• in a contest of the minnows
When the parties dug in their heels for the final round of campaigns for the Goodhope/ Mabule bye-election after the Friday nominations, it was clear that the leading contestants Kgosi Lotlaamoreng II and Eric Molale are political minnows. Their relationship will not amount for much as their parties-the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), go for the jugular to win at all costs.
Principal Elections Officer for Goodhope/ Mabule Constituency Leshe Toteng confirmed late Friday that three candidates from BDP, UDC and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) have been successfully nominated to contest the bye-election, which takes place on August 15. The constituency has 55 polling stations.
In a dramatic twist Eric Molale resigned from Parliament and cabinet on Friday morning to pave the way for his nomination to contest in Goodhope/Mabule under the BDP ticket, but was shortly re-appointed as Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration. Molale had earlier notified President Ian Khama and Speaker of the National Assembly, Gladys Kokorwe, in separate letters that: "The sole purpose of this resignation is to allow me to contest and represent the BDP in the Goodhope-Mabule Constituency in the forthcoming bye-election." Molale's resignation as Specially Elected Member of Parliament was forced by Section 35(5)(a) of the Electoral Act, which provides that: "No person may be nominated for election in more than one constituency or while such a person is a Member of the National Assembly." Shortly thereafter Khama exercised his authority under Section 42 of the Constitution to reappoint Molale. "Under the said section the Honourable Minister will not attend Parliament," wrote government spokesperson Jeff Ramsay on Friday.
Ironically the man who lost to Molale and lodged a court case to interdict his nomination to force the resolution of his protest, Kenaleone Fankie Motsaathebe, chickened out at the last minute. The latter also nominated Molale. Motsaathebe said he abandoned an urgent application set for Friday morning to protect the integrity of the party, and avoid an embarassing incident similar to Francistown West in 2013 where the BDP failed to nominate a candidate due to an internal dispute. He said although he still believes that he was cheated in Bulela Ditswe he is not unhappy anymore because in legal parlance: "you sue at your own risk. You believe you have a case but if the outcome does not go your way life has to move on. My conscience is clear. I stayed within the confines of the BDP constitution and exercised my rights which are protected therein."
Motsaathebe said he is happy that he exhausted all avenues in the party to pursue his protest, which although was not followed to conclusion exposed irregularities in the Bulela ditswe process. He said despite that there is an acknowledgement that things have gone wrong during Bulela Ditswe, it is paramount that they bury the hatchet and look to the future. "I am vindicated. My protest has exposed some irregularities in the process. After extensive consultation with my family and voters, and engaging democrats within the constituency, there was a constellation of opinion which pointed out that the party interest should come first, hence my decision," said Motsaathebe.
Molale won the hotly contested BDP primary election last week to represent the party in the forthcoming bye-election. Molale garnered 703, Motsaathebe (625), Kopo Mononi (468), Phillip Sebakile (207), Richard Mogatle (59). However, after Motsaathebe launched a protest the tallying of record sheets from individual polling stations into the central registry revealed serious discrepancies with wide margins. This was because the votes were counted in a hurry, according to Motsaathebe. The team conducting the hearing made up of BDP Secretary General Botsalo Ntuane, Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri, deputy chairperson of Electoral Board Benson Madisa did not conduct a recount of all the ballots cast as the complainant requested, which led to the aborted interdict. Ntuane said the verification exercise conducted at Tsholetsa house on Wednesday yielded variations on the results announced immediately after the primary elections, confirming arguments raised in the protest. "The variations which affected all the candidates were found to have occurred on account of human error during the tallying process and not in any way a reflection of rigging," said Ntuane, adding that all the losers have accepted the outcome and committed to rally behind Molale in the bye-election.
Motsaathebe is not new to controversy. As the chairman of the NYEC Motsaathebe and his committee became embroiled in a fight with the party leadership over allegations of embezzlement of funds when the youth hosted controversial South African politician Julius Malema at Phakalane Golf Estate. Motsaathebe and some in NYEC were dragged to a disciplinary hearing, ordered to refund the party and were later thrown out. But some within the BDP still maintain that the disciplinary action against Motsaathebe's committee was a witch hunt to get rid of those sympathetic to Barataphathi, in a drive to annihilate factions within the ruling party. Motsaathebe was once a close ally of Daniel Kwelagobe, but claims to have matured and is now closer to former Goodhope/Mabule MP and current Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources Kitso Mokaila.
Asked if he supports Molale, Motsaathebe said: "I am a democrat, having joined the party at the age of 14. I nominated him this morning and I will be in the campaign team to win the constituency". He denied allegations that him and the other losers plan to de-campaign Molale but confirmed that he will contest the next Bulela Ditswe against anyone who stands. "The constituency ga e jewe boswa. Any democrat can contest, and i will exercise my right if I am still in goodd health," he said.
Notwithstanding the controversy surrounding Bulela ditswe Motsaathebe still believes the BDP has a very good chance of winning the constituency. He said Kgosi Lotlaamoreng II does not have jurisdiction over the whole constituency but geographically is in charge of a smaller portion of the area. He said out of the nine wards, Lotlaamoreng only has jurisdiction over six. Villages like Sedibeng, Mokgomane (predominantly Bangwaketse), Pitsane-Molopo, Leporung, Dikhukhung, Mmakgori, Tshidilamolomo, Mabule and Sekhutlane are not under Barolong territory but are in the Bangwaketse tribal authority, he said.
Molale a career civil servant, is a well know Khama man. He rose through the ranks of public service to reach the highest post of Permanent Secretary to the President before he entered parliament as specially elected MP and immediately assumed the most senior cabinet post of Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration.
Molale's hardline stance against public servants and his often confrontational approach when addressing them has made him their enemy number 1. Some trade union leaders still believe Molale endeared himself to president Khama by consistently enforcing decisions refusing to bargain with trade unions. His appointment to the ministry which governs the public service is said be strategically to continue advancing government's interest at the expense of public servants. Some say public servants could use the opportunity to punish Molale, who is seen as Khama's yes-man.
Eric Molale's cellphone rang unanswered throughout the day on Friday.