Saturday, November 27, 2021

BDP divided in Kgatleng by-election

Ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s Central Committee and the Electoral Board this week provided conflicting information as to why the party decided not to hold primary elections in Bokone Council ward in Mochudi.

The Central Committee led by President Ian Khama on Monday nullified the Electoral Board’s decision to hold the party’s primary election in the ward.┬á

The announcement was made at a meeting to brief prospective candidates who had shown interest in contesting for Bokone ward by-election in Mochudi.

The seat fell vacant after the resignation of opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) ward councillor Titus Kebuileng. He resigned following an ultimatum from the University of Botswana who are his employers.

BDP’s Secretary General Mpho Balopi and the BDP Electoral Board Secretary, Lee Lesetedi on Monday provided conflicting reasons as to why the primary elections were nullified or cancelled.

Balopi said the decision not to hold the primary elections was taken after the Central Committee had consulted with the electorate in the ward.

“We accessed the situation after consulting the people on the ground in the ward; their wishes have to be our wishes. They are the ones on the ground; we shouldn’t prescribe what is good for them. We agreed that primary elections should be held,” he said. Balopi said the Central Committee as the ultimate authority reached the agreement “with the people on the ground for the benefit of the party and the ward.”

On allegations that he and other party members in the ward lobbied the Central Committee to arrive at such a decision, Balopi said it was the electorate themselves who sold the idea not to hold the primaries to the Central Committee.

“I was transparent in the manner in which I was dealing with the electorate. For instance I was open enough to listen to them and have them come and address the Central Committee on what they believed was good for the party,” he said.

He said some reports that he was instrumental  in convincing the Central Committee to arrive at its conclusion not to hold primaries was a smear campaign by some people to portray the BDP as an organisation that is at war with itself.

Balopi declined to comment on the letter from Lesetedi inviting interested party members who had shown interest in contesting for the ward saying he was not aware of the existence of such a letter.

But Lee confirmed that he had written to the prospective candidates inviting them to fill nomination forms. In an interesting turn of events, Lesetedi proffered a different reason as to why the party cancelled the primary elections.

According to Lesetedi, one of the candidates who had shown interest in contesting the primary elections was disqualified after he had failed to follow primary election procedures. “I’m not in a position to name that person because I don’t have documents with me where I’m right now. It was a matter of procedure that led to the prospective candidate failing to qualify for the primaries. There were two people who had shown interest,” he said.

Contrary to Balopi’s assertion, Lesetedi denied that it was the Central Committee that cancelled or nullified the primary elections.

Sunday Standard has learnt that Lesego Matlapeng who represented the party during last year’s General Elections will also represent the BDP in the by election unopposed.

It is understood that Obert Mooketsi had intended to challenge Matlapeng in the primaries but his dreams were shuttered on Monday when Balopi and President Khama announced that primary elections in the ward had been cancelled. 

The Monday Central Committee meeting at which such an announcement was made, was supposed to have decided and approved the final candidature to contest the by election. Both Matlapeng and Mooketsi declined to comment and referred this publication to Balopi.

It is understood that the party told those who attended the meeting that there was not enough time to prepare for the primary elections. The by election is expected to be held in May this year.

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