A political rally addressed by Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi last weekend has divided democrats aspiring to contest the upcoming Bulela Ditswe in the two Molepolole constituencies currently held by opposition. With the call for applications for expression of interest to contest Bulela Ditswe in opposition held constituencies imminent in Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), behind the scenes lobbying and campaigns have escalated to new heights. Aspirants are exploiting every available opportunity to lure fellow democrats to support their candidacy. Sources within the BDP in Molepolole North branch complain that the Saturday rally, where Masisi welcomed scores of new recruits into the party, was stage managed to promote the forthcoming campaign by two aspirants for Bulela Ditswe 2017 – Kabo Morwaeng and Utlwang Matlhabaphiri. Word doing rounds is that Morwaeng will contest BDP primaries in Molepolole South while his ally Matlhabaphiri will stand in the North, a constituency snatched away from him by Mahommed Khan of UDC in 2014. Those who attended the rally question why in the first place Morwaeng was directing proceedings as he belongs to Molepolole South where he is planning to contest Bulela Ditswe. Some say it was also clear that the crowd attending the rally was dominated by Morwaeng supporters, whom he had trekked from Molepolole South. They also complain that one of the speakers at the rally Lotty Manyapetsa kept making reference to Morwaeng and Matlhabaphiri, something seen as an endorsement for the duo.
Moreover, unlike any other speaker Manyapetsa was allowed to address the same meeting twice, repeatedly praising Morwaeng for doing a sterling job in the party. "We have many capable politicians in the BDP. Why was Lotty given the podium twice? He was clearly used to give those two mileage and prop up their campaigns under the excuse that he is a good speaker," said another source. In a smart manoeuvre Morwaeng used Masisi rally in Molepolole North to land a sucker punch on his would-be opponents. Although Morwaeng's foot soldiers making up his well-resourced campaign team are visible in Molepolole South, Matlhabaphiri has remained cagey about his plans hiding behind party rules which prohibit campaigns before vetting process is completed. "It was not my event and therefore I did not decide the invitations. I cannot speak on behalf of the organisers of the rally, who are the Molepolole North branch committee. I only attended as an MC," said Morwaeng, denying that he had a hand in picking speakers or organising the rally. Shima Monageng, who will square up against Morwaeng in Bulela Ditswe was in the crowd that watched the latter work his magic in what to an untrained eye appeared a normal rally. Monageng confirmed attending the rally where a number of recruits were welcome into the BDP. "I have heard allegations that some people from the constituency have expressed concern about the organisation of the event, that they were sidelined by outsiders. I cannot say much about organisation because I am from the South," he said, declining to comment on talk about the programme being hijacked to promote Morwaeng and Matlhabaphiri.
New recruits favoured
Some democrats also complain that new recruits and returnees to the party among them Manyapetsa and Morwaeng are given special treatment and prominence at the expense of those who have stayed loyal to the party. Upon his return to the BDP fold from a short stint at the UDC, Morwaeng was appointed Secretary to the Public Education and Elections Committee, chaired by Matlhabaphiri. Besides Manyapetsa, the only other prominent speaker at the Saturday rally was the guest – Masisi –and some of the new recruits among them BCP councillor for Mankgwenyane and Mma Keekee from the BMD. "In politics mileage is everything. It was raising eyebrows to find a member from Molepolole South being MC, and a speaker from outside showering him with praise," said another insider.
Masisi purges rivals
Meanwhile Masisi – the BDP chairman – is alleged to have set in motion a strategy to purge rivals inside the party, who do not support his campaign ahead of the 2018 primary elections. The operation is said to be gaining momentum with some sitting MPs and Cabinet ministers are targeted for replacement. Top of the list is Selibe Phikwe East MP Nonofho Molefhi who is challenging Masisi for the party chairmanship at the July Congress in Tonota. Others are allegedly Dorcas Makgato, the President of the BDP Women’s Wing; Assistant Minister Biggie Butale; Minister of Lands Prince Maele; and Nata/Gweta MP Paulson Majaga.