The opposition Botswana Congress Party has announced that they will not contest the Kgalagadi North parliamentary by-election. BCP Secretary General says they are encouraging their members to elect the candidate fielded by the opposition Botswana National Front so as to enhance the chances of the constituency remaining in the hands of opposition.
Kgalagadi North fell vacant after the then BNF Member of Parliament Obakeng Moumakwa resigned last year.
“After careful assessment and due consultation with both the membership of the BCP and the NDF, we came to a conclusion that we will not contest Kgalagadi North parliamentary bye election. We thus wish to encourage members of the BCP and NDF to vote for the opposition candidate in Kgalagadi North,” said BCP Secretary General, Taolo Lucas.
The BNF is, however, not reading any gesture of goodwill on the part of BCP.
In fact, the BNF goes as far as to dismiss the BCP’s gesture as a public relations gimmick.
“People at Kgalagadi North do not know the BCP. The BCP should not pretend that they are not standing out any strong feelings to give opposition unity a chance. The BCP tried hard to convince people to come forward as candidates but they could not get anyone,” said the BNF Publicity Head, Moeti Mohwasa.
Mohwasa insists that the BCP does not have a presence in Kgalagadi North, and as a result “we do not expect them to communicate their decisions with us because it is in their self interest not to stand.”
“Their decision not to stand is a tactical retreat,” said Mohwasa.
As a result, he said he does not expect the BNF to reciprocate by way of giving BCP a helping hand in another by-election due in Palapye.
Palapye fell vacant when the then Member of Parliament, Boyce Sebetela, also resigned late last year.
Lucas, however, has an opinion different from Mohwasa’s; “Our decision was made out of consideration that as opposition we should avoid voter splitting. Another issue is that the BCP has a programme of targeting constituencies and Kgalagadi North falls in the lower category. It is a vast constituency that needs a lot of resources to make an impact,” he said.
Lucas said the BCP also looked at the figures as per the last General Elections and realized that together with their cooperating partner, the National Democratic Front, they hold the key as to who will emerge victorious between the BNF and the ruling Botswana Democratic Party.
“We hope that given the narrow margin of victory for the BNF in that constituency, the support of the BCP and NDF will help secure victory for the opposition. We would have hoped that our efforts in Kgalagadi North would be welcomed and appreciated by all those who recognise the problems posed by opposition vote splitting in elections,” said Lucas.
On whether the BCP expects the BNF to show good gesture by way of supporting the BCP at Palapye, Lucas said that is a decision to be made entirely by the BNF.
“If they think it’s good for opposition politics for them to stand we cannot stand on their way. Our concern is vote splitting. As for Palapye that is a decision for them to make,” he said.
Mohwasa was somewhat ungracious about the possibility of BNF not standing in Palapye to enhance the BCP chance, saying as far as they are aware they have not received any favours from the BCP.
Meanwhile, the BCP will launch James Olesitse as their candidate in Palapye.
He will be launched by party president Gilson Saleshando on February 17.
Other speakers will include Lepetu Setshwaelo, President of the Botswana Alliance Movement and Dick Bayford, President of the National Democratic Front. The two are BCP’s cooperating partners.
Other areas up for by-elections which political parties are bracing for include local government elections in Marulamantsi (Gaborone West South Constituency), Bodibeng Bothatogo (Ngami Constituency) and Mokwena (Serowe South Constituency). All these by-elections will be held on the 15th of March 2008.
The BCP candidate for Marulamantsi is Diphetogo Maswabi.
On behalf of the BCP the Bodibeng/Bothatogo ward will be contested by the Botswana Alliance Movement with Katunavandu Tuvare as the candidate.
Lucas said the name for the Mokwena ward candidate will be announced in due course.