election. UDC’s candidate, Barolong Paramount Chief Lotlamoreng II retained the seat with 6 152 votes followed by BDP’s Eric Molale with 4372 votes and Botswana Congress Party’s (BCP) 385 votes.BDP went into the by-election faced with some obstacles, among them convincing disgruntled members who supported some of the candidates who lost to Molale during the party’s primary elections held only a week before the by-election. The losing candidates even though they publicly declared their support for Molale, are alleged to have rallied behind the UDC candidate. Another uphill battle was the alleged rivalry between Molale and the public service unions.
After being announced the BDP candidate, Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU) launched an onslaught on Molale. The federation called on public servants and their families in the constituency not to vote for Molale. The federation believes Molale has largely contributed in paralysing the public service especially the unions. He was labelled an ‘enemy of the public servants’. The fact that he was also up against a Kgosi, observers believe, contributed to his defeat. Some BDP members in the constituency are said to have been frustrated by the party leadership’s decision to allow Molale to contest even though he was already an MP, having been handpicked by President Ian Khama as Specially Elected MP. This is said to have caused even the party loyalists to opt for Lotlamoreng. The latter increased the margin from last year’s general election from around 600 to over 1 600.
During the run-up to the by-election, BOFEPUSU blamed the state of paralysis that the civil service currently finds itself in on Molale. Meanwhile Molale’s Campaign Manager, Anderson Kambimba said they had prepared well and managed to convince constituents about Molale’s candidature. “Just like any other party in the by-election we had a strong belief that we will win the constituency. This loss will not despair us, BDP is still a relevant party to Batswana,” he said adding that the impact of civil servants in their loss was insignificant. Kambimba said what BOFEPUSU was doing was just propaganda. “Those unions have our members who I believe did not listen to them,” he said adding that there is no way BOFEPUSU could have contributed to their loss.
He believes that electorate voted for their preferred candidate without the influence of anyone. On allegations that some of the candidates who lost to Molale during the primary election were inactive in the constituency, Kambimba dismissed the allegation as baseless. He stated that all the five members who lost to Molale during Bulela-Ditswe were active and some were leading the campaign. “They owned the campaign just like us. Some were front foot soldiers in various wards,” said Kambimba. Meanwhile a BDP Councillor at Ramatlabama ward, Boniface Lesomo believes that their loss could be attributed to lack of developments in the constituency. “Barolong are currently frustrated at what has been happening in the area. The constituency has been lagging behind in terms of developments. I guess they are just punishing us for failing them for the years the constituency has been under our fold.” Politcal Analyst Anthony Morima is of the view that Molale has no track record with Barolong even though he originates from Borolong. “Currently there are Barolong Ba Baikuedi who want to be removed from Ngwaketse territory.
They have been fighting over this issue and they believe he has failed to use his position as the Permanent Secretary to the President to solve it,” he said. During Molale’s launch in Pitshane-Molopo, the leader of the group, Hussein Pandor, popularly known as ‘Matlhola a dibona’ accused Molale of orchestrating the plan to leave them under the rule of Ngwaketsi tribe. Pandor said that the ruling party has failed to resolve the issue of Barolong Ba Baikuedi. The Barolong who do not fall under Kgosi Lotlamoreng’s rule argue that since the government wants them to remain under Ngwaketsi rule they will not vote for the BDP candidate. However, Pandor said Lotlamoreng II should be voted in by virtue of his tribal leadership as a chief. He said Lotlamoreng II will be able to articulate issues that are of concern to Barolong Ba Baikuedi and the population in Borolong.
According to Pandor, Lotlamoreng II as a chief deserves to be voted into a political position like other Tswana speaking tribes have done in the past. Pandor claimed that even President Ian Khama has failed to resolve their concern despite approaching him on several occasions. Morima further pointed to lack of developments in the constituency as another factor that cost the BDP the vote. He however expressed that it is too early to conclude that this could mean the BDP is losing its touch with Batswana. Morima said the other factor could be that some disgruntled members who supported those who lost against Molale in the primaries did not vote for the party in the by-election.