Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership finds itself between a rock and hard place over its swap of constituencies with the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD).
In its effort to find a constituency for its President Dumelang Saleshando who also serves as Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Vice President, BCP has approached its colleagues in the UDC, BMD to swap constituencies. BCP had proposed that it be given Maun West in exchange for Nata-Gweta which is one of BCP’s 17 constituencies.
According to a letter seen by this publication written to BCP by BMD Secretary General Gilbert Mangole, BMD is not interested in Nata-Gweta. Mangole indicated in a letter dated April 6th 2018 that they can only accede to the exchange request if they get Francistown West.
“Some time ago your party’s Vice President and National Chairperson approached the leadership of BMD with the request to exchange Maun West for Nat/Gweta Constituency. About two weeks ago BMD leadership informed your National Chairperson that regrettably the BMD was unable to accept Nata/Gweta and could be happy to exchange Maun West for Francistown West. Your party National Chairperson undertook to place the matter before BCP executive for a decision,” wrote Mangole to the BCP.
BCP is said to be failing to reach a decision on the matter, as some believe Francistown West is winnable under the BCP. The party is said to have made inroads and some candidates have been identified. It is alleged that veteran politician Vain Mamela was requested by some to relocate to Francistown West. Another BCP member who has been lured to the constituency is BCP 2014 Parliamentary candidate for Tati East Maria Kusasa.
Kusasa was lured after the BCP decided to give Tati East to Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) another contracting partner in the UDC. While some believe the Francistown West is a fair deal some argue that the BCP has credible candidates in Mamela and Kusasa to win the constituency. Kusasa was allegedly convinced by former Francistown West MP Dr Habaudi Hubona to relocate. Dr Hubona is allegedly not contesting for the coming elections.
The division within the BCP could find the party back at square one in its bid to find Saleshando a constituency. The BCP leader is said to have expressed interest specifically in Maun West and Councillors in that constituency have also expressed that they would be more than pleased to have Saleshando as their candidate for 2019. Failure by the BCP factions to deal with the matter in time could cost Saleshando the constituency where he is believed to stand a better chance due to his family and business ties in Maun.
The BMD has announced that on the 5th of next month it would hold primary elections in all its 14 constituencies Maun West included. BMD allegedly wants Francistown West for BPP to field its President Motlatsi Molapisi following their bilateral meeting in Francistown early this year.
BCP Information and Publicity Secretary Dithapelo Keorapetse said the party is not divided on any issue. He revealed that as the BCP Central Committee they are meeting on Thursday (yesterday). “If the letter is there then it would be presented to the committee and we would take it from there after our deliberations on the letter,” he said.
Last week, BCP Vice President Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang released a statement that they could not trade Francistown West because dynamics at the constituency have changed. He said they looked at the issue of gender balance and that Mamela had initially relocated from the constituency for the benefit of the UDC project and moving him again would not be fair on him. This has however been seen by others as just a factional stance as the party is yet to meet on the matter.
It is now public knowledge that factional wars exist within the BCP, as those who already have constituencies are not prepared to let go of them. It is alleged Ditimamolelo- a group of BCP activists who are engaged in a fight to protect Saleshando post 2014 general elections is now in control of most of the BCP constituencies and are not willing to give way for the party president. Ditimamolelo was first made known to the public in November 2014 during a public rally in Old Naledi where they vowed to defend the party and its leader against any attack by other political parties following the BCP’s dismal performance in the 2014 polls.
BMD survived being kicked out of the UDC at the February UDC congress. Some of those who called for removal of BMD within the UDC are said to have done so due to their interests in certain constituencies assigned to the BMD. It has been argued that the BMD is no longer trusted to deliver some of its constituencies it has been assigned to manage on behalf of the UDC. BMD has lost many members to other political parties but more people left the party to the newly formed Alliance for Progressives (AP).