The political atmosphere around the build-up to the next election is slowly but surely unfolding with political parties intensely luring people to their stables. Numbers are critical to determine who finally wins a parliamentary or council seat hence the recruitment drive. But it is the realistic chance of who you recruit that will ensure that you retain the seat you currently hold or snatch it from the other party. The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is the only party so far after the last election that has successfully recruited a sitting Member of Parliament (MP) from the opposition and reportedly pursuing others. Nothing suggests so far that the opposition, even if it had a desire to recruit from the BDP, is “adequately resourced” to do so. It is therefore in this context that this article zooms to a large extent into the ruling party on the basis of its recent and aggressive recruitment drive of high value targets. For purposes of putting this argument into perspective, allow me to use the Okavango constituency currently held by Hon.
Bagalatia Arone who was recently recruited by the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). Also, allow me to use the allegations peddled in the media that he was recruited by throwing an irresistible juicy carrot in the form of some alleged P4m cash injection into his business. I should nevertheless state that these allegations have been refuted. In the process of such recruitment, the expectation from the BDP is that Hon. Arone will retain the parliamentary and council seats failure to which BDP would have lost in all fronts. After all, what would be the purpose of recruiting somebody who doesn’t deliver a constituency or a ward? In the last election, Hon. Arone under the BCP won with 6864 while Hon. Mbaha Kambimba for the BDP got 5473 – a difference of 1091. In council seats, BDP won five wards against BCP’s four. Will Hon. Arone fulfil his “side of the deal” of delivering the constituency? For him to do so, he must have moved with the foot soldiers in the form of his Councillors and the whole political structures because without these, it is as good as describing him, a lone mover. Currently and barring any turn of events, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) is telling us that the constituency is currently and firmly under its control because Hon. Arone has only moved with his campaign manager. The fact that five councillors belong to the BDP and in the process are in Hon. Arone’s stable is conveniently ignored by the BCP presumably as political propaganda. Be that as it may, the same BCP will justifiably argue that it retained the parliamentary constituency with four council seats.
The Okavango constituency is interesting to watch how and who finally wins it in the next election. There is the bulela ditswe factor which could make or break it. Kambimba at least for now, is reported to be keen to stand against Hon. Arone and considering the numbers on his side from the last election, it could pose a serious challenge for the MP. In this regard, the BDP will have to conjure some dispensation or compromise for him so that there is no bulelwa ditswe process in the constituency. But this could bring some instability in the party because other would-be contestants in other constituencies with similar influence to Kambimba may demand the same which the party may not afford or may not be willing to accord. This could lead to such members claiming lack of inner party democracy and consequently either leaving to join the opposition or standing as mekoko. This has happened with its consequences in the public domain. The pattern that emerged after the last election in so far as MPs who were recruited to the BDP are concerned is that none of them succeeded in retaining those constituencies. The example of former MPs like Mephato Reatile, Botsalo Ntuane, Odirile Motlhale and Patrick Masimolole come to mind and this could be true if opposition position that they were punished is anything to go by.
Only Hon. Makgalemele did so. Curiously though and on the flip side of the same coin, is that Hon. Mangole and Hon. Mmolotsi who defected from the BDP to the opposition successfully defended their seats. It therefore stands to reason that had the four former MPs remained in opposition politics, they would have on the balance of probability successfully retained their seats because the element of punishment wouldn’t have applied to them. It is worth noting that the moono slogan of that period played a crucial role in determining the election outcomes and this speaks to why Dumelang Saleshando never made it back to parliament. Nothing suggests for now that the former four BDP MPs mentioned above will not stand for bulelwa ditswe and ultimately for parliamentary elections should they make it. Assuming the BDP consciously vets them to stand owing to their experience and their numbers from the last election, can they realistically deliver constituencies? To be fair to the BDP, election results are as difficult to predict as are football game results but this said and based on the last election results, one could predict that only traditional stronghold constituencies which were won with large numbers like Tati East, Shashe West, Mmadinare, Boteti East, Serowe East/West are highly retainable regardless of who stands barring a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions. If the four stand in their former constituencies including Hon. Arone and based on moono and punishment of those who defect from opposition parties, the same outcome similar to the last election is pretty much on the cards.
As far as opposition parties are concerned, the results of by-elections post 2014 is arguably the measure of how well or not they can realistically defend and deliver their current constituencies and wards barring again a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions. The loss of about eleven constituencies due to vote-splitting could be snatched from the BDP if the brouhaha around cooperation talks is to be believed. My point is that based on the vigorous recruitment drive of high value targets by the ruling party, the high expectation is that they will deliver? Based on the past by-elections results and the growth to 53% of opposition popular vote; the perennial blunders in the eyes of opposition by the BDP which the former would naturally use as campaign issues; the moono slogan (assuming it’s still relevant) whose aim is to punish the BDP, the highly held view that this time around the opposition will contest the next election as a single bloc, it appears the recruitment drive may after all be an exercise in futility. Conversely, the BDP is adamant and perhaps justifiably so, that it is on a viable political mission to validate its claim that there is still no alternative. That said, all will be revealed by the next general election results. Judge for yourself!