Factional tensions remain deep-seated in Tonota South within the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) as the party is torn between Pono Moatlhodi and Maokaneng Bontshetse.
Moatlhodi defected from Botswana Democratic Party early this year after losing to Thapelo Olopeng in the primary election. The tension was palpable this weekend during a ‘welcome rally’ organised for Moatlhodi in the troubled Tonota South constituency.
Bontshetse’s conspicuous absence set tongues wagging during the rally held at Makobeng ward in Tonota. Sources close say Bontshetse has never embraced Moatlhodi and believes he stands a better chance to wrestle the constituency from the BDP.
“As a BNF veteran I believe that the leadership has not been fair to him,” said an elderly man who preferred anonymity.
He suspects that the party has already endorsed Moatlhodi to represent the UDC but is still indecisive.
He said Bontshetse stands a better chance to defeat BDP’s Olopeng because he has been on the ground building party structures.
“Moatlhodi is new to the BNF and the constitution allows one to stand for elections after being a member for three years.” He rubbishes suggestions that a waiver was taken in Serowe to allow new members to stand for elections anytime. Bontshetse expressed shock to the news that he has handed the constituency over to Moatlhodi.
“What I know is that I am still the candidate and nothing has changed,” he told Northern Extra this week. He said it was not true that he has agreed with the party leadership.
“Negotiations are still ongoing between Moatlhodi and me. People have a tendency of talking about things they do not have information about. People of Tonota South should ignore those reports,” he advised.
When asked why he did not attend a welcome rally organised for Moatlhodi, Bontshetse said he was not aware of the event, but said he would have snubbed it even if he were invited.
“It is my first time to hear from you that there was a welcome rally in Tonota South. Even if I knew about it I was not going to attend because I have better things to do,” he said.
Bontshetse’s response is widely interpreted as a clear sign that he will not give up his quest to represent the people of Tonota South in the forthcoming general election.
Chairman of the constituency, Jobe Matsuane echoed Bontshetse's remarks. He said Bontshetse remains their candidate.
“What I know is that Bontshetse is the candidate and the negotiations are still ongoing and we will communicate with our members once a decision has been taken,” said Matsuane.
Asked why they did not attend the Tuesday rally he said, “I did not know anything regarding the rally that is why I was not there. Just like Bontshetse no one has communicated to us about that rally. The party leadership is in better position to explain about that rally,” said Matsuane.
Observers say UDC leadership appears to lack the courage to set the record straight that they prefer Moatlhodi over Bontshetse in Tonota South. Even UDC Chairperson Ferdinand Kgosikoma response was indecisive:
“At the moment I do not have information about who will be representing the party because we are still waiting for the Tonota South constituency committee members to brief us.
The decision is going to be taken by them not the UDC leadership as has previously been reported. What I know is that they met on the 1st July (Tuesday).”
UDC spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa said people of Tonota South are the ones to decide who is standing but refused to give a deadline saying, “they work with consultation not on deadline.’
“They have written a letter to us as the central committee saying they want Moatlhodi to stand for election and we are still looking at the letter before taking any decision,” said Mohwasa adding that they have never asked Bontshetse to pave way for Moatlhodi as the reported in the past.
Moatlhodi declined to comment saying that the UDC leadership is better placed to explain, But during the rally, a fired up Moatlhodi urged voters in Tonota South to vote for him during general election.
“I am a highly experienced politician and history speaks for me because of the developments I brought to Tonota South. It is still my intention to continue to ask for more,” said Moatlhodi.