According to its 2009 general election manifesto, the Botswana National Front vows that “discrimination on ethnic grounds and other practices calculated to imply, cultivate or perpetuate feelings of inequality and ethnic hatred shall be severely punishable by law”.
It gives Basarwa as an example of people who would enjoy such protection.
However, the story of Kuela Kiema, a BNF member who should have been the party’s Barack Obama, contradicts what the party pledges. Kiema says that he was discriminated against because he is a Mosarwa.
Kiema contested the Gantsi North primaries last year and beat his opponent who successfully challenged the outcome. In the run-up to the re-run, Kiema says that some members vowed to “eject the Mosarwa from the electoral process”. The matter was referred to the constituency but he was unhappy with the manner in which this committee and other structures in the party handled it. Ultimately, he withdrew his candidacy and in a letter notifying the party of this decision, enumerated reasons for his action.
“I wrote and submitted a letter to the Chairperson (Via his vice) of Gantsi North Constituency Committee complaining of tribal discrimination (against me as Mosarwa) from certain members of Constituency Appeals Committee to which I requested their intervention but to no avail. No one tried to investigate nor come to my rescue. When asked by Cde Kgakgamatso Kebiditswe (Chairperson of National Appeals Committee) during the hearings of the Appeals for the Gantsi North Constituency Primary Elections as to whether he knew of such a complaint and or a letter, the Vice Chairperson of Gantsi North Constituency Comrade, Onalethata Ngati, acknowledged receipt of such a letter and also confirmed that his Committee did not react to the matter.
However, against all this evidence, I was shocked to learn from the ‘Decision of the National Election Appeals Committee in Respect of Ghanzi North Constituency’ signed by Comrade Victor Moupo that his committee had observed that ‘nothing what ever was proved about it’ and it ‘…was just an allegation’. The ‘method’ used by Comrade V. Moupo’s NEAC in gathering information to be used to make decisions on appeals is questionable. It is highly regrettable that the party leadership condones and embraces discrimination based on ethnicity,” Kiema stated.
Thus died the dreams of the first Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve resident to obtain a degree to become an MP. However, he vowed to remain a member of the party and seek justice for all within it.
Kiema’s candidacy was historic in that he was the first person from the CKGR to run for parliament. He was born and bred in the CKGR in a settlement called Qoe but his clan later relocated 70 kilometres away to Xade in search of water. In 1983, he was among the first Standard One pupils to enrol at the newly-established Xade Primary School.
After competing secondary school, Kiema became the first CKGR resident to go to college – Molepolole College of Education – where he studied Music and Mathematics. In the same year that he started his studies at MCE (1997), the government began moving his people out of the game reserve. He went on to become the first CKGRer to graduate from university. For the latter feat he was sponsored by the Basarwa Research Programme at the University of Botswana to study for a degree in sociology at the University of Namibia.
Kiema’s claims are embedded in a larger challenge for the BNF: realisation of tribal unity within the party. Party leader, Otsweletse Moupo, has himself been quoted as saying that now expelled party stalwarts, Nehemiah Modubule and Dr. Elmon Tafa, played the ‘tribal card’ by alleging that they were expelled from the party because they are Kalanga.