Botswana Democratic Party members are headed for a showdown in Francistown, after the party’s Central Committee recently opened the floodgates for parliamentary and council aspirants to register their names with their constituency offices.
BDP Deputy Executive Secretary, Fidelis Molao, told The Sunday Standard yesterday that the party central committee has given the go ahead for all aspirant members of parliament and council candidates north of Dibete to start registering their names with their constituencies ahead of the party primary elections.
“Members started submitting their names to their various constituencies on the 2nd of June and we expect those names to have reached the various branches by 16th June,” he said. Molao also added that the branches will then proceed with the vetting of the various candidates after which they will make recommendations to the central committee. The central committee is expected to have made a final decision by 24th June after which the party will give the candidates the go ahead to start campaigning.
Members who have submitted their names for council candidacy will have to pay a P1000 deposit while parliamentary candidates will have to pay P 2000.
“The BDP requires that all those who wish to stand for political office must have one proposer and seven supporters,” said Molao.
If past internal wrangles and factional disputes in the BDP are anything to go by, the party parliamentary elections are expected to breed even more fireworks and set some party members on a collision course.
In the Francistown East constituency, incumbent councilor Rebecca Nshakazhogwe, is set to battle it out with former constituency office manager, Anthony Chebani, for the central ward. There is no love lost between the two as Nshakazhogwe has, in the past, written a damning letter accusing Chebani of campaigning behind her back. In the letter, Nshakazhogwe threw a litany of complaints against Chebani accusing him of using some key position holders within the constituency to launch a massive membership recruitment and campaign drive. The letter was copied to Phandu Skelemani, the constituency office and to the BDP central committee.
Those in the know are already tipping Chebani as the probable winner in the impending showdown not least because of his close relationship with Skelemani, and also because he managed to garner a lot of sympathy and support from constituency members while he was the Francistown East constituency manager.
“Chebani is considered by many to be Skelemani’s right hand man, and that is one of the major factors that will work against Nshakazhogwe. Skelemani is a very well respected and widely supported MP, and we all know that if push comes to shove he would readily endorse Chebani over Nshakazhogwe,” said a BDP insider.
Meanwhile, Chebani confirmed yesterday that he has submitted his name for consideration and he was readying to launch his campaign for the ward as soon as the central committee gives the go ahead.
Another expected bruising showdown is the impending drawn out battle for the Francistown West constituency, where former Francistown mayor Peter Ngoma is expected to, once again, launch a no holds barred bid for incumbent MP Tshelang Masisi’s parliamentary seat. The rivalry between the two has, in the past, spilled out into a bruising public spat that exposed the bitter factional wars within the BDP. The two were embroiled in a bloody public brawl during the 2004 general elections from which Masisi emerged the winner.
Last week, Ngoma also confirmed to The Sunday Standard that he was ready to launch his campaign to oust Masisi. While Masisi is said to enjoy massive support in his constituency, those in the know say that Ngoma has learnt a lesson from his past mistakes and he will be launching a more coherent and reinvigorated campaign this time around.
“You must never rule Ngoma out; he is a shrewd politician who has been silently working behind the scenes to prepare for the coming elections. He would not be standing against Masisi if he was not sure that he will win,” they said.
Another complication that arises in the Francistown West constituency is the emergence of former District Commissioner, Sylvia Muzila, who is also said to be eyeing the constituency. In the past, Masisi has bitterly complained that Muzila was using her position as District Commissioner to campaign in his constituency, an allegation to which she has not responded up to now.
Political pundits say that Muzila managed to garner an advantage over Masisi because of her public service and HIV activities while she was District Commissioner. Another factor that is said to be giving Muzila an advantage is the defection of campaign manager and master tactician, Otto Masogo, who crossed floors to Muzila’s camp after Masisi failed to thank him with a special nomination council seat after he helped him retain his parliamentary seat against Ngoma in 2004.
At the same time, analysts have commented that the real danger lies with Ngoma, and Masisi has made the mistake of spending too much energy monitoring Muzila when he should have been checking Ngoma’s clandestine forays into his constituency.