Race on for 2017 Bulela Ditswe

SHARE   |   Monday, 01 August 2016   |   By Ditiro Motlhabane
Morwaeng and Monageng Morwaeng and Monageng

A bruising battle is looming within the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in Molepolole South constituency following a decision by a Special Congress last week to conduct primary elections dubbed Bulela Ditswe in constituencies held by the opposition in November 2017. The decision has ignited the rivalry between perennial loser in Bulela Ditswe Shima Monageng, who has suffered several defeats at the hands of former party strongman Daniel Kwelagobe (DK to his followers), and party prodigal son Kabo Morwaeng. Morwaeng, who once contested the primaries against Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri in Molepolole North, has since decamped to the south where he is the immediate past branch chairman. Word in BDP circles is that he has since mended his tumultuous relationship with the Kwelagobe camp, with whom he once did not see eye to eye. But even in his new found allies support is not guaranteed as DK is said to be closer to his blue-eyed boy Motlhophi Leo, the former Kweneng District Council (KDC) chairman who was recently elected chairman of the newly demarcated BDP Kweneng West region. When asked if he will contest the 2017 primaries Kwelagobe, who has fallen out of favour with the current BDP leadership under President Ian Khama said; "those are the questions I do not want to answer".

Molepolole constituencies

The two Molepolole constituencies form part of the 19 held by the opposition, which are targeted by the BDP in 2017. The party lost the two constituencies, which have historically been their stronghold, even as Khama addressed a reconciliatory star rally to drum up support for Kwelagobe and Matlhabaphiri just weeks before the 2014 polls at Molepolole sports complex, where he attacked mekoko for being sore losers and called on democrats to unite. Soon after 2014 elections, where the BDP was walloped by the opposition UDC in both constituencies of Molepolole Morwaeng is said to have written a letter to Khama in his capacity as branch chairman blaming Monageng for DK's defeat. Morwaeng refused to be drawn into discussing the looming Bulela Ditswe contest. He also declined to comment on the letter that he wrote to Khama accusing Monageng of sabotaging the party candidate –DK - by conniving with independent candidates and the opposition after her lost the party primary elections in 2013. "I cannot comment on the allegations.  The relevant office (in the party) is the only one with authority to comment on allegations about internal matters," he said.

Morwaeng vs Monageng

Morwaeng is said to be working behind the scenes preparing the ground for his campaign for the primaries next year. He is said to have donated a vehicle and other equipment to the branch office. Over the just ended President's Day Holidays Morwaeng sponsored a football tournament for a group of teams from across Molepolole South constituency through a sponsor called The Good Samaritan. He declined to comment on the allegations, but rather said as the Secretary in the Political Education and Elections Committee (PEEC) of the party his main focus is to assist the party to rebuild structures throughout the country. "Now is the time for political education. It would be unusual for me to be discussing elections at this point," he said, refusing to comment further even as it was put to him that 2017 is not too far off. Monageng, who lost to Kwelagobe by just over 200 votes in 2013, does not hide his ambition to represent the party in 2019. He wants to reverse the humiliation by Kwelagobe since 2003. He, however, said he is going to follow the guidelines to apply for candidacy and if vetted in, he will contest the 2017 primaries. "I have long had a dream to represent Molepolole constituents since 2003.

Even after repeated losses I never became discouraged, I never gave up hope. I have remained loyal to the party. I have been constant because I have a backbone and remained rooted in the party instead of jumping all over the place after losing an election. I have never had any offences against the party," said Monageng, confident that he will be given the green light in the vetting process scheduled for July 2017. Although he denies it, the latter part of Monageng's statement is in clear reference to Morwaeng who defected to opposition Botswana National Font (BNF) after he was barred from contesting general elections under the BDP ticket in Thamaga (then Kweneng South) constituency after defeating Gladys Kokorwe. Kokorwe – the current Speaker of Parliament – was handed the constituency on a silver platter. At some point Morwaeng decamped to Mogoditshane and later joined the opposition Botswana Congress Party (BCP) before returning home to the BDP, which he left in 2010, together with other disgruntled Barataphathi faction members to form Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD). For the umpteenth time Morwaeng has returned to the BDP where he is eyeing the constituency which was held by Kwelagobe for 44 years as area MP.

Won’t stand against DK

Monageng said he is confident of a win at the primaries and the general elections if given the mandate by the party because "of my track record of bringing developments to the village and creating jobs". He, however, said if Kwelagobe contests 2017 he will pull out of the race out of respect for DK, a party veteran who has helped many a democrat grow in politics. "If he is going to contest it will be a different story. If he does, I will not stand. If he makes a comeback after being MP for over four decades that will be a sign that he has a master plan and has found the magic to transform the constituency," said Monageng, adding that he has been enjoying a good relationship with Kwelagobe because they have a common cause, to try and win back the constituency. Monageng insists that Morwaeng has confirmed that he is going to contest the parliamentary primary elections under the BDP ticket, to pave the way for his candidacy in Molepolole South come 2019. On Morwaeng's candidacy, Monageng chose to 'reserve' his comment but not before he quipped that they used to be close friends and allies, when they contested primaries in Molepolole North and South respectively but things changed when both started showing interest in the latter.