The Botswana Democratic Party council candidate for the central ward in Francistown East, Anthony Chebani, last week made an appeal to President Seretse Khama Ian Khama to visit his beleaguered constituency and prop up their campaign so as to reverse the immense gains made by the opposition Botswana Congress Party.
Speaking at a meeting addressed by President Khama in Francistown last week, Chebani implored the president to come and weave his Khama magic in Francistown East. He went on to say that much of their campaign is greatly affected by the fact that their member of parliament, Foreign Affairs Minister Phandu Skelemani, is hardly ever in the constituency as he is responsible for a ministry that almost always keeps him busy with national duty outside the country.
“It would be of great benefit if the president, as the party’s chief campaigner, would visit the constituency to boost our campaign in the absence of our honourable member of parliament,” he said.
Chebani’s utterances come after recent reports that the BCP has made serious inroads into Francistown East, sparking fears that they might reverse Skelemani’s resounding 3255 to 1419 victory over BCP candidate Morgan Moseki in the 2004 general elections. Indications are that the BCP’s perseverance and concerted campaigning after their 2004 elections loss has eroded Skelemani’s comfortable margin and enabled them to make serious inroads into his forte.
While many believe that Skelemani, as a statesman of note, has a greater chance of surviving the BCP threat in October 2009, not much can be said about some of his councilors who are reportedly finding it increasingly difficult to parry the BCP threat.
However, in Moseki, Skelemani is pitted against a legal guru of the same stature as him, a practicing private attorney who has also had an illustrious career in the public service, at some point serving as the Assistant Registrar and Master of the High Court in the Administration of Justice before his retirement in December 2002.
It is not the first time that BDP councilors have pleaded with the party leadership to release Skelemani from national duty to come and concentrate on his campaign. Recently reports reached The Sunday Standard to the effect that the councilors had sent a clarion call to the government enclave asking for the MP’s release after it emerged that Moseki was making forays into his constituency. Skelemani then took a leave of absence from his ministerial duties and made a sojourn to Francistown to resuscitate his fledging campaign.
Indications are that Skelemani is no longer an unshakable force in Francistown East as Moseki and his teammates have been busy campaigning over the last few years, capitalizing on the continued absence of the ever busy Foreign Affairs minister.
Reports also indicate that the BDP councilors were finding it increasingly difficult to explain Skelemani’s continued absence to the constituents. With incessant prodding from BCP candidates, the constituents’ initially muted grumbles were becoming increasingly audible complaints that “the MP seems to care more about foreign issues while the fires are burning at home”.