Around the time that President Mokgweetsi Masisi and the former Director General of the Directorate of Intelligence Services, Isaac Kgosi, were spying on each other, the Botswana National Front and the Botswana Movement for Democracy were quietly feuding over who should replace the former as Moshupa-Manyana MP.
Having ascended the presidency, Masisi cannot continue as MP for that constituency and on Wednesday, Masisi announced the bye-election date as June 16. The contest will be between the president’s party, the Botswana Democratic Party, and the opposition collective of the Umbrella Movement for Democracy – which both the BNF and BMD are members of. Having long danced around each other over the issue of constituency allocation, the two parties are headed for a definite showdown in Moshupa-Manyana. BMD was allocated the constituency in the last (2014) general election but temporarily ceded it to the BNF which had more supporters in the constituency.
If BMD had few supporters in Moshupa-Manyana, there are fewer now because the BMD of 2014 is not that of 2018. Four years ago, the party was a solid whole but last year, Ndaba Gaolathe broke away with his supporters to form the Alliance for Progressives. The working theory now is that a majority of the pre-split BMD are now AP members and that in its current constitution, the former party is so thin on the ground it can’t realistically hope to contest against the BDP.
The complication in this particular case is that the BMD retains the constituency in terms of the deal that was signed before the 2014 general election. BNF Central Committee sources tell Sunday Standard that twice before, the party’s Secretary General, Moeti Mohwasa, has written the BMD requesting a meeting to discuss this issue with a view to having a BNF candidate come in as a replacement. That meeting has not yet happened, thanks to what appears to be a ploy by the BMD to avoid it.
“On both occasions, the party has denied receipt of the letter but time is running out. BMD insists on holding on to a constituency that it knows it will lose because it doesn’t have supporters on the ground,” says the source, adding that the Lentsweletau-Mmopane is another constituency where the party is similarly challenged.
However, not only is time running out, BMD has already identified a candidate and doesn’t want to reverse a process that, as far as it is concerned, is irreversible. On the other hand, the BNF feels that it has a fighting chance because the person it has earmarked for the bye-election is a member of the Bakgatla-ba-ga-Mmanaana royal family. With as much respect as Batswana accord royalty, the experience from Kanye, Serowe, Maun and Borolong is that a party can’t go wrong with such candidate. This is what the BNF is betting on but the constituency-sharing agreement states in black and white that Moshupa-Manyana belongs to BMD.
This is one of the issues that the BNF Central Committee is expected to discuss when it meets on May 19. This meeting is the first after a long period in which the faction led by party president, Duma Boko, and that led by the Vice President, Reverend Prince Dibeela, have faced off. One likely outcome of this meeting is a resolution to hold a special elective congress in a bid to oust Boko as president.