With election campaigns heating up there are indications that in some constituencies old battle lines are being drawn inside the Botswana Democratic Party, placing the party into a war footing similar to what happened during the primary elections. During the party’s controversial Bulela Ditswe primary elections, evidence emerged that some individuals in the party used their wealth and resources to eliminate those they viewed as potential rivals by propping minnows. This led to a number of cabinet ministers losing primary elections.
And now some leading party members are this time around accused of conniving with opposition to undermine ruling party candidates viewed as a threat in the ongoing contest for the position of Vice President. One constituency that has become a battleground for such cold-war-like dynamics is Barolong. Incidentally Barolong constituency has also been named as one of the twenty or so marginal constituencies where there is a real threat of the Botswana Democratic Party losing out to opposition.
To make matters worse, the incumbent Member of Parliament, Kitso Mokaila has emerged as one of the contenders for the position of Vice President which falls vacant in October after elections when the incumbent, Ponatshego Kedikilwe retires ÔÇô literally turning the constituency into a tinderbox. Opposition candidate in the constituency, James Mathokgwane is said to be enjoying significant sponsorship from ruling party stalwarts who want him to beat Mokaila. Under the law if Mokaila loses to Mathokgwane that would put paid Mokaila’s chances of becoming Vice President since the national constitution dictates that a Vice President shall be a Member of Parliament with a constituency behind their name.
In an interview with Sunday Standard Mathokgwane denied receiving any patronage from any BDP members. He said he was struggling to even fuel his car. “Where is the BDP money they are talking about when I don’t even have petrol as I am speaking to you now?” Instead he said he is a beneficiary of a constituency BDP that was torn in the middle parts, a situation, he added was made worse by a groundswell of public resentment against Mokaila. “People are angry that after many years that he was cabinet minister responsible for tourism, the constituency does not have a single tourism project that can be attributed to him.
Not even a cultural village,” adds Mathokgwane. He says that Mokaila goes around telling people that he does not beg their votes. “A growing number of people view him as aloof, detached and too distant.” Mathokgwane holds that the fact that Mokaila is consistently named as a future Vice President and ultimately President is not good for BDP in the constituency. He says it has led to a number of BDP activists in the constituency positioning themselves well ahead of that time. Mathokgwane says this has created polarity within the BDP in Barolong constituency with him as opposition candidate being a beneficiary only by accident. The two BDP activists he singles out by name as positioning themselves to inherit the constituency from Mokaila in the event he ascends to the presidency are Fankie Motsaathebe and Kopo Mononi.
Motsaathebe is a former BDP youth chairman, while Mononi is a local councilor. In an interview Motsaathebe denied positioning himself to take from Mokaila thereby destabilizing the party chances in the immediate contest facing them. “I have been an activist in this constituency since the days of Ronald Sebego. My loyalty to the party and MP is irrefutable. But of course if in future I am called to serve I would not turn the party down.” While he does not give Mathokgwane a chance in the October elections, Motsaathebe however pays tribute to the opposition candidate as a “propagandist of note. Beyond that there is not much to say about him.”
He is adamant that Mokaila will win the constituency comfortably. “Don’t forget that Mathokgwane is a politician who comes as and when. In the last elections he had taken a breather. How do you count such a politician as part of the race?” asks Motsaathebe. According to him there have been incidents of disloyalty among some BDP activists, but recently the party’s political education committee was called to intervene. Mokaila agrees that all the BDP confusion in the constituency was a result of Mathokgwane’s electioneering. “We have since put that behind us.
In the last elections I won this constituency by a margin of two thousands. I will be increasing it this time around,” said Mokaila as a matter of fact. For his part Mononi agrees that there has been dangerous backstabbing that created confusion. “There were some BDP councilors who went around telling voters to vote them at council level and Mathokgwane at parliamentary level. That created confusion. But I am confident we have gone past that,” said Mononi.