The Botswana Democratic Party leadership is said to be having sleepless nights over the intensifying animosity among its members in Francistown amid clear signs of intensifying forays by the Botswana Congress Party.
The Francistown South constituency is the hardest hit by the BDP’s Bulela Ditswe and factional wrangles, and the leadership is said to be worried that BCP’s Vain Mamela will get the hotly contested constituency on a silver platter.
Reports indicate that the volatile Francistown South constituency is once again on fire as incumbent Member of Parliament, Khumo Maoto, is frantically trying to parry intensifying challenges from branch secretary, Wynter Mmolotsi.
The acrimonious relationship between Maoto and Mmolotsi was reignited after the BDP recently opened floodgates for aspirant parliamentary candidates to register with their constituency offices, and for the branch committees to proceed with the vetting process. Information reaching The Sunday Standard indicates that though he was not vetted out of contesting the primary elections, Maoto has written a strongly worded letter to the party central committee alleging that the branch committee was more biased in favour of Mmolotsi.
There is no love lost between Maoto and the youthful Mmolotsi who has always given the incumbent MP sleepless nights as he has never hidden his ambitions to topple him from the Francistown South constituency.
In the last primary elections, Maoto beat Mmolotsi by a paltry 43 votes and reports indicate that Mmolotsi has, over the years, cemented his position in the constituency.
“While Maoto has had a number of run-ins with his constituents, Mmolotsi has cemented himself as an avid branch secretary who also has the advantage of youth,” said a BDP insider on Friday.
After the 2004 primary elections, incensed Mmolotsi supporters vowed that they would never vote for Maoto and threatened to cast their vote in favour of the opposition. The BDP top brass, among them Festus Mogae, Ian Khama, Daniel Kwelagobe, Ponatshego Kedikilwe and Jacob Nkate were forced to make hasty visits to the constituency to preach peace and reconciliation.
Indications are that the BDP leadership has always known that Francistown South is not a safe constituency because of the incessant threat posed by BCP candidate, Vain Mamela.
Maoto won the 2004 general elections by a whisker, beating Mamela with less than 200 votes. Presently, the BCP threat is reinforced by the BAM/BCP alliance, which has garnered Mamela additional support from former BAM candidate Matlhomola Modise’s supporters in the constituency.
“This is a serious threat to the BDP, and the fact that BDP candidates continue to wrangle over petty issues gives the BCP an edge in the constituency,” said a BDP insider on Friday.
While Mmolotsi is tipped to win the primary elections, there are fears of a repeat of the 2004 scenario, where Maoto’s supporters would not vote for Mmolotsi, thereby giving the BCP’s Mamela a winning edge.
“The fact that all of the BDP’s top brass have, in the past, made visits to Francistown South shows that they appreciate the fact that it is not a safe constituency and they are very worried that they might lose it to the BCP if the members continue bickering,” said a BDP insider.
Speaking to The Sunday Standard on Friday, BDP Deputy Executive Secretary, Fidelis Molao, said that they are aware of the recent developments in Francistown South. He added that the central committee has already put in place measures to restore calm and cooperation in the polarized constituency.
“It should be expected in every political party that members should be uncomfortable with each other during primary elections, but our greatest challenge is to ensure that everyone rallies behind the winner after the primary elections so that we can retain the constituency,” he said.
Molao confirmed that Maoto has indeed raised complaints that the branch committee was more biased towards another contender, saying that the Central Committee will meet soon to address the whole issue and determine the next course of action.
He also admitted that they are aware of the BCP threat but said that the BDP has put stringent measures in place to ensure that they retain the constituency. “Before hurrying to sing praises for the BCP, people must be aware of the fact that in 2004, Francistown South was a completely new constituency. Mamela is a negligible threat. Masisi beat him in Francistown West and our candidate will also retain the BDP seat in the coming general elections,” he said.