Cabinet ministers who are likely to be dropped in the looming reshuffle are living in double fear. Not only will they lose lucrative positions but are set suffer double blow, since once they are weakened their opponents are likely to move in for a kill at the primary elections. When President Ian Khama steps down on Saturday midnight (March 31st) – an historical moment for Botswana – it will mark the end of the political journey for a cohort of cabinet ministers in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). Incoming President Mokgweetsi Masisi will then set in motion processes to reshuffle cabinet leaving a number of casualties in its trail. This might not be the only shock they will suffer this year – primary elections opponents are lurking in the shadows. This is why ministers are working overtime to curry favour with Masisi to avoid the dreaded chop. This is already evident on the floor of Parliament with debates skewed often to please the incoming leadership. Daggers have been drawn among aspiring parliamentary candidates and the sitting MPs ahead of primaries in BDP held constituencies billed for August 2018. Long before BDP declares the writ for Bulela Ditswe 2018, there is an intense behind the scenes scramble and lobbying to consolidate support base by some cabinet ministers who will face tough opposition at the primaries.
In an effort to ensure smooth primary elections, BDP Secretary General Mpho Balopi says they have reformed their electoral process and started membership registration drive using branch committees. The strategy is designed to curb voter trafficking from other constituencies by some candidates. One of the thorny issues during primaries was the issue of membership cards, which were distributed late leading to some voters being unable to vote. “This time around individual members will collect their cards using their National Identity cards. The cards will be distributed two weeks before primary elections,” said Balopi during the party's monthly briefing.
The Patriot on Sunday looks at some cabinet ministers who are going to face tough competition in Bulela Ditswe:
Incumbent MP and also Assistant Minister of Higher Education Fidelis Molao is parrying challenges from all sides with those taking him on being well known within the constituency. He will be facing former Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) Secretary General Ibo Nana Kenosi and his challenger in 2014 Onkabetse Daniel who later stood as independent parliamentary candidate in the 2014 General Elections. The three politicians have already started showing their intentions by sponsoring various events in the constituency. Recently Daniel donated bicycles to the police to be used during patrols while Kenosi has donated dustbins to almost every household. Consequently, Molao has accused Kenosi of campaigning and reported him to the Central Committee. Although Kenosi's activism in the constituency and the party is new, his experience in trade union politics will come in handy for him. Kenosi and Daniel are taking advantage of lack of developments within the constituency especially lack of water in the area, dilapidated road infrastructure and poor health facilities. Recently when debating the budget for Ministry of Health and Wellness, Molao lost his cool calling on Parliament to reject the budget as it is not representing the aspirations of the people. “To say I am disappointed will be an understatement because I wonder if the ministry officials ever visit areas before coming with plans,” hit out Molao, adding that his constituency was hard-done yet there is serious need of health facilities. This was a clear indication of the immense pressure to fight for development in his constituency as his challengers are breathing down his neck. In 2013 Molao garnered 778 votes, beating his closest competitor, Onkabetse Daniel, who got 534 with retired deputy permanent secretary, Lewis Malikongwa getting 521 votes while former assistant minister, Olifant Mfa, came fourth with 379 votes.
The contest is a clash of medical doctors when incumbent MP Dr Alfred Madigele faces a tough challenge from veterinary surgeon Dr Edwin Dikoloti. Sources on the ground have revealed that Dr Dikoloti has already hit the ground running and is sponsoring some soccer tournaments in the constituency to set the political rapport. Dikoloti, who is the Director of Envirokings, last year sponsored the construction of Mmamatlhoakgoro recreational park in Gamajaalela which many viewed as his entrance into the constituency. In a move that will endear him to electorates within and outside the constituency Dr Dikoloti has organised a team of veterinary surgeons in private practice to tour different districts providing free veterinary services to small farmers. He has already featured in different radio stations promoting the initiative, which has received an overwhelming support from radio listeners. Madigele, who is the youngest cabinet minister heading Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, shocked many in 2013 when he humbled veteran politician and the then cabinet minister Peter Siele in BDP Primaries by beating the latter 2 754 votes to 1878.
The battle has long been drawn between the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi and businessman Francisco Kgoboko for the Bobonong constituency. Kgoboko, who is relatively new in politics, has long entrenched himself into the constituency by sponsoring various activities including schools prize giving ceremonies and some football tournament. Kgoboko – a former mining engineer with Debwana and Namdeb of Namibia and now a businessman – has given Kgathi sleepless nights. Kgathi has reported him to Central Committee accusing him of campaigning before the set date. He is challenging one of the most experienced politicians in the country who has won the Bobonong constituency in two consecutive elections by a small margin. Kgathi, who is also the deputy Secretary General of BDP, will use his party position, ministerial position and incumbency to edge out Kgoboko. Those who have worked with Kgathi both in opposition and within the ruling party describe him as one politician who is able to analyse the political situation accurately. He is a shrewd schemer. Ahead of the BDP Elective Congress in Bobonong last year, Kgathi was challenged by more than six democrats for the deputy Secretary General position but with a few weeks left to the congress only two people challenged him being Biggie Butale and former BDP National Youth Executive Committee chairman Andy Boatile.
It will be a clash between a master and his protégé as incumbent Nonofho Molefhi who is still smarting from being humbled by Masisi for the party chairmanship will face Amogelang Mojuta. Mojuta was Molefhi’s campaign manager for the 2009 elections and the two have always been close until 2015 when Mojuta joined Masisi camp. He was recruited to challenge Molefhi after BCP Parliamentary candidate Kgoberego Nkawana turned down the offer to join BDP and challenge Molefhi in 2019. After Mojuta lost the BDP primaries to Lekang Mokukumani in 2009, Molefhi threw him a lifeline and appointed him as his campaign manager and later as constituency administrator. After the 2014 General Elections, Molefhi nominated Mojuta as a Specially-Eected councillor with the intention that he will replace him as the area MP in 2019 as he intended to retire.
In 2014 a relatively new politician Advocate Sadique Kebonang shocked many by triumphing over the veteran politician and the then incumbent MP Nehemiah Modubule of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) by 5485 votes to 4996. Ahead of the 2014 elections, Kebonang was unopposed during the BDP primaries, but this time around the former ION Botswana Chief Executive Officer Dr Thapelo Matsheka is said to be interested in the constituency. Highly placed sources in Lobatse have revealed that Dr Matsheka is already on the ground preparing for the August primaries. Against Kebonang, Dr Matsheka is not going to find a push over as he has an edge over him in terms of political experience as he (Kebonang) will use incumbency to his advantage. Dr Matsheka who is also a founding CEO of CEDA will try to use his experience in the corporate world to show that Kebonang has failed to attract investors to the country’s oldest town. In his defence, Kebonang is likely to mention that MilkAfric and the Leather Park are on the pipeline and hope that they will be up and running before 2019.