Political strategists and masterminds are working overtime as the race for the Goodhope-Mabule constituency reaches a climax over the weekend when Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) launch their respective candidates.
The bye-election has pitted Barolong Paramount chief Lotlaamoreng Montshioa for UDC, Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Eric Molale for BDP and former Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) head of Business Development Comfort Maruping for BCP. The UDC have once again outsmarted their opponents by sending former Customary Court of Appeal president and Bakwena regent, and a long time Botswana National Front (BNF) veteran Kgosikwena Sebele to launch Kgosi Lotlaamoreng.
Other parties have instead gone with high profile politicians in vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi for BDP and Dumelang Saleshando for BCP to launch their candidates. Clearly the UDC is sending one Kgosi to launch another for Sebele to strike the right cord with traditional Barolong tribesmen and convince them that their chief is the only suitable candidate to represent them in the august house, while the other launches are expected to be characterised by heavy politicking. The constituency was in the hands of UDC after the 2014 general elections and became vacant when James Mathokgwane resigned under a cloud of controversy to join SPEDU in Selibe Phikwe citing ill health. The bye-election will be held on August 24 and all the three parties are confident of taking the constituency which has been traditionally a BDP stronghold until last year when James Mathokgwane sent Kitso Mokaila to the cleaners as he won the constituency for UDC in a tightly contested election.
The Paramount chief of Barolong ba ga Tshidi who recently took leave from his traditional duties to join politics and contest the area under UDC ticket is a political novice. The 40 year old Kgosi will be launched by former Bakwena regent Kgosikwena Sebele on Saturday. Sebele is a staunch member of Botswana National Front (BNF). According to Lotlaamoreng’s Campaign Manager Shawn Nthaile, their quest of reclaiming the constituency is going very well and they are confident of a land slide victory. “We are currently doing house to house campaigns around the area, and the only challenge we are facing is that some people have relocated,” said Nthaile who is also the Member of Parliament for Jwaneng-Mabutsane, adding that they are tracking down those who have relocated using the last elections' voters roll. UDC will be banking on Lotlaamoreng’s status as the paramount chief of Barolong and using the past example of other chiefs who have stood for political office. He will be following in the footsteps of President Ian Khama of Bangwato and Tawana Moremi of Batawana. The challenge that UDC is facing is to convince Goodhope-Mabule constituents that Lotlaamoreng won’t dump them along the way as their area MP James Mathokgwane when he ditched them for a well-paying job at SPEDU.
In the 2014 General Elections UDC won the constituency by 6 712 votes beating BDP with a margin of 611 votes.
Masisi will launch Molale today (Sunday) and is expectd to use the opportunity to encourage voters to reject UDC as they cannot be trusted as their former MP ditched them . Currently BDP members have descended into the constituency including cabinet ministers who are addressing kgotla meetings in different villages within the constituency. The challenge that Molale is facing is to demonstrate to Barolong that he is not arrogant as he has been labeled by some sections of morafe. In 2012 he was embroiled in an assault case after some residents of Mosi Farms near Pitshane Molopo in which he sustained head injuries after a fight broke out. He was accused of mistreating some residents who pass through his farm and confiscate their donkeys.
Molale and BDP will be relying on traditional voters who voted for the BDP in the last elections. In the 2014 general elections the BDP got 6 101.
One of the longest serving public servants, Molale is also new in politics as he was actively involved after being nominated specially elected MP. He would later resign as SEMP and Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration but was later reinstated as cabinet by President Khama. Molale became the second politician to serve as cabinet minister and not being Member of Parliament, the first one being President Khama in 1998 when he headed the same ministry under the presidency of Festus Mogae. He has served as the Permanent Secretary to both President Ian Khama and his predecessor Festus Mogae. His win in the primary elections was surrounded with controversy as the losers felt that the elections were rigged. One of the losers Fankie Motsaathebe wanted to take the party to court but somersaulted on the last day and threw his back behind Molale.
Motsaathebe who is the former BDP National youth wing chairman is currently one of the campaign managers for Molale.
He is regarded as the underdog in the race and the former CAA head of Business Development is adamant that he will pull the rug from under the feet of Molale and Lotlaamoreng. His political career nearly suffered a setback when some BCP members wanted to heed the call by UDC to have him drop from the race and endorse Lotlaamoreng. He stood his ground and managed to submit his name at Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
BCP Publicity Secretary Dithapelo Keorapetse said that everything is going according to plan and they have allocated wards to different regions to do house to house campaigns. On allegations that party leadership is divided on whether to support Maruping or go with UDC, Keorapetse said that the decision to contest the bye elections was a collective one.
The Selibe Phkwe West MP said that Maruping will be launched on Sunday by Party President Dumelang Saleshando in Phitshane. In an interview with the Patriot, Maruping said that his campaign is going very well but is worried that most people who are on the voters roll have moved out of the constituency. “In some instances we found that more than 200 people have registered in one compound and the owner of the house does not even know a single one of them,” he said blaming it on voter trafficking that happened in 2014 general elections. Maruping said that he is happy with the support that he got from party leadership and believes his being an underdog might work wonders for him.
In the last elections BCP garnered 717 votes.
Unlike Serowe and Maun where most residents rever their chiefs and voted them due to their royalty, Goodhope-Mabule constituency is torn between three Merafes, being Barolong ba ga Tshidi who are predominantly in Goodhope, Barolong ba ga Makgobi and Bangwaketse.
Kgosi Lotlamoreng enjoys the support of Barolong ba ga Tshidi whom he presides over and Barolong ba ga Makgobi who, although within the constituency, fall under Bangwaketse tribal territory and believe are more senior. BDP and BCP are said to be exploiting the division and hope to gain more from Barolong ba ga Makgobi where Molale and Maruping originate.
In the last elections voter trafficking was very high and close to 2000 people who voted in the last elections were outside the constituency.