At Tsholetsa House, there is hardly a sign of frenzy. The calm betrays what is happening inside – the ruling party is on an overdrive to calm an outbreak of inner-party squabbles ahead of the fiercely anticipated primary election, a development that observers say threatens to expose fragile détente within.
After Maun, the victorious A-Team showed no mercy and purged supporters of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) warring factionsEducation Minister and Barataphathi factionalist, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi who lost to Samson Guma Moyo. But it appears the glue that held A-Team together before Maun is no longer holding. There are fears that leadership tensions are mounting ahead of party primary election this weekend and on the 23rd of November with some losers feared to be already hatching plans to denounce victors. At the heart of the concern are candidates who are allegedly flouting BDP primary election rules and regulations.
BDP Electoral Board and the Central Committee presided over 22 cases involving allegations of irregularities and general concerns pertaining to rules and regulations governing Bulela Ditswe primary election, according to those closer to the cutthroat campaigns. The squabbles hint at the power struggle ahead of the wide-open 2014 general election. Factions are at full swing in the BDP with some credible allegations of misconduct and irregularities post Bulela Ditswe. Take for example the latest drama involving Francistown West candidates, Mokwaledi Ignatius Moswaane and his newfound political nemesis, Whyte Bagai Marobela. The tension highlights how high the fighting has escalated. But some are downright fear mongering. Tshekedi Khama, who is inundated by his newfound ministerial post did not get his wish to see his rival, Prince Kgwaneng disqualified from running in Serowe North primary election on Saturday after he accused him of campaigning before the prohibited time for the BDP primaries of 4th October. Tshekedi is surely disappointed following the decision of the Electoral Board chaired by Parks Tafa that a high-level delegation, which includes Mompati Merafhe, Guma Moyo and other party elders, be dispatched to the constituency to reconcile the two men. Sources from the constituency this week said that Tshekedi is angry that the party elders failed to address his issues with Kgwaneng. It is said that the political atmosphere in the constituency is tense.
But unlike Tshekedi, Marobela took many by surprise when he dragged both the BDP and Moswaane to court last week where Justice Tshepo Motswagole ruled that Marobela be afforded a hearing. This was a jaw dropper for the evidently unprepared ruling party. With an egg on his face, Moswaane was left dumfounded and is yet to make a decision on his future as the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) refused to accept his nomination last Friday on the basis that he did not possess a Court order that clears his dispute with Marobela for the Francistown West by-election.
Unsure what to do, BDP is weighing its options, including inviting President Ian Khama to “withdraw the writ of by-election” in Francistown West to allow Moswaane and anyone else to resubmit names for nomination. This will be the most obtuse option for the BDP. Francistown West constituency became vacant following the death of long serving area MP, Tshelang Masisi.
There is a lot of negativity in wards and constituencies alike as candidates jostle for primary election. A Tsholetsa House source who wanted to remain anonymous said the party received around 25 complaints in the past six weeks and that many were referred back to regional committees for arbitration. This is a conservative figure according to sources that talked to this paper this week. Several other aggrieved candidates have chosen not to approach the party structures for redress. “This year is worse. We have never had so many complaints,” the source declares visibly unimpressed by the developments. Sources fear that with the number of complaints chances are that losers are not going toaccept the outcome of the primaries.
This is a worrying and unprecedented trend, sources have said. With this disturbing level of negativity, one insider already predicts the emergence of more Mekoko in the 2014 general election than in the previous elections. This, the insiders view as a dangerous development that is likely to harm the party during the 2014 election. Insults and violence threats are the order and there is fear that this may explode during the election over the weekend and during the second leg of the primaries next week. “The negativity is unprecedented and scaring. And if not managed this will explode right on our faces during the primaries,” commented a senior party member in Francistown.
There is bad karma in the BDP. But how worse can it get if a frustrated politician charges at his comrade and allegedly threatens to box him? “The peak of my political career was on the 25th of October,” declares Deputy Speaker and Member of Parliament of Tonota, Pono Moatlhodi. For someone who imbibed progressive politics from the late Lebohane Dithebe in the 70s in Lobatse, Moatlhodi would not have imagined that a comrade in BDP would threaten to assault him. “As I was walking Godfrey Mudanga (Chief Executive Officer of Water Utilities Corporation) to his car, Thapelo Olopeng approached me,” Moatlhodi would remember several days after he claimed that Olopeng threatened to box him.
It happened at a 10-year anniversary of Sekoko Primary School in Tonota South constituency. In political circles, Olopeng and Moatlhodi do not see eye to eye. The two BDP politicians jostling for the constituency appear to have reached fever pitch. Moatlhodi’s main problem was the numerous complaints (four letters) he wrote to the central committee citing irregularities in the campaign for the hotly contested constituency. He has sparred with Botswana National Front firebrands in Matlhomola Modise and Vain Mamela. “They never threatened to box me,” he says adding that by threatening to hit him, Olopeng drew a line in the sand. “I majestically retained my level headedness.”
“I told him ‘if you are fortunate and you land one blow on me, I will punch you once and you will fall, and as you try to get up, you will fall again and again. I told him he will fall 40 times,’” he says cursing himself for not reporting the matter to Tonota police. Olopeng is a trained soldier and retired as a Captain at Botswana Defence Force.
He dismisses Moatlhodi’s allegations as fear mongering. “I never threatened to box anyone,” he was quoted as saying. For Moatlhodi, politics has never been this dirty. His rivals have taken the fight to his backyard, literally. At his security wall, at his yard in Tonota, a tell tale graffiti disturbs him the most. “It is fortunate that my children do not live with me, just imagine if my children were to see this,” he said in reference to graffiti ofunprintable words smeared on his wall.
“It is Olopeng’s people,” the politician says without flinching. “They are moving from pillar to post trying to de-campaign me.”He believes his development agenda will save him on Saturday when BDP members form a beeline to cast their vote.
Palapye dirty campaign
The level of negativity in Palapye has reached a worrying point in the last two weeks. One parliamentary candidate Samuel Kealotswe was almost in tears when he explained how some of his competitors spread rumours that he murdered a child in the area for ritual purposes. He said that the rumour is so rife that he is worried that some people may even believe it. He says that his competitors even allege that he was arrested in connection with the murder and was released on bail. “This is spread by my competitors with the aim of discrediting me before the residents of Palapye. The truth is that I was never arrested or questioned for any murder of a child in the area. No such case has also been reported in the area recently. ” The Police this week also denied that there has been any child killing in the area. Kealotswe said that the other rumour spread with gusto by his competitors is that out of rage and envy he burnt his girlfriend’s motor vehicle. He denies the charge. “I have made serious inroads in the constituency and some of my competitors are beginning to panic and in their panic they are saying all sorts of things about me,” he said. Kealotswe will lock horns with the area MP Moisaraele Goya, Oratile Kebitsang Isaac Maforaga, Moses Kesamang and Onnetse Ramogapi.
Molebatsi vs Makgato-Malesu
There are many BDP politicians trading punches this year. Trouble for Oreeditse Molebatsi started when lesser-known Dorcus Makgato-Malesu was appointed Specially Elected MP. Both are A-Team members but will go head to head for a legislative seat to represent BDP in Sefhare-Ramokgonami constituency. A year before the Bulela Ditswe season began Molebatsi, the area incumbent was already penning letters to the party’s central committee alleging that Malesu was campaigning in the area contrary to the party’s primary election rules and regulations. He accused Malesu of buying votes. A commission of inquiry was set and Malesu was cleared of any wrongdoing. Other candidates are Motsamai Seraga, Ngakaemang Kewell, Seloma Kitso and Monyatsi Tshekiso.
Sebele vs Mathabaphiri
Former Mmegi advertising executive, Kabo Sebele was relieved recently after the central committee instructed the electoral board to write to Molepolole North Branch Committee that Sebele, like any other member running for primary election, has the right to access voters roll. Sebele’s major gripe with incumbent MP was that Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri and Molepolole North branch committee denied him the right to access voters’ roll.
Masilo vs Raletobana
In Gabane/Mankgodi constituency, Colonel Duke Masilo, also a former army man, dragged Mmoloki Raletobana to the branch committee complaining that Raletobana did not observe rules and regulations governing Bulela Ditswe. He was alleged to have printed booklets, pamphlets and t-shirts but has rubbished the claims. Sources say BDP central committee dismissed the case on the grounds that it lacked sufficient evidence. Other candidates are Lesedi Mmusi, Nnaniki Wilhemina Makwinja, and Tshepo Chape-Wareus.