Saturday, March 2, 2024

Billy Sekgororoane: The face behind a last minute political act

When we meet at an up-market coffee shop in the Gaborone CBD, Billy Sekgororoane is initially a bit inscrutable as to be reclusive. He spends the first few minutes of the meeting speaking in what could easily pass for vague parables. It is a vacillation that will soon be replaced by a vehemence that border on religious fervor.

Over the last twenty years or so, Sekgororoane has become synonymous with Multichoice Botswana.

But to my surprise our meeting this morning has expressly nothing to do with the company of which he has over the decades become the most recognisable public face in the country.

Our meeting is infinitely political ÔÇô so to speak.

To account for his casual dress code of jeans, an opened t-shirt and sneakers, he tells me he is travelling to Cape Town. And before long and without any preemptive warning he plunges into the hurly-burly of the country’s politics.

For someone so intimately upper class, there is something surprisingly anti-establishment about Sekgororoane’s fast unfolding political view: The ruling BDP has taken this country astray, politics is too important to be left to politicians, he has consistently voted for opposition over the years. And at the end of it all, the biggest shocker: “The BDP is ripe for the taking.”

He makes no apologies about his views. And he has no illusions that the BDP will most definitely fight back.

Barely two weeks before General Elections, Sekgororoane holds steadfast to the view that there is still enough time for the “apolitical” to have a say in removing the BDP from power.

With a group of like minded individuals, Sekgororoane has been working behind the scenes to find a way through which people not affiliated to any political party can in the main ultimately decide where this country goes after the General elections.

“It is no doubt that the Botswana Democratic Party has used its overwhelming majority in previous Parliaments to suppress debate and pass or fast track unpopular Bills. What has led to this majority and its abuse has been a result of a vote split amongst major opposition parties.

Many like-minded citizens of this country do not belong to any political party nor support any, but have consistently voted for the opposition. Vote splitting has been more pronounced since the BNF split of 1998, and was more a result of this group of people not knowing who to vote for between BNF and its splinter the BCP, and therefore throwing their ballots anywhere between the two parties. Analyzing the voting patterns of the 2009 general elections, it is evident that if the voting is coordinated to a single opposition party by constituency, the opposition can win a considerable number of seats in the coming elections.”

The outcome of Sekgororoane and his study group’s efforts is a most glaring intuition thus far of just what the many voters who have always felt hopeless can do to make their individual votes become more portent once again.

Sekgororoane calls his initiative “vote pooling.”

He is adamant that he is not working for any individual party.

In fact outside his close knit circle of the like minded “apolitical” very few members of the active political class have been taken into the loop.

Vote splitting, he holds has played a key role in keeping the BDP in power.

To that effect his group has abrogated itself the prerogative to divide thirty-five constituencies between Botswana Congress Party and the Umbrella for Democratic Party.

His view, and he sees no reason to validate it is that the country will go to the ruins if the non-aligned, as he calls them do not step up to the plate and take charge.

“If opposition politicians feel helpless, those of us who are not politicians should not feel the same,” says Sekgororoane.

To that end, Sekgororoane and his group, which is made up of young professionals mainly from the finance sector, but also retired civil servants has painstakingly mapped up constituencies and recommended by name which party between BCP and UDC has to be elected to take over each of those constituencies.

The group says all of the thirty five constituencies are winnable constituencies which if delivered into the opposition orbit would as a matter of fact wrestle power from the jaws of the BDP which as he puts it has thrived on inadvertent vote splitting on the part of opposition parties.

Under Sekgororoane’s plan the UDC will get 19 constituencies against the BCP’s against BCP’s 16.

Like many Batswana, Sekgororoane and his group have watched in despair the failure by opposition parties to work together.

Trying to force Sekgororoane to talk about political parties in their current formations in an insurmountable task. He makes no effort to talk about any of them in their individual capacities.

The solution, he says is in identifying winnable constituencies and allocating them to parties based on probabilities of victory.

“I will go on to list the winnable constituencies and suggest how we could vote in each of those constituencies to achieve this. I will start by with those which are unlikely to generate much debate using the old constituency names because those are the names that people are still familiar with: Kgalagadi South, Kgalagadi North and Kanye South ÔÇô these are constituencies which were won by the BNF in 2009 and the incumbents can easily retain them if votes are pulled towards them,” says Sekgororoane.

Chobe, Ngami, Okavango and Selibe Phikwe West should be given to BCP because the incumbents and the new candidate in Phikwe can retain them if votes are pooled in their favour.

He says because Ngwaketse West and South East North (Tlokweng) were won by BNF members who defected to the BDP, the BNF can take them back if votes are pooled in their favour.

He says in Letlhakeng East and West, the BNF narrowly lost the two constituencies by margins of 25 and 66 respectively. “They can be taken by the UDC / BNF if they get the votes of the non-aligned.”

Molepolole North is another constituency where BNF’s Mohammed Khan has been making inroads. In the last elections he lost by 681 votes. He can take the constituency if he gets the pooled votes in October, says Sekgororoane and his group.

For their part the BCP has made inroads in South East South (Ramotswa), Bobirwa and Tswapong South. Accordingly those constituencies are viewed winnable if votes are pooled towards BCP.
“In Lobatse [Nehemiah] Modubule pulled a first by winning as an independent candidate. He can retain the seat under the BMD / UDC ticket. Kanye North was won by the BDP in 2009 and it is a constituency that has historically been swinging between the BNF and the BDP. BCP had a paltry 309 votes in the last election. BNF / UDC can take the constituency with a pooled vote.”

What then about Selibe Phikwe and Francistown constituencies that are hotly contested between BCP and UDC?

“In Phikwe East the BCP trailed the BDP who won the constituency by just 547 votes while the BNF was a distant third with only 701 votes. In Francistown, the BCP trailed the BDP by 568 while the BNF was not represented and BPP was a distant third with only 113 votes. I doubt the BNF/BPP/ UDC formation can turn this around so to take the constituencies away from the BDP it is wiser to pool the votes in BCP’s favour.”

He says in Kgatleng West the BNF lost to BDP by 676 while BCP was third with 2673. “I do believe that if the none-aligned voters who put their votes towards the BCP had put them towards the BNF, they could have won the constituency. It is a better option to pool the votes towards the BNF / UDC formation to wrestle the constituency from the BDP. Kgatleng East was won by BNF with a margin of about 1500 and the BCP was third falling behind the BNF by 2874 votes.

BNF had a healthy vote which can secure the constituency for the opposition so it is wiser to pool the votes in BNF / UDC favour,” says Sekgororoane.

He says in Francistown South the BDP won the constituency with 4024 votes beating the BCP by 478 votes while the combined vote of the BNF and BPP was only 569. He says while the BCP can secure the constituency for the opposition if votes are pooled in their favour, it is important to note that the incumbent Member of Parliament, Wynter Mmolotsi has done a sterling job in parliament. And is therefore “recommended for special election.”

In Francistown West the BDP had a healthy win in the constituency beating BCP who were second by 1409 votes. BPP were third with 1059 votes while BNF had only 334 votes. If votes are pooled on the base that the BCP had, the constituency can be taken from the BDP.

“A vote for BCP is recommended.”

In Gaborone North the BCP lost the constituency by only 243 votes while BNF came third a further 2264 votes from the BCP. “This is one constituency that BCP could have won if the non-aligned voters who backed the BNF had put their votes towards the BCP. BCP can easily take the constituency for the opposition even without pooling but to make sure pooling for the BCP is recommended.”

“The Gaborone West South constituency was won by the BDP with a tally exceeding the combined BCP and BNF vote. This is one constituency which is the opposition’s to lose if vote splitting is not avoided. Unlike in Gaborone North BCP has not made much inroads and are unlikely to win it on their own. While vote pooling for any of the UDC or BCP can win the constituency for the opposition, pooling will have to be based on candidate and Ndaba Gaolathe appears a much stronger candidate than Buti Chengeta. Constituency is for the taking if votes are pooled in UDC’s favour.”

Sekgororoane has given Gaborone South to the BCP. They says this is because BCP lost to the BDP by 492 votes with BNF coming third a further 635 votes back. The BCP, they say has also made inroads in the constituency and they can win the constituency for the opposition if votes are pooled in the favour.

“Gaborone West North is another one of the constituencies that either of the opposition could have won with vote pooling. It is also a constituency where the BDP showed its strongest showing amongst all the urban constituencies. BCP came second, 950 votes ahead of the BNF. Both parties have fielded very strong candidates who deserve our vote, but to balance the distribution of constituencies in the Capital City pooling for the BNF/UDC formation is recommended. Anna Motlhagodi could take one of the four specially elected seats.”

In Gaborone Central Sekgororoane’s group says they are awake to the nuances informing the dynamics. BCP look at the constituency as their heartland because their leader has had it for the last ten years. The recent death of UDC leader who was a candidate there is an emotive campaign item , and to that effect the group says they have left it to it to the parties to slug it out.’

“BCP won the constituency by a margin of 3440 with the BNF coming third with only 1118 votes. This is a constituency where even without vote pooling the BDP will come a distant third behind the two opposition candidates,” says Sekgororoane..

“Mogoditshane is yet another winnable constituency which had a combined opposition vote exceeding the BDP’s by 1336. The BCP was ahead of the BNF by 701 votes. Being a semi urban constituency the BMD factor could have closed that gap and tilted the scales in the UDC’s favour. Like Gaborone Central it is winnable even without vote pooling, but a vote for the UDC seems a better option, to make sure.”

Kweneng South East , Boteti North , Ghanzi North , Tati West and Barolong are five other constituencies that can be delivered to the opposition if similar voting strategies are adopted, with Barolong, Ghanzi North, Tati West and Boteti North in the BNF / UDC ‘s favour and Kweneng South East in BCP’s favour if the 2009 election results are anything to go by, says Sekgororoane.

But why has his group left out Gaborone Central without explicitly allocating it to the incumbent BCP?

Not for the first time in our interview, Sekgororoane points out that Gaborone Central is a controversial question.

He says his group recognizes the fact that Gaborone Central is not only a symbolic centre of power for both the parties concerned but also that with the recent emotionally filled death of Motswaledi, allocating it may just bring down the whole edifice.

He says he is worried that while the opposition support has been surging, that surge remains spread too thin, especially in the rural areas which under the current First-Past-the-Post electoral system could still favour the BDP.

In the last General Elections, owing to the electoral system, the BDP scored a high number of seats even as their share of the national popular vote stayed just over 50%.

Sekgororoane and his team are worried that unless opposition votes are pooled together, the BDP might end up ruling the country with a share of popular voter that is well below the symbolic 50%.

on his way Luggage on hand Sekgororoane fancies his group as a third political act that needs to force politicians to do what many countless Batswana that are not politically aligned want.

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