It is without doubt, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) entered the Sekoma by-election as underdogs. The ward has been under opposition’s control over 20 years. The question now remains what transpired that led to the under dogs emerging victorious at the polls. The ruling party has been accused of using under the table tactics to win over the ward from the opposition. It has been reported that BDP was determined to do anything in their power to snatch the ward. A number of ministers were deployed to the area prior the polls and it has been established that their mandate was to deliver the ward to the party. Some said the BDP bought the voters with food to vote for them something that the party officials dismissed. The BDP is on a redemption mission following their dismal performance in the 2014 General Elections that saw their margin in parliament drastically reduced by the opposition. UDC’s Sekoma Ward Campaign coordinator Noah Salakae raised two critical points that led to their loss - one was on their part as UDC and the other on BDP. Salakae confirmed the use of dirty tactics by the BDP as they distributed food parcels to the electorates. “There were also talks that some BDP threatened the voters that if they voted for UDC they will not get any development,” said Salakae. He, however, explained that the tactics were not that significant. According to him, all the blame is on UDC because of their complacency.
Losing candidate boycotted
Salakae revealed that they had primary elections in the area and the losing candidate did not accept the results. He said the candidate and his family boycotted the by-elections and BDP was quick to lure him and use him to their advantage while we were slow to take action about the matter. He said they also failed to identify bread winners in the area and hear out what they want. “We lost because of complacency. It looks like our past wins of the by-elections made us think we will win everything that comes. We thought we won it hence failing to react to issues very fast,” explained Salakae. He gave an example on what they did during the Good-Hope/Mabule by-elections where they put a lot of effort to engage the people. Apparently the residents of Sekoma had indicated that they want to replace opposition because it has been controlling the area for a long time and there are no developments. Salakae admitted hearing of this only on the eve of the polls on Friday. “BDP capitalised on this and they used it to their advantage to lure voters and it worked for them,” he said.
However, Salakae said what the people said is not entirely true as it is not only the areas held by opposition that are lacking developments. He argued that all the other wards in the area are not developed even though they belong to the ruling party. The soft-spoken legislature said what happened in Sekoma is a wakeup call for the opposition to be prepared and vigilant going forward. He said he is confident that opposition unity will yield expected results going forward. “I do not think this loss will put opposition unity in jeopardy going forward as some think. Electorates have already embraced the change. This was visible during the past general election. Now all we need to do is prepare ourselves,” said Salakae. However, he emphasised the need for fairness in the country’s political arena. Further on opposition unity Salakae said this is a great move which will see opposition defeating BDP. But, he advised that this should be done in a cautious way to make sure it benefits all parties. Salakae pointed out that this marriage of opposition parties will bring diversity which is much needed. He is confident that come 2019 they will carry on from where they left in 2014.
The biggest loser
Meanwhile in celebrating the victory, Secretary General of the BDP has dismissed the UDC as the biggest loser in all by-elections held after the 2014 General Elections. Addressing the media, Ntuane said that the biggest loser of post 2014 by-elections is Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) which he said has lost two out of six council wards they contested. “They lost Bokone ward in Mochudi West to Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Sekoma ward recently to BDP,” said Ntuane, reasoning that the main opposition party failed to retain the wards. He contended that if a party fails to retain a ward, it is a sign that those who previously voted for it have changed their minds. The BDP won through Keboetseng Lebotso, who garnered 1118 votes against UDC’s Robert Rantsho's 955 votes. On allegations that BDP bought votes by distributing food parcels to electorates in Sekoma, Ntuane said that it was an insult to the people of Khokhwa, Sekoma and Keng.“Does this mean they cannot think for themselves and are just controlled by food parcels,” he asked rhetorically.