Former Botswana People Party Secretary General,, Cornelius Gopolang, worsened Botswana Democratic Party’s bulela ditswe woes in Francistown over the weekend when he launched himself as an independent candidate in Kanana Ward in Tshelang Masisi’s trouble ridden Francistown West constituency.
Gopolang, who quit the BPP for the ruling BDP in a cloud of controversy, launched a scathing attack on bootlicking and conniving politicians whom he accused of sacrificing their accountability to the electorate and turning themselves into syncopaths who have abdicated their responsibility to the electorate and now remain blindly loyal to “diminished party policies”.
He called for a change of guard, saying that in these challenging times, Botswana needs visionary leaders who will uplift the virtues of morality, democracy and people’s development.
“It is important to note that politicians are not masters, but servants who are obliged to serve the interest of the populace instead of those of their political cronies,” thundered Gopolang over the weekend.
He said that Botswana continues to shift from a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based economy and it is important that the electorates intensify their participation in the political agenda.
“A knowledge-based economy emphasizes on human capital. For a long time, our priorities have been misplaced and it is now time to realize that the present era requires trained manpower that could lead Botswana to globalization,” he said.
Gopolang also beseeched all independent thinking voters from across the political divide to shed their loyalty to their political parties and rather vote for candidates who will uplift their livelihoods, and serve the interests of Batswana.
“This campaign is centered on issues of unity in diversity, and the respect of the voters’ interests and hopes. There has to be enough choice and chance for the electorate to get involved in the reconstruction of their country. As politicians we are not supposed to serve our interests or those of our political parties,” he said. He also called for the dismissal of politicians who join the political fray for personal aggrandizement.
“It is time to vote for politicians who have fresh ideas. This is a time when an independent candidate should be given a chance to prove his worth,” he said.
Gopolang decided to stand as an independent candidate after the BDP Central Committee dismissed his protest against his loss to incumbent Kanana Ward councilor, Ace Ntheetsang.
While still a relative newcomer in the BDP fold, Gopolang surprised many when he trounced Ntheetsang 162 to 159 in the August 30 BDP primaries. Typical of the ever fermenting BDP factional wars, Ntheetsang was fighting from Francistown South MP Tshelang Masisi’s corner at the time. Primary election losers, Sylvia Muzila and Peter Ngoma, would later launch a protest against Masisi’s win in the parliamentary contest, after which the central committee ordered a rerun and subsequently a recount, which culminated in Gopolang tumbling down and losing to Ntheetsang.
To date, Gopolang maintains that there was never a need to order a rerun and a recount in Kanana Ward because it was never part of the protest launched by the primary election losers. Gopolang also maintains that the party leadership rejected Ntheetsang’s appeal. He added that his subsequent clandestine investigations revealed that the central committee had erred drastically when they ordered the recount.
After Gopolang’s loss, Kanana Ward residents wrote a petition to the President arguing that the central committee had erred in ordering a recount and a rerun in their ward. They also accused Ntheetsang of voter trafficking and once again accused Masisi of bias as he had openly campaigned for Ntheetsang. Gopolang is also said to have breached party rules and regulations when he led a demonstration in Kanana Ward to protest against the outcome of the rerun and the apparent ill treatment, which the BDP leadership was meting out to him.
Although he maintains that he is still a staunch democrat, Gopolang decided to stand as an independent candidate, using the slogan ‘Kgolagano’, the logo, ‘Ngata ya Dikgong’ and the colour orange to brand himself.
Over time, the maverick politician has managed to cement himself as a credible independent candidate who has a grass roots understanding of the predominantly lower class people of Kanana Ward. He continues to maintain close ties with the electorates in his ward holding voter education campaigns and organizing demonstrations to urge his constituents to vote.
With only a few months left before the general elections, the BDP finds itself embroiled in political infighting as waves of discontent continue to engulf its structures and constituencies in the wake of the volatile bulela ditswe primaries. While some BDP members have in the past dismissed disgruntled independent candidates as wishful thinkers over time, it has started to dawn on the more realistic members that independent candidates are a serious impediment to an easy win for the BDP candidates. To that end heavyweights like party chairman Daniel Kwelagobe have now started singing reconciliatory lullabies and urging party members to extend olive branches to the disgruntled “mekoko” and bring them, back to the BDP fold.
Some democrats have expressed concern at the current state of affairs. They maintain that the central committee should address these issues as a matter of urgency so that all the concerned parties can attend to the more pressing business of campaigning for the general elections, lest the continued bickering works against them at the polls.