New kid on the block Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) is caught up in a dilemma, struggling to identify and deploy candidates to constituencies they are targeting to contest, just a month ahead of the 2019 general elections due in October.
The BPF, who will launch their 2019 election manifesto in Francistown next week, is yet to announce parliamentary candidates for the 16 constituencies they are planning to contest. Riding on the popularity of their patron, former President Ian Khama, BPF promised to win most constituencies in the central district especially in Serowe which is a Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) stronghold.
Ahead of their launch in Palapye, BPF president Biggie Butale announced that they were going to welcome a lot of MPs and councilors from the BDP. Most of the MPs were expected to come from constituencies in the central district where Khama is a popular paramount chief. To date that has not happened as election day fast approaches. The BPF is not deterred, they still claim that some parliamentary candidates within the BDP belong to their party and will soon cross the floor. This was fuelled by multitudes who throng BPF rallies addressed by Khama.
In the central district, BPF has only managed to field candidates in Mahalapye East where they are represented by Lazarus Lekgoanyana, Boteti East by Oboetswe Gabotlale, Nata/Gweta by Joe Linga and Mmadinare where they will be represented by Felicity Keleeme. Other constituencies which have already fielded candidates include Tati West where their president Biggie Butale is an incumbent, Francistown West where they are pinning their hopes on specially elected councilor James Kgalajwe.
Samson Moyo Guma, who remains on a self-imposed exile in South Africa was expected to represent the party in Tati East where he is the incumbent but has not yet returned to Botswana citing threat to his life. In Mogoditshane BPF will be represented by political vagabond Bruce Nkgakile and Letlhakeng/Lephephe by Alfred Molapo.
BPF is yet to field candidates in constituencies that they are viewed as their potential stronghold especially Serowe constituencies, Palapye and Shoshong. In an interview with this publication, BPF Secretary General Roseline Pansirah Matshome said they are going to write letters to those they want to represent the party in the 16 constituencies. “After they have accepted our nomination that is when we will reveal their names to the public and media,” she said.
Sources within the party have revealed that most people who were expected to join the party and contest the 2019 are now developing cold feet. “Another challenge is that there is confusion with the alliance with UDC and this might confuse the voters as they won’t know which party to vote for between BPF and UDC,” one candidate registered his concern.
Khama, the star campaigner for BPF and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) at all levels, is seen as unbeatable, riding the political wind to hand over the 26 constituencies in the Central district to the opposition.
Recently signs are showing that the wind is abating as BPF is now struggling to field candidates in their potential stronghold being Central district where Khama is a regarded as influential and popular. Of recent Khama has informed BPF members that his younger brother Tshekedi Khama who is currently MP for Serowe West will defect from BDP and contest under BPF.
TK as he affectionally called is said to be also developing cold feet of contesting under a new party and prefer to be within the BDP. He informed BDP members in Serowe recently that he is not going anywhere but some have revealed that he might defect just few days before the submission of names to IEC.
Another challenge for BPF is Serowe North East constituency where they pinning their hopes on former President Khama’s cousin Ramadeluka Seretse to take on his political nemesis Kgotla Autlwetse but this has also failed. Seretse has decided to contest the 2019 general elections as independent candidate as he is not comfortable with the BPF model. Seretse a former cabinet minister and Member of Parliament for Serowe North East said that they couldn’t agree on some issues with BPF hence decision to go it solo.
Another close ally of Khama who was expected to join BPF after being suspended from BDP is Lerala /Maunatlala MP Prince Maele but also developed cold feet towards the party.
Maele has also decided to go it solo saying he has already invested a lot campaigning as an independent candidate and can’t risk joining a new party.