Battle for BNF starts

SHARE   |   Monday, 14 March 2016   |   By Staff Writer
Mohwasa Mohwasa

Four months before the Botswana National Front (BNF) elective congress scheduled for Francistown in July, campaigns for party positions have intensified behind the scenes as lobby lists are finalised. Although most potential candidates claim not to have launched their campaigns yet, they confirm either being interested to contest or having been approached by some members to stand. Fresh from celebrating 50th birthday of the party, members of the BNF have wasted no time holding clandestine meetings to canvass support and realign allegiances to form campaign teams ahead of Francistown. One of the key features in the contest for the soul of BNF is that the party will go to congress more stable than its former self, where anarchy and lawlessness under the pretext of freedom of speech ruled the roost. The new found stability at the mother of Botswana opposition politics (BNF) is largely credited to Duma Boko's astute and decisive leadership, which discarded rubble-rousers to political wilderness. An instructive development in the emerging campaign teams or lobby lists is that all are in agreement that party president Duma Boko should continue at the helm, unchallenged.

Boko has contained the radicals and brought civility to the BNF politics. After calming BNF infighting and getting rid of radicalism, Boko successfully brought opposition parties together to form a united front against the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). The birth of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) - which poses a huge threat and presents a realistic opportunity against BDP - has for the first time in its 50 years of existence given the BNF hope to become part of government. The charismatic and youthful leader has endeared himself to the masses inside the BNF and UDC, particularly the youth with his oratory skills, eloquence and grasp of bread and butter issues. The biggest challenge for Boko is not within his own party, but could emerge from other Umbrella partners who may want their own leaders ascend to the helm. But for now Boko is safe at his party and in the UDC. A long time BNF foot soldier and youth league member agrees that Boko has brought order and stability in the ranks of the hitherto radical BNF. 

But the peace and stability prevailing in the party, which hails the motto "Kopano" (unity) has created an opportunity for anybody and everybody to throw their hat in the contest. In the contest for executive positions the Vice President Same Bathobakae will square up against Reverend Dr Prince Dibeela. Bathobakae, a longtime activist, is the only female opposition MP representing Tlokweng Constituency under the Umbrella ticket, which could improve her chances to parry the challenge from Dibeela. However her performance in the august house and at party level has been questioned by some of her comrades, who complain that she has remained in the shadows for too long failing to lead from the front taking the party forward. On the other hand Dr Dibeela- Secretary for International Relations at UDC – will be hoping his activism at the umbrella has sold him enough to his comrades. Even senior party members confess that they do not know much about the preacher who exploded into the political scene during the 2011 public sector strike after a sojourn to neighbouring South Africa on a UCCSA mission. The man of God will have to pray harder to overcome Bathobakae who is taking things in her stride.

Papiso Kgosikoma - the current BNF Secretary General – will be taking on former Gaborone City Mayor Harry Mothei, Abigail Mogalakwe, and one Kebiditswe for the party chairperson position. Yet another interest duel will be between current Treasurer Aubrey Lesaso who will defend the position against Gantsi South MP Noah Salakae. Salakae's surprise defeat of cabinet minister Johnny Swartz at the 2014 polls and his sterling performance in parliament - despite that he is a newcomer - has won the hearts of many a BNF member. His campaign teammates, who include Secretary for International Relations Kwenantle Gaseitsiwe, could exploit Salakae's new found fame to sell him against Lesaso. The latter is no pushover and has over the years entrenched himself as a true son of the BNF. Gaseitsiwe may retain his position unopposed after it emerged that his challenger-a certain Lotshwao will soon travel abroad for an extended period on study leave. 

BNF spokesperson Moeti Mohwasa said on Friday that preparations are ongoing for the July congress, which will be attended by delegates from the 57 constituencies. He also confirmed that they are aware that those who will contest positions have already started campaigns. Mohwasa confirmed that he is not going to defend his current position, but remains available to be deployed by the branch he belongs to. However it is common knowledge that Mohwasa will slug it out with Jwaneng-Mabutsane MP Shaun Nthaile for the position of Secretary General. Asked about emerging lobby lists and the position he will contest Mohwasa became evasive and claimed that "we have resolved to keep the campaigns away from the media as much as possible as that has proven divisive in the past. We would like to encourage our members to keep the campaigns as internal and civil as much as possible and to respect their opponents". 

The only name already known of the candidate seeking the Deputy Secretary General position is that of Shadikong Shampoo. More names are expected to come out as the congress draws closer. Other less significant, yet equally important battles, will be for Secretary; Political Education between Dr Elmon Tafa, Basimane Mannaesi and Sam Digwa. Dr Tafa is expected to triumph.