The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) is facing a tough challenge to retain the Tlokweng Parliamentary seat on the May 13, 2017 by-election. The party had won the seat though the late Same Bathobakae in 2014 General Elections. But circumstances of the race then where Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) was represented by Olebile Gaborone have changed dramatically now. The fall-out that resulted with the suspension of current candidate Elijah Fashion Katse and some of his supporters is now a thing of the past. It remains to be seen whether UDC’s Kenneth Segokgo will have the courage and numbers to outwit the veteran of Tlokweng politics Katse. While the UDC continues to declare its might and popularity in the constituency, citing that they have no reason to doubt that they will retain it, the BDP on the other has been caught between convincing Tlokweng constituents that the party is worth their vote and eliminating factionalism among its members. When President Khama delayed issuing out the writ of elections despite both parties having identified their preferred candidates for the constituency, some critics viewed this as a deliberate delay tactic to ease off tensions in his party.
When announcing his candidature early this year, the UDC stated that Segokgo brings a lot of experience and priceless value to the Tlokweng Constituency and Botswana Parliament. He is currently the Tlokweng Constituency Chairperson, and has been a Botswana National Front (BNF) member and activist for many years. “Segokgo is a former educationist having qualified from the University of Botswana (UB) with a Bachelor of Science Degree (Education) in 1996, a scarce skills area in Botswana. He is a product of the then highly exclusive, elite and brain challenging pre-science course (PESC) at UB. As a secondary school teacher for more than 10 years, he has contributed in Mater Spei College being one of the best performing schools in Botswana. He is therefore a reputable educationist. As an educationist, he has also contributed to national sports development as a BISA coach. Segokgo also worked for several years as a National Recruitment Coordinator at National Blood Transfusion Centre, running successful campaigns that led to a surplus in blood donations,” a press statement from the party read. This and more they argue places him in a favourable spot to win the by-election. Some political analysts, however, warn that his is not a ready carved path to victory as his competitor (Elijah Katse) is a formidable force. They argue that unlike Bathobakae who had the ‘luck’ to face off the then unpopular former BNF MP Olebile Gaborone who defected to the BDP, Segokgo will now fight the battle that was meant for Bathobakae in 2014. But then again with Bathobakae having made inroads and garnered support for the UDC in the constituency some argue Segokgo is likely to be a beneficiary of this, coupled with sympathy votes. Segokgo will also enjoy the backing of Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which has joined forces with UDC. Political analyst Anthony Morima said “though I currently cannot be able to comment on this issue what I see and can at least say is that, yes the sympathy vote may work in Segokgo’s favour. Voters may in honour of the late Bathobakae decide to vote for Segokgo as a way of continuing her legacy, but as to how much the sympathy vote will influence the final result I cannot say,” he said. Meanwhile for his part, Segokgo reiterated that he indeed is banking on nothing less but a win. He dismissed claims that his support may be affected by the return of Katse and his supporters to the BDP, saying votes from BDP members are in fact just an added advantage and that he enjoyed support from Batlokwa and the nation at large. He vowed to continue advocating for land rights for his people, saying he plans to make major follow ups on the issue and contribute to a multi-faceted strategy which will not only resolve the issue amicably but will issue that its efficient.
Katse recently described himself as a befitting leader who had on several occasion been assigned by Batlokwa and managed to deliver. He cited the installation of Kgosi Puso, organising the annual culture day, Kgosi Puso’s wedding and leading Batlokwa Development Trust as some of the tasks he executed. Therefore, he said, all these have proven that he can lead and represent Batlokwa. He won in the ruling party’s Bulela ditswe elections in 2013 but his candidature was recalled by the party’s central committee after he together with three council candidates were accused of vote rigging. After his bid to represent the BDP in the 2014 elections was nullified, he did not take the treatment lying down and subsequently sued the party, citing President Khama as one of the case’s respondents despite the former’s presidential immunity. Amid a low key party code of conduct where nobody seldom question decisions taken by the president Katse’s actions attracted mixed reactions from both fellow democrats and non-BDP members. While some admired his bravery and sympathised with him for what they termed unfair treatment from his detractors and the president, those who opposed his decision to challenge Khama’s ruling saw him as a trouble maker who not only disrespected Khama but soared divisions within the party. He for obvious reasons (presidential immunity) lost his bid to overturn his suspension and get reinstated in the contest for 2014 general elections. It is believed that this had in turn contributed to the BDP’s dismal performance in the constituency. The BDP lost by Gaborone’s 3867 to Bathobakae’s 6442 votes. The question which now remains is – Will Katse overturn this dismal performance by the BDP and secure them a win this time around? By the look of things, the BDP has since come to terms with the fact that they had wronged Katse by suspending him from the party and seem to have confidence in him and now acknowledge his ability and mighty. “We made a mistake in 2014, please forgive us. When a person is able to be remorseful and the other is able to forgive those who wronged him it is a sign that he is a very good leader,” Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi was quoted in the local press recently when addressing a star rally to announce Katse’s candidature. Fresh information however indicates that while Katse and the BDP have kissed and made up, the opposite is the case with some members of the party, who during the furore that saw Katse being suspended and replaced by Gaborone, aligned themselves with him. Just like some observers have noted, the Gaborone aligned faction apparently accuse Katse’s supporters of voting opposition candidate, which saw their candidate losing with a landslide margin. They apparently are seeking revenge and vow to return the favour by ensuring that Katse loses. Katse, however, rubbished the allegations saying those are opposition tactics to destabilise and confuse voters by spreading untruths. “As we speak the majority of my campaign team are people who were in Gaborone’s campaign team; they are in fact the key drivers of the whole campaign,” he said.