When president Ian Khama made a surprise appearance at a Botswana Congress Party (BCP) rally in Chadibe three years ago, little did he know that he was inadvertently endorsing the area’s opposition candidate in the person of Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang.
The village of Chadibe is a part of Tswapong South constituency where the BCP Secretary General has been building his political base, having contested two general elections in the area (2004 and 2009).For Gobotswang, Khama’s unannounced presence was a blessing in disguise that helped to dispel rumours spread by ruling party members in the area and beyond, that the former BCP vice president has a rabid hatred for the president and Bangwato paramount chief.
“Some in the constituency had until then viewed me as a rebel who is disrespectful of the president and Mongwato chief. Some even said that I was wishing the president to die.
The rumour was really working against me and my party,’’ says Gobotswang, adding that for some time people in the Tswapong area did not want to associate with him based on an unfounded perception.He admits that this was partly the reason why he lost to a BDP candidate with a big margin in the 2004 general elections, polling 1980 votes to Oreeditse Molebatsi’s 5005.
“The general perception of the voting population in the area was that I was too daring to challenge Khama,” says Gobotswang.
“So when the president pitched unexpectedly at our rally in 2009, another year of elections, we gave him the respect he deserved as head of state by allowing him the opportunity to greet the people, which he happily did. The president even told the people that him and I did not hate each other and underscored the fact that I was not contesting against him in the elections but Molebatsi.”
According to Gobotswang, since Khama’s ‘star rally’ many people started to flock to BCP political meetings in the area, as they realized that rumours that he hated Khama were totally false, and that he (Gobotswang) was a more valuable candidate than his opponent. “In a way I was endorsed by the president of Botswana who is also the ruling party president. Not once has the president honoured Molebatsi, the candidate of his own party, by being present at a rally addressed by Molebatsi.
That should tell you something about Khama’s attitude towards me in relation to Molebatsi,” says Gobotswang.A ruling party member in the Tswapong South who did not want to be named said the ‘historic’ Chadibe rally nearly cost the BDP the constituency.
“The BCP rally was the first that Khama had ever spoken at in the constituency. To many people, including BDP members, the BCP was just as good as the BDP. This is supported by the number of votes that Gobotswang would later get on polling day.The BCP might have lost, but with an increased margin from previous elections,” says the source.
The source goes on to predict an improved BCP election results come 2014, judging by the extent to which Gobotswang has become entrenched in the constituency. At present the BCP has three councillors out of a total of eight in the area.Meanwhile Northern Extra is reliably informed that since Khama’s 2009 ‘star rally’ in Chadibe, his handlers advised him against pitching up at opposition rallies.
When the election results were finally announced Gobotswang garnered 4175 votes against Molebatsi’s 5488 votes.On the other hand Molebatsi has dismissed the claim of the ‘Khama magic’ working for Gobotswang, saying the BCP’s good election performance on 2009 in the area was as result of internal problems at BDP.