On Tuesday this week the Okavango constituency office in Shakawe was locked from the inside. A sign on the door read, “Meeting in progress. Come later.” The office, which houses Member of Parliament, Bagalatia Arone of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), remained locked until the late hours of the day.
Later that day, in the evening, MP Arone approached a close friend of his and told him that ‘I am joining these guys’. His friend asked him what he meant and the BCP man who is on his second term as MP for the Okavango constituency told him that he was defecting to the ruling Botswana Democratic Party. And his main reason: financial gain. “He basically told me that he does not want to leave politics a poor man,” said Arone’s friend who preferred to be anonymous. Arone has not handed in his resignation letter yet but sources say he will be a BDP member as soon as next week. A letter of intent to join the BDP is expected to reach the party before end of this week.In Botswana, politicians defect to a different party rarely because of conflicting ideologies but rather for personal reasons and of late for financial gain.
According to sources, Arone had earlier on Tuesday told employees of the constituency office that he was joining the BDP and thus they should follow him lest they lose their jobs. The constituency office secretary has since indicated that she will follow Arone to the BDP, sources have said. A Botswana Congress Party councillor for Nxamasere-Xhaoga-Samothima ward in Okavango, Gaopalelwe Ronald told this publication on Tuesday that Arone approached him and tried to recruit him (Ronald) to the BDP. “He told me that he was joining the BDP and thus he wanted me to also defect,” said Ronald. The latter refused the offer to join the BDP.
According to the councillor the MP was busy this week consulting and recruiting members of the BCP to the ruling party, a move which prompted his party (BCP) to suspend him. So far the councillors that Arone have approached have turned him down and the likelihood is that he will reach Tsholetsa House alone or with some ordinary party members in the constituency. The BCP had earlier on Tuesday said they did not have any letter of resignation from any of their MPs, and as a result could not address rumors. But the party later on the day released a statement stating that they have suspended Arone pending further investigations.
Ronald said the MP told him that he was joining the ruling party because being in opposition disadvantages the constituency in terms of developments. His reason being that Okavango, a constituency hit by poverty and rising unemployment numbers, remains less developed because it is in the hands of the opposition. The constituency for many years remained an opposition stronghold.Meanwhile, Ronald revealed to Botswana Guardian that Arone also told him that he is joining the BDP because opposition politics cannot make him rich.
It is currently not clear how Arone’s defection to the BDP will help him financially but sources say the MP has purchased a lodge in Shakawe and has another “project” in Letlhakane. Insiders say the MP is looking at life after politics. Apparently the MP got himself into a financial mess and the BDP has arranged to rescue him. “The lodge is the one that got him into trouble. He underfinanced and could not renovate to start operations. BDP has arranged to finance,” said an insider. The lodge in question, Hawk Guest House is currently going through renovations. A source based in Shakawe told this publication that renovation works have started at the lodge.
It is not yet clear what project the MP is working on in Letlhakane but sources said he told close friends that he has something coming up in that area. Contacted for comment, Arone denied joining BDP for financial gains. “People like prophesy”, he said without denying or confirming his defection. Asked about the lodge Arone indicated that he applied for a loan at CEDA and it was approved in November last year.
Pressed further about under financing and the renovations Arone hung the phone, but not before he angrily exclaimed “le a ntapisa banna, nna ke busy mo kgaolong ke tla bua le lona ke le ko Gaborone (you guys are irritating me, I am busy in my constituency and I will talk to you when I get to Gaborone). BDP Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane said they have not received anything official to suggest that Arone is their member. He however said anything could happen and if it so happens that anyone joins the BDP, it would be accordingly communicated.
Defection part of Mokgweetsi Masisi’s recruitment drive
Botswana Guardian understands that Arone’s defection to the ruling party is part of a major scheme by Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi to build his own team within the party. Many of the opposition members who recently decamped to the BDP are said to be recruited by Masisi. He is the one who puts their personal deals together as he wants to build a team that will be loyal to him as he fights for the BDP top post. Masisi is largely viewed as someone who has no base in the Barata Party or A Team factions of the BDP and is a man in need of a faction that he can count on. All the BCP members who have since joined the party among them former youth league President Lotty Manyapetsa have been linked to Masisi as he sees them as hard working individuals that he can count on. Masisi could not be reached for comment as his phone rang unanswered. For his part Manyapetsa said as any BDP member he is loyal to the party and not individuals and anything he does in the party would be in accordance with the assignment given to him by the party.
BCP to approach Kenny Kapinga
Insiders have told this publication that the BCP members in the constituency want the party leadership to approach Botswana’s outgoing Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Kenny Kapinga to represent the party come 2019. Kapinga is viewed as a BCP sympathiser.
Okavango has been a BCP stronghold for long and it is anticipated that come what may, the BDP may still find it difficult to claim the constituency under Arone. Efforts to reach Kapinga at press time were futile. On social media page ‘Facebook’, Kapinga on May 27th,bid Zimbabweans and Batswana living in Zimbabwe farewell. “The reality of life is that there is time for everything. I am now home, ready to venture onto new career altogether,” he wrote on his Facebook page.