Former Botswana Democratic Party’s Francistown mayor, Ignatius Moswaane, has
found unlikely allies in opposition councilors in the Francistown City Council, among them Botswana People’s Party’s Motlatsi Molapisi.
The duo was unanimous in their condemnation of the BDP’s caucus system saying that it was undemocratic as it denied both the BDP and the opposition councilors an opportunity to vote a mayor of their choice.
The outburst comes after the BDP contained what was expected to be a bare-knuckled and no holds bared brawl between Moswaane and Billy by ordering their councilors into caucus to agree on one mayoral candidate to represent the party at the FCC chambers.
At the party caucus on Sunday, Billy trounced Moswaane by 12 votes to 7, in a controversial election that was characterized by floor crossings.
In 2005, Moswaane lost the mayoral seat to Billy in an election that many believe was influenced by the BDP’s Nkate/Merafe and
Kedikilwe/Kwelagobe factions. In both the 2004 and 2005 elections, the BDP councilors defied party orders to agree on a common candidate and went on to trash it out at the FCC chambers , from which the BDP came out more polarized than ever.
This year, Moswaane, who had experienced continuous misfortunes in 2006, launched a massive campaign to regain the mayorship and restore some semblance of credibility to his greatly tarnished image. BDP insiders informed The Sunday Standard that the elections were too close to call as both councilors were neck to neck, going on to predict another deadlock at the BDP caucus. The BDP insiders revealed that they were bracing themselves for yet another BDP showdown at the FCC chambers at which the factions that the party had fought so much to quell would undoubtedly resurface and to once again paralyze the party structures in Francistown.
It was widely believed that, should the BDP caucus reach a stalemate, the vote would be decided by the three opposition councilors in the FCC, Molapisi
and the Botswana Congress Party duo of Interest Tawele and Tabengwa Tabengwa. But even with that scenario in place some argued that the opposition councilors would be more sympathetic towards Billy as he showed gratitude for their support in the previous elections by appointing them into lucrative positions of the various committees of the FCC.
Tawele, for example, was rewarded with the chairmanship of the SHHA committee after throwing his weight behind Billy in the mayoral race.
But BPP stalwart, Molapisi, poured scorn on this contention saying that opposition councilors would never support Billy as he had shown lack of
gratitude to them by trashing their motions in the council chambers after they fought tooth and nail to ensure that he beat Moswaane in last year’s
On the other hand, some argued that Moswaane would win the sympathy of the opposition councilors, especially as they had continuously displayed a tendency to throw their weight behind those who are not in authority and the
disadvantaged, a category into which Moswaane was closeted.
“It must be mentioned that the former mayor had continuously lambasted the FCC
leadership and called them to task in the various FCC gatherings. Because of his continued attack on the mayor and the various BDP dominated committees of the FCC Moswaane will win the votes of the opposition councilors,” they said.
With the eventuality of a caucus deadlock in mind, the two camps are said to have made overtures to the three opposition members whose votes would decide who among the BDP contestants would become mayor. But all the drama that was anticipated in the mayoral race never saw the light of day as, last week, the BDP ordered the councilors into caucus to elect a single mayoral candidate so as to present a united front. Secretary General Comma Serema issued a stern warning that those councilors who did not follow the party’s orders would be severely dealt with. Francistown region secretary, Wynter Molotsi, was deployed to monitor the elections at which Moswaane lost to Billy.
Moswaane is crying foul, saying that the BDP caucus system is not democratic as it is prone to influence by some elders within the party. He alleges that some councilors told him that they were called by some influential members of the party and told who to vote for. Some party members who were also present also revealed that they overheard some councilors saying that they had received clandestine phone calls from party elders instructing them to vote for one candidate or another. One councilor was overheard telling others that “the elders have instructed us to boycott the caucus”, a statement that was rebutted by a question that went thus, “Where will the elders be when we get expelled from the party?”. Clearly the BDP councilors were determined to come out of the caucus with a single mayoral candidate, failing which they would face the full wrath of the party leadership as Serema had initially warned.
Moswaane also said that the threat of stern action that Serema issued against those who did not toe the line is a violation of the councilors’ democratic rights. Asked to comment on the issue Molotsi told The Sunday Standard that as long as he has not received a formal complaint from any of the councilors, he would treat Moswaane’s utterances and the rumours of undue influence as allegations. He is due to submit a report to the central committee on Monday which will state that the elections were free and fair and both contestants had accepted the results. In an interview with The Sunday Standard on Friday an exasperated Molapisi accused the BDP of violating the council standing orders. He said that the standing orders state that any capable councilor who has been elected into
office has a right to become mayor regardless of his or her political affiliation.” What the caucus is doing is to deny some members of the city council their democratic right to stand and compete fairly for the position,” he said.
He added that the council standing orders also state that councilors cease to have any political affiliation once they enter the council chambers and
the continued imposition of BDP agreement into the FCC is a direct violation of that statute. “What the BDP is doing is a mockery of the very democracy that we continuously brag about,” he said. Molapisi suggested an all party BDP caucus in which opposition councilors would have a chance to vote for their preferred candidate as a preferred solution to the problem, unlike in the present situation where their vote is completely ignored.
Opposition councilors in the FCC have in the past dilly-dallied in marriages of convenience with their BDP counterparts, especially in situations where their votes were crucial. This year they are unanimous in condemning the BDP councilors whom they accuse of snubbing us this year after “crawling to us with cap in hand last year when they needed our vote after the caucus deadlock.”
“They have denied us our democratic right as elected councilors to choose a mayor of our choice, opting to shove their privately elected mayor down our throats,” said Miolapisi.
In another dramatic turn of events, Deputy Mayor Rebecca Nshakazhogwe was trounced by newcomer Esther Mokgosi in an election that also involved specially elected councilor Lamodimo Dikomang, who lost to Nshakazhogwe in 2005. Mokgosi garnered 10 votes to Dikomang’s 7 and Nshakazhogwe’s 2.
Though Nshakazhogwe expressed surprise at the outcome of the elections, political observers say that her fate had long been sealed as those whom she considered friends had decided to ditch her for more lucrative understandings with other marketable councilors. They said that Billy’s camp has long realized that Nshakazhogwe was a political liability who had lost favor with many of the councilors in the FCC and they hastily ditched
her lest she pulled them down in her downward spiral. Nshakazhogwe, a former Moswaane loyalist, is said to have crossed floors to Billy’s camp in this year’s elections. Dikomang who was in Billy’s camp last year also crossed floors to Moswaane where she managed to establish herself as his favorite for deputy mayor.
With Nshakazhogwe’s star quickly losing its glitter, Billy and his cronies were forced to look for a prime candidate for deputy mayor. They found one in Esther Mokgosi, a Moswaane loyalist whose ambitions for deputy mayor were hampered by Nshakazhogwe and recently Dikomang. Mokgosi is said to have been irked by Moswaane’s preference for Dikomang as a candidate for deputy mayor, an act which she viewed as betrayal since Dikomang had recently crossed floors to Moswaane’s camp while she (Mokgosi) had stuck by him through thick and thin.
Enticed by prospects of her long held ambitions being realized, Mokgosi was convinced to secretly decamp Billy’s camp. The agreement was so secret that even at the caucus meeting Billy endorsed Nshakazhogwe as his candidate for deputy mayor. But the caucus results show that Billy most probably never voted for Nshakazhogwe as the two votes that she garnered are almost definitely from herself and Sam Masunga, her loyal son-in-law.
On Monday, Billy and Mokgosi were elected unopposed as the mayor and deputy mayor. The opposition councilors could only stand by and watch as BDP cast them aside and imposed what they had decided externally on the council chambers. Many say that Billy’s strength lies in his close ties with Finance committee chairperson, James Kgalajwe, and specially elected councilor, Peter Ngoma. They also predict that his reign as mayor will probably be a long one if he sticks to two master tacticians and right hand men, especially former mayor Peter Ngoma, who is reputed to be a maestro of FCC politics. END