In a quite unusual political development, the Gaborone mayor, Father Maphongo faces challenge from the Deputy Mayor, Lotty Manyepetsa, in the upcoming mid-term elections. For now, a name that will be familiar to some has also been mentioned in respect of the race for the mayoralty: Veronica Lesole. If Manyepetsa succeeds in his quest, Lesole, herself a former mayor, would become Deputy Mayor. The intrigue doesn’t stop there: even more councillors might join the race if, as some suspect, Maphongo decides not to run.
Under normal circumstances, a mayor and deputy mayor from the same party should be on the same ticket but the working relationship between Maphongo and Manyepetsa is being contracted under the most unusual of circumstances. In 2020, just as Covid-19 was itself taking over the reins of power, it was alleged that Manyepetsa was the mastermind behind a plot to oust Maphongo from office. At the time, Maphongo had been mayor for only five months. Late last year, Maphongo reported Manyepetsa and two other councillors to the Botswana Democratic Party Disciplinary Committee for being “unruly” and for making it extremely difficult for him to run the City Council. The other two were Austin Abram of Sebele Ward and Oduetse Tautona of Kgale View Ward. The Disciplinary Committee cleared the trio, in the process widening the rift between Mayor and Deputy Mayor.
Manyepetsa now wants to replace Maphongo and kicked off his campaign last Saturday (January 8) by hosting a seven-hour session (officially billed a “lunch”) for some GCC councillors at Travel Lodge in Block 3. The purpose of the session was to canvass support for the mayoralty.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a councillor who attended the session said Manyepetsa told the meeting that his working relationship with Maphongo had irretrievably broken down and that such condition had adversely affected service delivery at GCC. He vowed that if he was put in charge of the City Council, he would turn the situation around. As things stand, if Manyepetsa becomes mayor, he would be assisted by Lesole, who has served a year’s stint as mayor after the 2009 general election and in that regard, has some mayoral experience.
Lesole came in at a time that there was a lot of dissension in the BDP: aggrieved with the way President Ian Khama was running the party, some members broke away to form the Botswana Movement for Democracy. This development weakened the BDP’s numerical strength and handed the mayoralty to Haskins Nkaigwa.
It is yet unclear if more mayoral candidates may step up to the plate. Another GCC source says that Maphongo is weighing his options and might decide not to run if he determines that he doesn’t have enough support among councillors.
“He doesn’t want to suffer the humiliation of a loss,” the source says.
Not all councillors feel that Maphongo, a businessman who was parachuted into Town Hall via special election, is suited for the position of mayor.
“He is not a politician,” says a councillor, adding that at the January 8 Travel Lodge shindig, Manyepetsa was keen to stress that, unlike Maphongo, he is a true politician.
If he decides to run, Maphongo would be forced to do so the basis of his record because he has been in office for two and half years. There is not much to show for that time in office. A councillor says that upon assuming office, Maphongo promised to do a lot of things within 100 days but never went back to the Full Council to give a progress report.
“Where is the diamond city that he said he was going to build?” poses a councillor in reference to the diamond-themed business venture that Maphongo pledged would be his first priority. “What happened to the Clean City Campaign? When is he turning Segoditshane River into a tourist attraction?”
Through the short-lived Clean City Campaign, Gaborone residents were paid P30 for each litter bag that they delivered to a collecting point.