Sprinkles of legal jargon are expected to creep into freedom square politics in the race for the Francistown East constituency, which has pitted Foreign Affairs Minister and former Attorney General Phandu Skelemani of the Botswana Democratic Party against private attorney Morgan Moseki of the Botswana Congress Party.
The two legal brains are said to be locked in an epic battle for the control of the constituency, and reports filtering in indicate that Skelemani has been on his toes fending off increasingly menacing challenges from Moseki. The challenger is a practicing private attorney who at some point served as Assistant Registrar and Master of the High Court in the Administration of Justice before his retirement in December 2002.
BDP insiders told The Sunday Standard last week that Skelemani had to make a hasty visit to Francistown to prop up his campaign after it emerged that Moseki was making forays into his constituency.
Indications are that Skelemani is no longer an unshakable force in Francistown East as Moseki and his teammates have been busy campaigning for the last few years, capitalizing on the continued absence of the ever busy Foreign Affairs minister from his constituency.
While Skelemani’s resounding 3 255 to 1419 victory over Moseki in the 2004 general elections gave him some level of comfort, indications are that the BCP candidates has, over the years, launched a concerted campaign and made serious inroads into Skelemani’s forte.
Insiders revealed that last week Skelemani was forced to beg for a leave of absence from his superiors after his council candidates sent a clarion call to the BDP headquarters informing them that the BCP was making inroads into his constituency.
There were also indications that the constituents were beginning to complain that their MP rarely visits their constituency. The Foreign Affairs ministry is one of the busiest in cabinet, and Skelemani is always jetting in and out of the country on national duty, more so that he does not have a deputy minister.
Thus the ever busy Skelemani was forced to forgo the comforts of his ministerial swivel chair and climb down to Francistown to attend to the muddy duties of gutter politicking, after it emerged that the BCP was making piercing forays into his constituency and planting seeds of discontent among his followers.
Reports indicate that the BDP councilors were finding it increasingly difficult to explain to the inquisitive constituents that their MP’s ministerial portfolio entailed travelling a lot and meant that he would not visit them as much as other MP’s visit their constituencies. With incessant prodding from BCP candidates, the constituents’ initially muted grumbles were becoming increasingly audible complaints that “the MP seems to care more about Zimbabwean and other foreign issues while the fires were burning out at home”.
BDP operatives had to send a telegram to Tsholetsa House. “Kana rona re bana fela. Ba ne ba re botsa gore kante mogolo a lona o kae?” said one of them in confidence. It was also becoming even more evident that some of the council candidates in Skelemani’s team were in dire need of his hallowed presence to prop up their campaigns as the electorates seemed to have turned their backs on them.
Moseki, for example, maintains that he has lived a major chunk of his life in Francistown and therefore has intimate knowledge of what the Francistown East constituents’ want, “unlike Skelemani who has lived and worked in Gaborone from 1973 to date”.
He maintains that the BDP had failed Francistown East, as it remains a battered constituency despite its hallowed status as the “government enclave” of Francistown. “Almost all institutions of government such as the Police Headquarters, Hospital, Prisons, 2nd Brigade (BDF Northern Headquarters), High Court, The DC’s office, Magistrates’ Court, College of Education and the Civic Centre, are located in Francistown East,” he says.
But when he did arrive, the minister did not disappoint, as he took his campaign in stride. He descended on Francistown with the swagger of a man on a mission, humbling opposition candidates at a panel discussion organized by the University of Botswana before embarking on a trailblazing week-long-campaign that, it seems, put the fears of his subjects to rest, at least for now.
To date, many feel that Skelemani remains the favourite to win the constituency, albeit with a reduced margin. But the same cannot be said for some of his council candidates.
Political pundits have already written some BDP councilors in Francistown West as political has-beens who will fall to the wrath of the BCP campaign machinery.
In Francistown South, BCP firebrand Vain Mamela is expected to battle it out with the youthful Wtynter Molotsi. Some say it is too close to call. But many believe that Molotsi will emerge the victor because of the active role that he plays in the constituency.
Since he won the primaries against Khumo Maoto, Molotsi has maintained a constant presence in constituency and party matters, which has reportedly endeared him to the voters. It also seems that he has managed to quell the raging fires of discontent and divisions that emerged after his win over Maoto, and that all Domkrag supporters are now on his side.
Mamela, on the other hand, is said to have concentrated most of his campaign in the blocks area and largely ignored Somerset and Extension. But the former MP maintains that he is busy working around the clock to cement his campaign, and he remains confident that he will seep the stakes.
In Francistown West incumbent Tshelang Masisi is widely expected to easily parry the challenges of Whyte Marobela and Matlhomola Modise. Many political pundits have in the past said that the BCP-BAM alliance shot themselves in the foot when they shunned Whyte Marobela, a tried and tested foot soldier in Francistown East, in favour of Modise. They feel that Marobela stood a better chance of challenging Masisi. In the end, Marobela shifted alliance to the BPP in disgust, where he is largely expected to launch a lackluster challenge.
But the campaign fires continue to rage on in Francistown. Largely because of the tangible BCP threats in Francistown South and Francistown East, and the major campaign blitz that the BCP has embarked upon, the BDP has also upped their tempo.
The two parties are engaged in a heavyweight campaign bout that saw the BCP colours and parliamentary candidates’ faces gracing 10 combis in Francistown while the usual BDP campaign vans bearing party colours and candidates’ faces are always seen making the rounds in Francistown.
BCP and BDP have also posted their campaign material on almost any street pole or any available advertising space in Francistown. By Friday last week the BDP had also gone digital, forking out thousands of pulas for an electronic advert at the Thapama Circle, which will reportedly run until Election Day.