The Botswana Congress Party‘s recent efforts to revive its fortunes in the northern parts of Botswana seem to be bearing fruit. If current indications are anything to go by, the BCP may just pull the rug from under the feet of the other political parties in some of its political strongholds, among them Francistown, Bobirwa, Selibe Phikwe and Nkange.
Secretary General Taolo Lucas told The Sunday Standard on Friday that the BCP itinerary is full until the general elections and the whole objective is to increase the party’s representation in both local and parliamentary portfolios in the coming general elections.
The BCP’s fortunes were redeemed
recently when party chairman, Batisani Maswibilili, rebounded on his initial decision not to contest the 2009 general elections in the Nkange constituency. Maswibilili had earlier announced that he would not be representing the party in the 2009 general elections because of personal reasons. But after persuasion from his comrades, he reneged on his earlier decision not to stand. Lucas was ecstatic on Friday when he told The Sunday Standard that the BCP structures are working hand in hand with the Botswana Alliance Movement to prepare for Maswibilili’s ascension in Nkange.
“We are generally receiving positive vibes from the people in the area. I have to say that we have a dedicated team of both BAM and BCP members, called the Joint Local Structure, who are working very hard to consolidate our position in the constituency,” said Lucas.
Maswibilili will stand against former Police Commissioner, Edwin Batshu, who ousted incumbent MP Ambrose Masalila in the August 30 Bulela Ditswe primaries. BCP insiders describe Maswibili as a cunning veteran politician who, apart from his chairmanship of the BCP, was instrumental in the pact negotiations between the BCP and BAM. He is said to have entrenched his influence in the Nkange constituency at the same time grooming the BAM/BCP structures to become a formidable force to reckon with.
In the 2004 general elections Masalila beat Maswibilili by a very small margin, garnering 4246 votes to Maswibilili’s 3176. However, Lucas insists that they have not been sitting on their laurels but have been working hard to revive their fortunes and pose a tangible threat against the BDP.
The BCP’s fortunes have also been increased by their pact agreement with BAM. In the 2004 general elections, the BAM candidate came third with 1355 votes. “But you must note that the combined vote of BAM and BCP exceeds that of the BDP. We, therefore, stand at very good stead to win the constituency,” said Lucas.
At the same time, some say that the recent BDP bulela ditswe primaries, which culminated in the ouster of incumbent Masalila, also bred discontent and improved BCP‘s fortunes in Nkange. Animosity was heightened between Batshu and Masalila’s supporters during the BDP primaries.
Ever since the former police commissioner resigned from the civil service, some BDP structures in the constituency have never made it a secret that they were eying him to replace Masalila, even before he declared his interest in politics.
To this end, there are those who feel that Masalila was given a raw deal by some influential elements within the BDP who turned their backs on him in favour of Batshu. While there is no doubt that Batshu is a formidable character who will undoubtedly add more value to the BDP structures in Nkange, there is a strong feeling among some BDP elements that he was rather pushed into politics as he would have rather preferred to retreat into farming after an outstanding career in the public service.
“There are some within the BDP who doubt Batshu’s commitment to politics. The man is sending mixed messages and some feel that he would rather have preferred to rest instead of joining the dog-eat-dog world of politics,” said a BDP insider in Nkange. To this end, there are some BDP members who say that they would rather vote for Masalila as he has over the years demonstrated his desire to serve the constituency in political office.
However, the BCP is not only going to capitalize on the crumbs that fall off the BDP table. Lucas revealed on Friday that to further consolidate Maswibilili’s chances, they will, at the end of November, hold a joint elections conference in Nkange, where all of the BAM/BCP candidates will converge to strategize and chart the way forward ahead of the general elections.
The BCP will also pose a strong challenge for the BDP in the Francistown South constituency where Vain Mamela will slug it out against youthful Wynter Molotsi who also ousted Khumo Maoto on August 30.
Francistown South has always been temperamental, volatile and rigged with rifts and conflicts that have always given the BDP leadership sleepless nights, not least because the BCP has always been a threat there.
Once again the volcanic animosity between Molotsi and Maoto replayed itself in the recent primaries and Maoto’s supporters vowed that they would rather vote for the opposition than support Molotsi in the coming general elections after their favourite’s ouster. The very same sentiments were said by Molotsi’s supporters after he lost to Maoto in the 2004 primaries. It was only through the intervention of BDP head honchos, like Daniel Kwelagobe and Festus Mogae, that a semblance of peace was restored to the BDP structures in the constituency.
Even then, it proved to be a very narrow victory for Maoto who managed to squeeze through and win the constituency with a margin of only 190 votes.
In the coming general elections, Molotsi will be faced with a shrewd politician who is no stranger to parliamentary elections. The BCP man seems to have capitalized on both his popularity and the
BDP rifts in Francistown South.
Worse still, after accepting the results of the poll on August 30 Maoto hit a u-turn and wrote a protest letter to the BDP citing a number of irregularities during the primaries. To some, this worsened the rifts within the BDP and distracted the party from concentrating on consolidating their structures and courting more electorates ahead of the general elections.
The BCP will, around November 15, hold a lavish launch at which Vain Mamela will be revealed to the masses “as a way of ensuring that we start the road to the 2009 general elections on a high note and ahead of everyone else.”
In Bobirwa, where Taolo Lucas is the parliamentary candidate, the BCP will be looking to unseat incumbent BDP MP, Shaw Kgathi. BCP holds two out of the nine council seats in the Bobirwa constituency and the party has been working around the clock to increase their representation in the coming general elections. Taolo revealed on Friday that BCP’s elections preparations in Bobirwa are progressing smoothly and well ahead of other political parties. The BCP will field candidates in all the wards in Bobirwa.
BCP’s fortunes in Bobirwa were also fuelled by the recent party national congress that was held at Matshekge Hill School in Bobonong. It gave the electorates an opportunity to see the BCP structures in their element in a congress that went smoothly and without a hitch. The people of Bobirwa also had an opportunity to meet the party leadership, among them Gilson Saleshando, who did not waste time in using the opportunity to wage a vigorous campaign for Lucas. The belief is that BCP has worked hard to revive its fortunes and that Taolo Lucas will be able to tackle the 502 margin by which Kgathi beat him in the last general elections.
On the national front BCP is faced with a great challenge of improving its credibility by increasing its political representation throughout the country. The party currently has one MP in Dumelang Saleshando and around 36 councilors and the hope is that the representation will improve to show a true reflection of the party’s potential. However, solo parliamentary representative Dumelang Saleshando did a sterling job to lend credibility to the party in his representation in parliament. At the same time, the BCP is credited with having a wealth of intellectuals within its fold who will be able to take the party to greater heights.