Following a highly charged primary elections exercise by the ruling Botswana Democratic Party, President Ian Khama is said to be facing his biggest test since taking over the reins as party leader in April this year.
BDP insiders are talking of a “deep polarity and disillusionment” within their party, almost all of it an outcome of the primary elections many have been quick to dismiss as a sham.
A good number of former senior party members who lost in the primaries feel not just cheated but also horrified at the casual manner with which the party’s Central Committee and its sub-structures dismissed protests and complaints of widespread cheating and rigging on points of technicality.
Already a few big names have announced their resignations from the party, with many more expected to follow in the next few weeks.
There are also behind the scenes whispers that the primary election losers are imploring their supporters to vote for the opposition, if not to punish the BDP, then at least to register their displeasure.
The situation is not helped by the fact that over and above the losers, there are those who were disqualified from running on the grounds that they had broken the party discipline.
While many would not talk on record for fear of annoying the party high command, when Sunday Standard caught up with him over the weekend the former BDP youth leader, Kefentse Mzwinila, was quick to vent his unhappiness at the way he has been treated.
“I have a history inside the BDP and although I was not allowed to contest the numbers speak for themselves,” said Mzwinila.
Mzwinila’s name was struck off the candidates list for Mmadinare constituency at the last minute on allegations that he had tampered with the voters roll.
Although he was not allowed to contest, he says he still has not been formally charged.
The veteran Member of Parliament who is the incumbent Member of Parliament, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, went on to successfully defend his seat.
Although other disgruntled members have hinted at going it alone as independent candidates Mzwinila does not want to talk about that line.
“There is still a process to be followed inside the BDP and I do not want to preempt it. All I can say is that if I am to lose to Kedikilwe, it should be through a free and fair contest,” said Mzwinila.
He made it clear that although he was not allowed to contest the primaries, many in his team sailed through to represent the party as councilors.
He does not take kindly to being labeled a political lightweight.
“Of course, they were demoralized by the fact that as their leader I could not contest, but my team emerged with large numbers.”
He attributes this to the two thousand or so youthful members he says he recruited into the BDP over the last two years.
“My supporters in the constituency are mainly youth and because they are new inside the BDP, their loyalty is not entrenched and can therefore not be guaranteed going forward,” said Mzwinila as a matter of fact.