Disagreements over allocation of constituencies poses a major threat to the much anticipated cooperation between the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and the newly registered Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), The Patriot on Sunday has learnt.
Information gathered by this publication suggests that on the afternoon of June 4, UDC president Duma Boko and his deputy Dumelang Saleshando held a meeting with BPF lead sponsor, former President Ian Khama at his office in Gaborone. The three opposition leaders are alleged to have discussed the feasibility of working together towards the 2019 general elections through an electoral pact, to unseat the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) from power.
Although no conclusions were reached because the BPF was still awaiting formal registration (which was only finalised on Wednesday afternoon), Khama is alleged to have indicated to Boko and Saleshando that his party would like to contest most of the constituencies in the central district. Through this arrangement, Khama is said to have promised to lead the campaigns in Gammangwato to canvass votes for the opposition candidates. Khama is the paramount chief of Bangwato, a dominant tribe in the Central district, where his popularity is unmatched.
BPF has also proposed that where they are incumbents, like in Tati West represented by its president MP Biggie Butale and Tati East where MP Samson Guma is the incumbent, UDC should give way and advise their candidates to drop from the race.
The adage ‘still water runs deep’ will be put to a test when formal discussions on the model of cooperation and allocation of constituencies begin, now that the BPF registration has been confirmed. It could be a rocky start to the envisaged relationship between the UDC and the BDP splinter party that is still trying to find its footing, with limited time to settle down before October elections.
Addressing the inaugural meeting of BPF in Gaborone last Saturday, Khama told members that UDC is ready to work with them to topple the BDP. “Alliance for Progressives (AP) is quiet. It is only UDC who have shown interest in working with us. BMD are not a factor, but if in Francistown you prefer Wynter Mmolotsi even though he is from AP I don’t have a problem with that. We are supporting AP because we have the same objective,” Khama said.
Although he insists that UDC has not entered into any formal agreement with BPF, Boko does not deny meeting Khama. Boko told journalists on Tuesday that they have not started engaging BPF because the latter were still awaiting registration. He, however said the UDC does not hate any politician and they will meet anyone of them, including BDP president Mokgweetsi Masisi, should that be necessary. About the rendezvous with Khama, Boko said: "I have met Khama before. I paid him a courtesy call when he left the office of the president because I wanted to remind him if he remembers what I said soon after I was elected Leader of Opposition (LOO). The next encounter was when he invited me and showed me that he was saddled with some legal issues and wished I represent him, but I advised him I can only recommend other lawyers. So, I will meet him if I feel that I have to or if such a need arises. We do engage from time to time. I cannot stop him if one of our candidates invites him to attend or maybe share soup with people. In the same vein I will also meet Masisi if need be".
"Condoning Khama is living and letting others live. For example, he was in my constituency over the weekend and met some UDC councillors. They gave me a report and I said no problem. I could not be there because of other engagements elsewhere but I would have passed by and said 'hey brother, how are you!" Boko added, dismissing suggestions that the UDC should shun interaction with the former president.
The incumbent MP who is also the convener of BPF has indicated his willingness to stand for elections under the BPF ticket. Should negotiations go well with UDC, it means Tshepo Makani of Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) will have to step down.
In 2014 Butale won the constituency under BDP ticket by 4510 votes followed by Richard Gudu of UDC who garnered 3506 votes. BCP represented by Phillip Bulawa came third with 1671 votes while independent candidate Boy Bonyongo got 819.
The constituency is currently held by the self-exiled Samson Guma whom Khama has announced that he will join the new party upon his return from South Africa.
Guma has been expelled from the BDP. Should BPF and UDC reach an amicable conclusion, upon his return the current UDC parliamentary candidate Matlhodi Modisapudi will have to step down. In 2014 Guma won the constituency by 5864 followed by Maria Kusasa of BCP by 2324 votes while Chibuya Kuchwe of UDC came distant third with 1512.
BPF plans to field the loser in the BDP primaries Oboetswe Gabotlale, and this was announced by former President Khama during the inaugural meeting of BPF in Gaborone last weekend when he identified him as “incoming MP for Boteti West.”
BPF and Khama believe that this is one of their stronghold constituencies and can win with through Gabotlale. In 2014 general elections Sethomo Lelatisitswe won the constituency by 5530 votes followed by BCP UDC candidate Petrus Mokgalo who garnered 1938 votes. Daisy Bathusi of BCP got 1143 votes while independent candidate King Disana came on a far distant with paltry 82 votes with Morutegi Pelekekae managing only 35 votes.
Should they agree it means the youthful UDC candidate 25 year old Tshenolo Saakane will have to pave way for Gabotlale.
This is one of the constituencies where the two parties are currently facing a stumbling block as the UDC parliamentary candidate Kabo Ketshogile has vowed that he will not pave the way for incumbent Prince Maele. Recently when addressing his supporters, Maele made a passionate plea to Ketshogile to step down as a parliamentary candidate as rally behind him.
In 2014 Maele under the BDP ticket won the constituency by 6356 votes followed by independent candidate Setlhabelo Modukanele who garnered 4115 with Montwedi Mokhurutshe of BCP coming distant third with 1147 votes.
Although the incumbent MP for the area Phillip Makgalemele who has been associated with BPF recently in Rakops stated that he is behind President Mokgweetsi Masisi, BPF leaders are said to be still pursuing him.
To try and win him over, BPF through Khama are relentlessly asking UDC leadership to convince Aubrey Lesaso to drop from the race and rally behind Makgalemele. In 2014 UDC performed well in the general elections as Lesaso garnered 4429 votes losing by a margin of 948 to Makgalemele.
Just like Makgalemele, Moiseraele Goya has declared loyalty to Masisi although he has a very soft spot for Khama. He is one of the BDP MPs who are reluctant to jump ship and join the new political movement and to try and soften him Khama is alleged to be pushing UDC to pave way for him in Palapye.
Should they agree, it will be a blow to their parliamentary candidate Oneetse Ramogapi who in 2013 lost the BDP primaries to Goya and later defected to Botswana Congress Party (BCP).
Palapye is one of the BDP stronghold as evidenced by their performance in 2014 when Goya garnered 6771 followed by veteran politician James Olesitse representing BCP getting 4732 with Boniface Mankanku getting 378 and Mortimer Nwako as indepdendent candidate even failed to vote for himself as he came back empty handed.
The constituency has been given to Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) who have been struggling to identify a candidate. BPF wants the constituency to be given to the independent candidate Ramadeluka Seretse. Seretse who is a former MP for the area resigned from the BDP and declared that he will contest as an independent candidate after persuasion from elders in the constituency have been constantly attending meeting called by Khama.
He will face his political nemesis incumbent Kgotla Autlwetse who ended his political career in the BDP primaries by humbling him with 4 084 votes while he trailed behind with 1478 votes. Autlwetse had the biggest margin in the 2014 elections garnering 9611 votes with Ishmael Selebogo of UDC coming at a far distant with 1067 votes while Base Motswakhumo of BCP managed 576 votes.
In 2009 Seretse won the constituency by 5031 with Botswana National Front garnering 975.