Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) central committee meets tomorrow (Monday) to consider decisions of different branches and conclude the vetting process for aspiring Bulela Ditswe candidates, who will be confirmed before the end of the week. Branches in the 19 opposition held constituencies, until they were reduced to 18 last week, have submitted names of potential candidates to Tsholetsa House after weeks of combing through to verify compliance with constitutional requirements. It will be a tense week for those waiting with baited breath to be given the green light. The Patriot on Sunday however has it on good authority that except for few isolated cases, most applications have been successful and will battle it out in the October 2017 primary elections. "None has been vetted out except very extreme cases recommended by the branches where maybe the branch does not have the person's registration or they haven't regularised their membership," a source said.
As confusion reigns supreme and the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) disintegrates over a BMD leadership dispute that has reached crisis levels, the BDP, led by Chairman Mokgweetsi Masisi, has upped the ante in a campaign to revive structures and recruit more followers to reverse the embarrassing underperformance of 2014. By the end of the week the impasse over the BMD crisis continued with UDC head of communications Moeti Mohwasa only saying the leadership is in the process of mediating between the two factions to restore normalcy in the party. Although he claims comradely frankness and sincere engagement on the nature and extent of the conflict, with the Ndaba faction he fails to explain why they could not meet the Pilane faction on Wednesday as planned. Even more importantly Mohwasa fails to explain why the BPP, who are adamant that their request to be allocated more constituencies should be addressed first, continue to snub UDC meetings over BMD. That BPP president Motlatsi Molapisi is the Chairman of UDC only compounds the problem for the opposition coalition. The narrative of UDC NEC appealing to BMD groupings to exercise patience and restraint for meaningful engagement and rapprochement while nothing seems to be happening on the ground, is becoming tired and unconvincing. Voters are growing anxious from being told fairy-tales, and the coalition could emerge from the crisis with deeper bruises than it appears on the surface. With each passing day the euphoria of regime change in 2019 is a mirage disappearing in a distance.
While many dismiss the defection of nomadic prodigal son, Mochudi East MP Isaac Davids, from the Botswana National Front (BNF) of the UDC back to BDP as an inconsequential incident, those within the ruling party hail it as a development that will punch holes in the opposition. Even the BNF is alive to the challenges brought by the departure of one of their own, and are quick to admit the loss will dent their fortunes in the constituency. Politics, in any case, is a game of numbers. In fact, BDP members attach the defection to the ongoing intensive campaign by Masisi and his entourage, which they claim has amassed 70 new members from various constituencies. Masisi has been a busy man in recent weeks, traversing the country with a strong contingent to consolidate power and assure democrats that they chose right when they elected him chairman at the highly contested Tonota congress. Buoyed by the crisis in opposition ranks and capitalising on the furore, Masisi's confidence is soaring at great heights as he tells all and sundry that "there is still no alternative". About the ongoing Masisi crusade, an insider brags; "We have no time for clowns (opposition crisis). Batswana cannot afford a leadership that fails to resolve minor differences. We are talking to people on the ground. We are finding maDomkrag and starting discussions to another 50 years of government. We are serious about this thing and we won't be disturbed from claiming what is ours."
Although party President Ian Khama has repeatedly pleaded with democrats to identify and field consensus candidates to avoid the divisions caused by primary elections, the strategy has failed to gain traction as most constituencies have fielded several candidates. The proposal has been criticised as a hindrance to inner party democracy as it eliminates open contest. For Bulela Ditswe 2017 so far, only Gaborone North constituency has agreed on a consensus candidate; party Secretary General Mpho Balopi who will lock horns with the incumbent Haskins Nkaigwa of UDC in 2019. Notwithstanding Article 3 of Vetting Guidelines – which dictates that an applicant for Bulela Ditswe must not have been a member of the opposition in the past 24 months, the party is expected to give new recruits a waiver to contest. It is expected that Article 4 will also be waived for applicants who contested 2014 elections as independent candidates in protest of the outcome of 2013 Bulela Ditswe, before re-joining the party. Constituencies expected to attract heavy contest include Goodhope-Mabule where a repeat of the 2015 tussle will ensue between Presidential Affairs Minister Eric Molale and former youth wing leader Fankie Motsaathebe. The winner will face Kgosi Lotlaamoreng of the UDC in 2019. By far the busiest behind the scenes campaigns have been in Molepolole South, where Shima Monageng – who lost three times before to Daniel Kwelagobe – will face Kabo Morwaeng, Secretary in the Political Education and Elections Committee (PEEC). The winner will face area MP, Dr Tlamelo Mmatli, of the UDC if he survives the fall-out in the BMD. Across the road in Molepolole North several party activists will seek nomination to challenge Mohammed Khan of the UDC in 2019. Names of former councillor Bashi Kgakge, for MP and Minister Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri and former CEDA executive Oabile Regoeng, currently Deputy Treasurer in Kweneng Region Committee, have been mentioned in the contest.
In Francistown South, former MP for the constituency Khumongwana Maoto and specially elected councillor in the City of Francistown Zazambi Tuelo and businessman Jojo Lucas will slug it out, in preparation to take on UDC blue eyed boy Wynter Mmolotsi in 2019. In Mogoditshane party activists Kgang and Mabaila could face former MP Patrick Masimolole. After the humiliation by UDC President Duma Boko in 2014, with a margin of over 5 000 votes long time BCP candidate for Gaborone Bonnington North, Annah Motlhagod-Mokgethii, who has since defected to BDP, will try her luck once again at her new political home. It was not immediately clear who she will face in primaries. At Gaborone Central the only the name of Tebatso Lekalake is currently bandied about as a potential candidate while in Tlokweng Elijah Fashion Katse will represent the party. Odirile Motlhale will try his luck in Ramotswa while Bakgatla royal Mmusi Kgafela will stake his claim in Mochudi West. In Maun West Reaboka Mbulawa is leading the contest. Other constituencies where Bulela Ditswe will be held in October 2017 include Gaborone Bonnington South, Selibe Phikwe West, Gabane-Mmankgodi, Jwaneng-Mabutsane, Kanye South and Gantsi North. Mephato Reatile – who was brought back to Parliament as Specially Elected MP – has been given time to re-challenge opposition incumbent in Jwaneng-Mabutsane and it was not immediately clear whether there is any other BDP member seeking the seat.