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The political clock is ticking pretty fast towards the 2019 general election. Most political parties have already completed identification of the parliamentary and council hopefuls for the country’s 12th general election. Among the candidates identified is ruling Botswana Democratic Party’s Mmusi Kgafela who will battle it out for the crown in Mochudi West constituency. It remains to be seen whether Mmusi will be able to emulate his royal peers and deliver the constituency which is currently regarded an opposition stronghold.
Evidence abounds that voters often times revere the chieftainship institution to the extent that once a member of the royal house has been nominated a council or parliamentary candidate, chances of clinching the ward or constituency is guaranteed.
Examples can be drawn from GaMangwato where BDP’s founding president Sir Seretse Khama smoothly sailed through to the highest office in the land at the time Botswana gained independence in 1966 from its colonial master Britain.
Khama was to be followed by Bangwaketsi paramount chief Bathoeng Gaseitsiwe who quit the chieftaincy to join politics under the opposition Botswana National Front (BNF) and smoothly sailed to parliament in Kanye.
Other members of the royal houses who easily made it parliament on the chieftainship trump card include Goareng Mosinyi of Shoshong.
These royals were later to be followed by the likes of Seretse Khama Ian Khama who was recruited from the army to join the BDP and chose a constituency in Serowe where Bangwato voted him en masse to parliament. He was appointed vice-president and ascended to the country’s highest office on account of the automatic succession constitutional provision.
When Ian Khama ascended to the highest office in the land, his younger brother Tshekedi Khama succeeded him and inherited the Serowe West constituency where he has been a member of parliament since 2008.
Another royal who easily made it to parliament is Kgosi Tawana Moremi of Batswana who quit the chieftaincy for politics and has been in parliament for two terms ending 2019 when he will quit active politics in accordance with his public pronouncement.
Not to be outdone, Barolong Kgosi Kgolo Lotlaamoreng 11 in 2015 also quit the chieftaincy following the impromptu resignation of James Mathokgwane who had defeated Kitso Mokaila in Borolong constituency under the opposition BNF ticket. He easily won the ensuing bye-election.
The chieftaincy trump card has proved that it is very influential in how voters treat their chiefs and eventually honour them once they migrate to the political battlefront.
In the 2019 general election, the focus will be Mmusi Kgafela and how he will fare in the political race especially that his area is an opposition stronghold, he has thrown his hat into the political ring on the side of the ruling BDP. Bakgatla who spoke to this publication insist that despite Kgafela having joined a party they so much loathe, they will nonetheless vote for him because it would appear a great insult if they were not to accord him the respect as a member of the royal house.
“We are not happy with his decision to join the ruling party. It would have been most prudent if he had joined opposition. However, as his proud subordinates we will not insult him by refusing him our vote. If anything, we give him the due respect and vote for him while we will vote for opposition councillors. Obviously the councillors will also work harmoniously with him as their chief,” said a prominent BNF member who did not want to be quoted for fear of breaching party protocols.
The Mokgatla explained that it was unfortunate that the opposition failed to capitalise on wooing Mmusi and other members of the Bakgatla house to their fold given the impasse between government and Bakgatla over problems that led their kgosikgolo to unceremoniously relocate to South Africa where he was given citizenship.
“Although in the campaign for the 2014 general election Kgosikgolo Kgafela 11’s woes with government were part of the campaign agenda, the opposition ought to have come closer to the embattled royal house and offer all possible assistance. Mmusi would probably have informed them about his political ambitions and that would have been the most opportune time to lure him to opposition politics.
“It is a fact that Bakgatla are not happy with the decisions government took in de-recognizing their Kgosikgolo and arraigning him embarrassingly before the courts of law. That should have sent clear signals to the opposition to come closer to the royal house and give them sympathy. The BDP tried its luck and netted Mmusi. This should be wakeup call for the opposition to be always on the lookout for issues that can easily endear them to the electorates in given areas,” said the Mokgatla man.
He explained that the chieftainship institution is revered in Botswana and other Dikgosi who join active politics are likely to enjoy the support of their subordinates.
Although the chieftainship institution has lost so much power under BDP rule, a lot of Batswana still hold it in high esteem. The chieftainship influence on daily life activities is not something that Batswana would honestly shun overnight.
This is why in most cases Batswana are quite vociferous that the chieftainship institutions should be enhanced with the chiefs given more powers because they are closer to the people than politicians.
The other issue that some in Kgatleng believe will leverage Mmusi to win the political race is that there is solid consensus that the man as a lawyer is definitely parliament materially. “Once in parliament, Mmusi will be expected to raise challenges first hand on issues affecting the chieftainship institution. Once in parliament, Mmusi should be able to demonstrate and offer alternatives on how the institutions should be enhanced for future posterity,” said the Mokgatla emphatically.