There was never a dull moment at the emotionally charged Botswana Unified Local Government Service Association National Congress which saw incumbent President Pelotshweu Baeng and his campaign team romp to victory in a hotly contested campaign.
The phrases “drama” and “fireworks” were in with the names of campaign candidates from two rival camps led by Baeng on the one hand and Secretary General Motelebane Motelebane on the other as BULGASA watchers tried to second guess the outcome of the congress.
The public spat between Motelebane and Baeng provided grit for the ensuing media feeding frenzy.
Baeng, who fought to keep his position, counted on the support of Northern Region Chairman Ishmael William, Gender Committee Chairperson, Pushie Norwebb, and incoming Vice President Kabo Kote who holds sway over the association membership.
To his credit, Motelebane had the backing of his prot├®g├® Vice President and Presidential candidate Goretetse Cut Kekgonegile.
With emotions running high, the stage was set for a grand finale: It is understood that at one point a fracas erupted involving outgoing Publicity Secretary Moshe Noga.
The campaign started in earnest on Tuesday during the official opening when Baeng and William deftly used the day’s program to launch an attack on their opponents. As the association’s President and hosting regional Chairperson, respectively the two had the privilege of presenting the welcome and opening remarks.
Ishmael fired the first salvo when he talked of “faceless and nameless” individuals within the association bent on tarnishing the good name of BULGSA by making false statements about other members in the media.
Baeng took the cue there.
He advised against “the politics of slander and character assassination” saying that can only undermine BULGASA credibility.
Earlier in the week Motelebane was quoted in the media accusing Baeng of making controversial statements in the name of BULGSA when in actual fact such statements had not been sanctioned by the executive. He cited Baeng’s call for the resignation of chief Justice Julian Nganunu as an example.
These statements are said to have angered the BULGSA membership. On Tuesday Motelebane watched helplessly as Baeng made political fodder from his statements.
“Politics of slander and character assassination have no place in BULGSA,” bellowed the oratorical Baeng who went on to challenge the membership to take a closer look at aspiring committee members, especially as the association was approaching a crucial period of unionization.
Baeng told the gathering that the President and the Publicity Secretary are the only two who are mandated by the constitution to speak on behalf of the association.
He went on to allege that there was rampant corruption, mismanagement and abuse of BULGSA’s assets promising the electorates that he would not rest until the culprits are brought to book.
The congress proceedings were brought to a halt after a heated argument in which Motelebane’s supporters demanded that the program be changed so that Baeng’s accusations of corruption and abuse of office are debated.
Progress was only made after the two parties agreed that skeletons would tumble out of the closet during the reports of the Secretary General, the Publicity Secretary and the Treasurer General.
Things came to a head during the press conference on Wednesday in which all candidates presented their manifesto to the masses and fielded questions from the press committee and the floor. Careers were made and opportunities lost as candidates failed to answer questions satisfactorily and past failures and blunders were resuscitated.
In the end Motelebane lost against Kote for the position of VP.
The Presidential candidates were next to take the stand. Baeng faced a stiff challenge from Kekgonegile and Gaborone based Losika Mosarwa.
The incumbent was faced with the formidable task of explaining his controversial cabinet reshuffle in which outgoing Publicity Secretary Moshe Noga and Motelebane were demoted to mere additional committee members.
There was a feeling amongst most of the members that the reshuffle was meant to dilute Motelebane’s powers.
Vice President Kekgonegile on the other hand had to convince the masses that he was a sound presidential candidate and not Motelebane’s political pawn many considered him to be. Kekgonegile and Mosarwa also had the trouble of explaining why they were campaigning for the same position when they were coming from the same branch. Many members who commented said that they were not convinced that either of the two could bring stability to the estranged association if they had failed to reach a compromise at branch level.
Baeng on the other hand managed told the masses that the cabinet reshuffle was necessary because the executive was failing to deliver. He also managed to turn his much publicized spat with Motelebane to his advantage as he convinced the masses that as the president he was the mouthpiece and the face of the organization such that no one but him and the publicity secretary could speak on behalf of BULGSA.
The incumbent President retained his seat with a comfortable margin of 238 votes to Kekgonegile’s 60 and Mosarwa’s 54.