Factional disputes that are characteristic of the Botswana Democratic Party Bulela Ditswe primary elections are, once again, threatening to polarize the party in Francistown, sparking fears that this may cost the BDP some hotly contested constituencies.
The volatile Francistown South constituency is again at the centre of the storm, and the long drawn out battle between incumbent Member of Parliament, Khumo Maoto, and his political nemesis, Wynter Mmolotsi, is threatening to tear the fragile constituency apart. Things came to a head last week when the Central Committee made a hugely unpopular decision and reversed a decision of the branch committee, vetting out the widely popular Mmolotsi from contesting the party primaries and vetting in a relatively new Bahadzisi Maripe to contest against the incumbent Maoto.
BDP insiders say Maoto will be a shoo as his greatest challenge was Mmolotsi, who was trailing him with only 43 votes in the last primary elections.
Last week, emotions were running high in the constituency as Mmolotsi’s supporters vowed that they would seek their revenge and fight to the very end to get their preferred candidate back into the contest. While it has become obvious that the central committee’s decision is very unpopular and has the danger of further polarizing the constituency, the party central committee remains steadfast that they were doing the right thing. Insiders have revealed that the central committee’s decision was centered more on protecting the interests of the party. They said that the central committee views Mmolotsi as a hot blooded rogue who has, over the years, fuelled factional divisions within the party.
But Mmolotsi’s supporters read ulterior motives in to the central committee’s decision. They argue that Mmolotsi has, over the years, matured to be a hands-on politician who has worked very hard for the party and youth development in the region, and is only being made the fall guy of factional divisions within the party.
Mmolotsi is popularly known as a Barata Phathi man and his supporters feel that the central committee is only working to favour members of the A-team at the expense of the wishes of the masses.
The Sunday Standard is informed that irate Mmolotsi supporters have been holding clandestine meetings since last week and the general consensus is that they will fight the Central Committee to the end, failing which they will give their vote to the opposition. But BDP insiders feel that a repeat of last elections’ feat will only work to give the constituency away to the Botswana Congress Party’s Vain Mamela, who is expected to launch a massive challenge against the BDP.
Mmolotsi’s supporters are not backing down and have vowed to do all what it takes to avenge their martyr’s down fall.
“This time we will not back down. The central committee has to let democracy take its course and stop pushing candidates down our throats,” said a youthful democrat in the Francistown South constituency. Fears abound that the incensed Mmolotsi supporters, most of whom are the youth, will sabotage party activities, like political rallies and campaigns, and also work in cahoots with the opposition BCP candidate.
While Mmolotsi has reportedly vowed to ask the Central Committee to review its decision at their July 8 meeting, BDP Executive Secretary Comma Serema revealed on Friday that they have not yet received any correspondence from him.
Asked if the central committee’s decision would not work to polarize the constituency and facilitate a win for the BCP, Serema said that the Central Committee always has the interests of the party at heart, and whatever decisions they take are first and foremost geared at facilitating the welfare of the party.
“We want to believe that true democrats will always work towards ensuring the dominance of the BDP,” he said, in apparent reference to threats by Mmolotsi supporters that they will vote for Mamela.