Just as predicted and acknowledged privately and publicly by some of its members, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) will not be party to the pretension game. They have jumped onto the opportunity of confirming once and for all the complete demise and death of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) – one of their key partners at the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). BCP’s move brings back the question of their genuineness in trying to mediate in BMD troubles while they knew they stood to benefit from its death. Their most senior operatives have been quoted celebrating its demise. This means that despite BMD leader Sydney Pilane’s proclamation that none of his 17 constituencies will be given to cooperating partners – though with no numbers on the ground to back his stand – his party is likely to lose out significant allotted seats. The Botswana National Front (BNF), which stands as the biggest loser since it was the one that allowed BMD to take some of its strongholds, is allegedly also positioning itself to benefit from BMD’s clear numerical weakness. The BNF Executive was due to hold a retreat from yesterday to discuss key strategic issues. Having barely held rallies even in areas where it claims existence, it is not clear what the BMD leadership will do to deter the mounting pressure from its partners to hand over some of its allocated seats. Most members of the party have left to form the Associates for Progressive after a protracted fall-out that culminated with bloodshed at the Bobonong Congress where missiles were traded between members resulting with the party holding two congresses. Then party President Ndaba Gaolathe left with his members to form AP after being dissatisfied with the UDC leadership’s mediation efforts. The BCP president Dumelang Saleshando – who in July urged his party to plan within their allocated constituencies – now has a different tone. He is set to be the primary beneficiary of BMD collapse in the North West where a plot has been hatched to see him run for the Maun West seat after a member of his party refused to pave the way for him in Maun East. The other constituency that BCP has allegedly made moves to assume from BMD is Mogoditshane.
Saleshando at Maun West
Saleshando’s planned move to contest elections in the Maun West constituency in the 2019 General Elections has drawn attention to the highly contested constituency which Kgosi Tawana Moremi won with a landslide margin in 2014. The constituency, which for a long time was under the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), was lost to the opposition when Moremi defected to the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) in 2011. Efforts by the former to win back the constituency in 2014 failed dismally as its candidate, Reaboka Mbulawa was thrashed badly by Moremi. Moremi has since indicated that he won’t contest in the 2019 General Elections and rather will re-trace his steps back to the royal Kraal where he will resume his duties as Batawana paramount chief – Kgosi-kgolo. Saleshando is therefore likely to battle it out with Mbulawa who has reignited his campaign to win over the constituency to the BDP in the 2019 general elections. The newly formed Alliance for Progressives (AP) has also positioned itself for the area with the Constituency Chairperson Moalosi Sebati earmarked to represent the party.
BCP in the North West
If the 2014 general elections results were to be used as a yard stick, the BCP’s presence in the region is quite impressive. Although its parliamentary candidate for Maun West constituency in the 2014 general elections, George Lubinda, didn’t fare well in the elections, the party surprisingly managed to win four council wards in the constituency and their number was later increased to five when councilor Galaletsang Mhapha joined the party, defecting from the ruling party. At the North West District Council the recent defection to the party by the incumbent North West District Council Chairperson, Duncan Enga and Maun Administrative Authority Deputy Chairperson Vepaune Moreti have further given the party dominance in the region. Out of the 20 opposition NWDC councilors, 17 are from the BCP. Asked about the recent developments and how the BCP is faring in the region, especially with Saleshando earmarked for Maun West, Enga was optimistic that the race will be a walk in the park for his president. “If you look at Saleshando’s calibre, he is the kind of candidate who doesn’t even need to be of any particular party to win elections in Maun West. He will definetly win,” said Enga. According to Enga, people are already excited that Saleshando will be contesting elections in Maun West and are already rallying behind him. “I have personally already encountered people who approached me out of curiosity and excitement to confirm if indeed these reports are true. They include some known BDP members and they have already vowed to vote for him,” he said.
Asked about how they are working with their BMD counterparts on the issue as they have been allocated the constituency by the UDC, Enga seemed the least bothered by this factor, dismissing BMD’s existence in the region. “I don’t know anyone from the BMD in the region. I have not met one,” he said. Although he confirms that indeed he has been approached by what he terms ‘political activists’ in Maun West, Saleshando could neither confirm nor deny that he has accepted the request to contest the seat in 2019. “It is still early days and I am yet to consult with my colleagues in the BCP and at the UDC,” he said, indicating that this will include the BMD. According to Saleshando, the BCP has not even had its first National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting yet, which is where the issue will be discussed first.
Quizzed about his knowledge of the constituency and his illegibility to contest as its parliamentary candidate he stated that he is indeed familiar with the needs and happenings of the constituency. “Of course, Maun is my home village,” he said.
The BDP ‘s blue eyed boy in the constituency Reaboka Mbulawa, who contested the constituency in the 2014 general elections against Kgosi Tawana Moremi but was thrashed by an over 2000 margin, is reportedly eyeing the constituency once more. Mbulawa’s political career was given a life line just after his loss in the general elections when he was nominated as a Specially Elected councilor and later served as chairperson of North West District Council before he was unceremoniously voted out by his fellow democrats in coalition with opposition councilors. Mbulawa only managed to garner 5335 votes against Kgosi Tawana Moremi’s 7,271in the 2014 general elections. His short stint as NWDC chairperson, however, may help in reversing his losses and work in his favour. The position accustomed him to not only the basic local governance practices but gave him an idea of what voters for the entire North West region want.
The AP factor is what the BCP should be highly cautious of, sources say. The party has technically taken all the former structures and membership of the BMD, who had rallied behind Kgosi Tawana in the past. Their likely candidate Moalosi Sebati is himself not a novice in political spheres; he contested at ward level in the 2014 general elections but unfortunately lost. Sebati last year confirmed that he was available and preparing fully to retain the constituency for his party. He is currently AP’s Deputy Secretary General. A long time political activist, Sebati is adamant that the constituency is as good as his already. Before the formation of the AP, Sebati was the North West regional Secretary for UDC and had sat in the previous BMD National Executive Committee as Additional Member.