• taps into late brother Tshelang's legacy in F/town West
Fresh from a familiarization tour with fellow SADC leaders and a brief visit to the U.K, President Mokgweetsi Masisi, on Tuesday 15th May, kick started his domestic tour with a visit to the countries second city Francistown. Veiled as a walkabout the visit was used as a campaign strategy for recent winner of the Bulela Ditswe (Primary Elections ) for the Gerald Estates Ward, council candidate Gilbert Boikhutso.
Amidst the backdrop of Masisi’s predecessor, Khama’s exit from the highest office in the land, leaving behind a faltering economy, incomplete mega projects, undermining of civil liberties, collapse of two major mining operations in BCL and Tati Nickel mining Company, closure of Francistown’s major industry outside of mining, the BMC and inter-alia the country being riddled by two of the worst and biggest financial scandals, in the form of the National Petroleum Fund and misappropriation of Public Officers Pension Funds; one would have expected that the pomp and fanfare associated with the ruling regime would have greatly dissipated. The picture at Gerald Estates was completely parallel to this expectation as hordes of revellers lined the dusty streets of Gerald Estates, many clad in red t-shirts and caps with BDP insignia, to welcome the new president of the republic to their city and ward.
Masisi was accompanied by Francistown mayor Sylvia Muzila, District Commissioner C. Matsheka and senior Government officials and BDP cadres, with Gerald Estate council candidate for the 2019 general election, Gilbert Boikhutso at his side. Boikhutso, matching ‘pace for pace’ the president upon disembarking from his motorcade, walked quite a distance, knew this was a ‘golden opportunity’ to be seen and endorsed by the new steward of the country, which would give him political mileage come election time, and get his endorsement, Boikhutso did. Stopping at intervals to connect and make small talk with the crowd, imploring them to register for the upcoming elections, and vote the Botswana Democratic Party, in a jovial manner that resonated with the populace, whose ululations and shouts of “Sisi ,Sisi-boy” clearly betrayed that Gerald Residents were in awe of the new Head of state.
The President and his entourage made their way to a house which had been strategically selected as it was unoccupied and had been clearly selected as the perfect vantage point to hold an impromptu mini campaign – the fact that B.D.P colors and flags were manifest and draped parts of the house, made this obvious.
Addressing the audience in crisp, clear Setswana, the president touched a chord and connected with the crowd as several times his speech was punctuated with applause and the constant melodic “Sisi, Sisi-boy” chants from the young and old who were present.
On political matters, the president called for a united, cohesive standpoint from his fellow democrats post ‘Bulelwa Ditswe’, and implored those who had been vanquished in the primary elections not to fragment the party or join the opposition in retaliation against the winning candidate. Rather, he asked those who had not faired well in the primaries to rally behind the candidate who had been victorious and work in concert with them for the greater good of the party.
The president urged the crowd to actively campaign and vote for the BDP council candidate, Gilbert Boikhutso in next year’s general election. He ‘tugged at the heart strings’ of the Gerald Estate populace by reminding them that the current constituency used to belong to his late brother, Tshelang Masisi, who was a legislator for the area for some time, so it would only be fitting if the constituency remained in the hands of the BDP, and remain a stronghold for the ruling regime.
Upon leaving the mini campaign, advocating for Boikhutso to be the next counsellor for Gerald Estate ward, Masisi continued on his walk-about entering several households, putting on the charm offensive which seemed to come to him naturally, with many receiving him with warmth and being humbled that the President had graced their humble abode.
The walk-about was wrapped up late in the evening, with sunset fast approaching.