If not properly managed, the run-up campaign to the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) primaries could turn bloody with potential to sow seeds of factionalism ahead of next year’s general election, some democrats fear.
The apprehensive democrats add that the ruling party could as well be dealt a heavy blow with losers rallying behind the opposition.
The acrimonious relationship displayed by supporters of some candidates in some of the party’s held constituencies point to this sad reality. A case in point is the recent physical encounter between supporters of incumbent Tswapong South legislator Oreeditse Molebatsi and challenger Dorcas Makgato-Malesu at Ramokgonami Village.
BDP sources contend that if the party leadership┬áfails to rise to the challenge and quickly extinguish the imminent fires, what happened in Tswapong South could just be a tip of the iceberg as similar features are developing in other constituencies like Nkange and Tonota North.
In Nkange constituency, the challenger, Edison Woto, is alleged to have recently engaged in a near fist fight with Councillor Ishmael Mokgethi following a meeting that was held by incumbent Edwin Batshu.
Mokgethi confirmed in an interview that he was nearly assaulted by Woto had it not been for some passers-by┬áwho came to his rescue near Barclays satellite branch in Tutume.
“It was after a meeting held by Batshu at Tjilagwane kgotla in Tutume in early February when Woto┬áthreatened to assault me. Had it not been for some elders passing by, he would have assaulted me. The situation in our constituency is acrimonious. Tempers are flaring. The situation has become so ugly that even opposition members have been registered to vote in the primaries in a bid to to defeat some of us. Party leadership has to urgently┬áaddress the situation before it explodes. When things like these happen, they make life unbearable in the party,” said Mokgethi.
Although he has not reported the case to the party leadership in Gaborone, Mokgethi said he informed Batshu about the incident. Batshu confirmed receiving Mokgethi’s complaint although┬áhe didn’t take it up with the party leadership in Gaborone because he was not too sure if the misunderstanding between the two culminated from political rivalry.
“It is true that Mokgethi told me of the near assault. I did not report it to the party leadership in Gaborone because I am not conversant with what could have led to the fracas. At times towards primaries, tempares flare. It is important that all these issues are tackled with┬ásome measure of maturity. If they are not properly handled, they may as well cost the party dearly,” said Batshu.
Still in Nkange, the other contentious issue is that some sub-chiefs alleged to be aligned to the Woto camp are accused of using Mpani Primary School centenary preparations to shore up Woto’s candidature in the BDP primaries. Woto is the centenary organizing committee secretary.
It is alleged that some opposition members raised serious questions when one of the sub-chiefs in a kgotla meeting summoned Woto to stand up and be shown to the people that he┬áis the organizing secretary for the centenary celebrations. Things did no go down well with the apolitical villagers and opposition party members who read malice in the act.
A BCP┬áactivist who attended the meeting said he categorically complained that it was wrong for the sub-chief to do that in a kgotla meeting because the kgotla is not a political platform. “I didn’t hide my displeasure. I told the sub-chief unequivocally that what he was doing was outright wrong as some of us already knew that he was indirectly campaigning for Woto. To make matters worse, they are not only doing this at kgotla meetings. They are doing it at funerals,” said the BCP activist, who┬áadded that some angry BDP members have vowed to vote the opposition in retaliation.
“Angry BDP members we interact with are clear that if Woto wins the primaries, they are going to vote the opposition. Looking at the disadvantage that the BDP is putting itself in, we have already impressed upon our party to intensify its campaign. It is clear that the BDP is already tearing itself apart,” said the activist.
In the Tonota North constituency, bad blood is brewing between BDP members aligned to Pono Moatlhodi and Thapelo Olopeng. While the two have frequently officiated at same events including prize giving ceremonies and Tonota Choppies official opening, it was quite clear that their campign is headed to become one of the bloodiest.
At a rally in Mandunyane last year,┬áretired Brigadier Maseko flatly refused to cooperate when Moatlhodi urged for calm within the constituency ahead of the primaries. Maseko is said to be aligned to Olopeng, who is regarded as Khama’s right hand man.
Attempts to solicit a comment from BDP secretary general Mpho Balopi on how the party intended to diffuse and quell potential bickerings among opposing camps within the camp ahead of the primaries drew a blank at the time of going to press as his phone rang unanswered.