The impending Botswana Democratic Party bulela ditswe primary elections in Francistown are sure to be full of drama as they will pit BDP’s political heavyweights against each other in the culmination of a dramatic political brawl that goes back a few years.
Political pundits are waiting with baited breath for the August 30 primary elections, while bickering and squabbling has become the order of the day among anxious contenders.
While past BDP primary elections have always been full of dramatic events, this year’s bulela ditswe primaries promise to be a masterpiece, and the BDP stands at risk of encountering its biggest political rifts ever.
The Sunday Standard is reliably informed that party activists have taken to the streets and intensified their campaigns in a bid to out do each other and secure a parliamentary or council seat during the imminent primary elections. However, the heated campaign has turned nasty as accusations of voter trafficking and unfair campaigns are flying thick and fast, while the party’s structures are inundated with daily complaints of some sort.
In Francistown West, incumbent Member of Parliament, Tshelang Masisi, is said to be hanging on for dear life as he struggles to parry incessant challenges from former mayor Peter Ngoma and former district commissioner Sylvia Muzila. While many have commented that Masisi will emerge the probable winner, it is necessary to take a closer look.
The Francistown West constituency is primarily made up of low income areas like Maipaahela, Monarch and Blue Town. Because Masisi resides in Maipaahela, he is said to enjoy the support and loyalty of the residents as they consider him to be one of them.
In contrast, Ngoma and Muzila are residents of the trendy and up market Francistown East constituency, and they might not be able to find acceptance among the Francistown West constituents.
However Ngoma is no stranger to the constituency as he has, in the past, launched a strong challenge against Masisi in his own backyard. In 2004, Ngoma and Masisi were embroiled in a bitter wrangle for the constituency. It became so intense and personal that it revealed the glaring BDP factional axis, and even resulted in some racial insinuations emerging in the bitter contest. Eventually Masisi emerged the victor.
But a shrewd politician and tactician that he is, Ngoma is said to have retreated to lick his wounds and also come up with a more coherent and reinvigorated campaign. Since he lost the election in 2004, Ngoma has made no secret of the fact that he will challenge Masisi in 2009.
However, complications have arisen with the emergence of former district commissioner Sylvia Muzila as another contender. Political pundits say that Muzila managed to garner an advantage for herself because of her public service and HIV-Aids activities while she was District Commissioner. She is said to have endeared herself to the poor people of Francistown West because of her HIV-Aids and humanitarian projects.
But it has emerged that, like any other parliamentary election, the victor will be determined by the number of councilors that he has on his side. While Masisi used to enjoy a lot of support in the constituency, he has, over time, lost some of his council allies to the other two contenders and his situation is not as solid as it was in the past.
Masisi lost a valuable ally in former mayor Ignatius Moswaane to Peter Ngoma and 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. Pundits have said that this has, to some extent, evened the play ground.
At the same time, incumbent councilors are also holding on for dear life as they are facing strong challenges from some contestants.
It has emerged that five council candidates from Botsalano Ward in Masisi’s constituency recently raised complaints with the branch committee, accusing others of voter trafficking.
Information reaching The Sunday Standard indicates that the five council candidates have raised complaints with the branch committee that there are over 50 registered BDP members on the voters roll who are not residents of Botsalano Ward. They have appealed to the branch committee to assist in identifying the residents and correcting the glaring mishap.
It has also emerged that some of the residents in question also appear in the voters’ roll of other areas like Francistown South.
As the bickering continues, there are fears that the 2009 bulela ditswe primaries will create a major rift among the BDP faithful in Francistown West.
While incumbent Phandu Skelemani remains unchallenged in Francistown East, he will have a hard time putting out conflagrations of dissent and discontent, especially between incumbent councilor Rebecca Nshakazhogwe and former constituency office manager, Anthony Chebani, who are both vying for the central ward. Nshakazhogwe has previously accused Chebani of campaigning behind her back. She 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 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 only because of his close relationship with Skelemani but also because he managed to garner a lot of support from constituency members while he was the Francistown East constituency manager.
As if the BDP problems are not enough, the volatile Francistown South constituency is also proving to be a headache for the BDP.
The acrimonious relationship between Maoto and Mmolotsi will be reignited with the impending primaries. The youthful Mmolotsi has always given the incumbent MP sleepless nights as he has never hidden his ambitions to topple him from the Francistown South constituency.
In the last primary elections, Maoto beat Mmolotsi by a paltry 43 votes and reports indicate that Mmolotsi has, over the years, cemented his position in the constituency.
After the 2004 primary elections, incensed Mmolotsi supporters vowed that they would never vote for Maoto and threatened to cast their vote in favour of the opposition. The BDP top brass, among them Festus Mogae, Ian Khama, Daniel Kwelagobe, Ponatshego Kedikilwe and Jacob Nkate were forced to make hasty visits to the constituency to preach peace and reconciliation.
Indications are that the BDP leadership has always known that Francistown South is not a safe constituency because of the incessant threat posed by BCP candidate, Vain Mamela.