High profile campaigns for the Philip Matante council ward by-elections in Francistown South are in top gear with both the incumbent Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) fancying their chances of winning the ward. The April 23 by-election is expected to produce political fireworks as both parties are not leaving anything to chance as a loss by any of the two will dent their political image. UDC, which recently lost Sekoma council seat to the ruling party, will have to redeem themselves by winning the Philip Matante by-elections to show that there are a force to reckon with while BDP would want to prove that their last win was not a fluke. Both parties have deployed seasoned politicians to lead their campaigns with UDC entrusting the ward to the charismatic area MP Wynter Mmolotsi and former Member of Parliament for Tonota Pono Moatlhodi while the BDP charge is by shrewd businessman and mobiliser MP for Tati West Samson Moyo Guma.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)
The ward is in the hands of UDC after it was won by the former Mayor of Francistown Shadreck Nyeku, who passed away early this year. He retained the ward in 2014 after winning it in 2009 under BDP ticket but would later defect in 2010 to join Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), an offspring of BDP.
The UDC camp has faced some challenges ahead of the primary elections with some accusing the area MP Wynter Mmolotsi of favouring Nyeku’s younger brother Uyapo Nyeku and that party resources were used to campaign for him. After the primary elections, which were won by Nyeku’s brother, those who lost in the primaries expressed their displeasure at the results. This led to one of the losers Omphile Mazebedi defecting to the ruling party something which might work against UDC. There is fear that those who lost in the primaries and have not defected might campaign against Nyeku, thus giving the BDP an edge.
The roping of Moatlhodi as the deputy campaign manager might help the party to retain the constituency due to his ability to connect with ordinary people. The former speaker of the national assembly is not shy to lower himself to the status of those whom he want their vote. A dramatic politician that he is, Moatlhodi has a point to prove to his former party that he is still relevant in current politics by retaining the constituency for the UDC. The entry of Botswana Congress Party (BCP) into alliance with UDC is an advantage for the opposition as it commands a lot of support both in the ward and constituency. In the last elections UDC won the ward by 554 votes against BDP’s 418 which is a margin of 96 votes. PREDICTION: Their chances of retaining the ward are not as promising as in the 2014 elections due to the internal wrangling within their campaigning camp. Should they win it will be with a very slim margin.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)
Known for experiencing discontent after their primary elections, the ruling party which has just tasted victory at Sekoma by-elections moved swiftly and ensured that there were no conflicts by offering counselling to those who lost in the primaries. Peter Nare, who in the last general elections contested as independent candidate, was the ultimate winner. The BDP appointed its former chairperson Moyo Guma - a well-known mobiliser who is never shy of using his money to lure voters – as the campaign manager. Immediately after he started his job as the campaign manager, Guma was accused of trying to use his financial muscle to lure disgruntled BMD members, especially those who lost in the primaries even the UDC candidate Nyeku. The party has gone all out in the campaigns as they even roped former Botswana Congress Party (BCP) firebrands Lotty Manyepetsa and Ditiro Majadibodu to help in the house to house campaigns. Recently the party welcomed some disgruntled BMD members into their fold, including the elder brother to Nyeku, something which is seen as trying to discredit the UDC candidate. Unlike in the past where they have failed to manage their internal wrangles, the party showed that they don’t take anything for granted as they managed to do damage control to the physical fight between MP for Francistown West Ignatius Moswaane and Ford Moiteela.
PREDICTION: Apart from the boxing match by Moswaane and Moiteela, the ruling party prospects of winning the ward are very high as they have literally unleashed their political troops into the ward. If they lose it will be with a very slim margin.