The Botswana Democratic Party’s Francistown region is said to be having sleepless nights as Kanana ward primary election candidate and former Botswana People Party Secretary General Cornelius Gopolang continues to rake the party leadership over hot coals in protest against his loss to incumbent Ace Ntheetsang.
During the August 30 bulela ditswe primaries Gopolang, then a relative newcomer to the BDP, surprised many when he trounced incumbent Kanana ward councilor Ace Ntheetsang 162 to 159.
Ntheetsang was fighting from Francistown South MP Tshelang Masisi’s corner in the protracted BDP factional wars at the time. Masisi also managed to parry challenges from Sylvia Muzila and Peter Ngoma. But the duo did not take their loss lying down and immediately protested the election results. However Gopolang and the other winners, Angelinah Sengalo and Ignatius Moswaane, refused to endorse Muzila’s petition.
But the central committee would later order a re-run and subsequently a recount, which culminated in Moswaane and Gopolang tumbling down and losing to their opponents. To date, Gopolang maintains that there was never a need to order a recount and a rerun in Kanana ward because it was never part of the protest launched by the primary election losers. However, all of the losers in the Francistown West constituency rallied behind Muzila and appended their signatures to her protest.
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.
The November 1 recount was mired in controversy as almost all of the parliamentary and council candidates cited a number of irregularities, chief amongst them the absence of reconciliation and verification records of the August 30 primaries.
The recount led to a tie between Gopolang and Ntheetsang. But Gopolang cried foul and vowed to fight until the end. He accused Ntheetsang of trafficking voters from Tonota and slammed area MP Tshelang Masisi for siding with Ntheetsang.
In the wake of the recount tie the BDP leadership ordered a rerun in Kanana ward, and Gopolang’s misfortunes took a turn for the worst as Ntheetsang made a resounding comeback and trounced him 255 to 216.
Subsequently, 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.
After the said demonstration, the Francistown regional committee is said to have bayed for Gopolang’s blood, urging the central committee to take disciplinary action against him as he had breached the BDP’s rules and regulations by staging a demonstration.
Francistown region chairperson Botho Ntirang told The Sunday Standard that it was up to the central committee to institute disciplinary action against Gopolang because they are the ones who had called for the rerun and recount in his ward.
It also emerged that Gopolang snubbed summons by the regional committee. However Ntirang was quick to point out that the regional committee did not summon Gopolang for a disciplinary hearing but rather to discuss internal party matters and to voice their displeasure at his demonstration.
“We had to make Gopolang aware that as the regional committee we are not happy with the way he breached party rules and regulations, but we never summoned him for a disciplinary hearing as that is beyond our jurisdiction. That matter has been forwarded to the central committee” Ntirang told The Sunday Standard last week.
BDP Deputy Executive Secretary Fidelis Molao confirmed that the regional committee had forwarded Gopolang’s matter to the central committee, though the issue has not yet been addressed.
For his part, Gopolang maintains that he never led a demonstration at Kanana ward. “The people of Kanana ward are the ones who wrote a protest letter to the president. I was not there when they decided to demonstrate and I was never part of that demonstration. It was simply the electorates who were exercising their democratic right of voicing their displeasure with the fact that the party leadership had usurped their chosen representative” he said.
Gopolang also maintained that the Kanana ward residents were right in addressing the matter to the president because as the chairman of the central committee he is the only one who can overrule their unfounded decisions, which led to the present sorry state of affairs.
What remains to be seen is whether the central committee will heed Gopolang’s assertion that they made an error in calling for a recount and rerun at Kanana ward because it was never part of the initial protest. At the same time serious aspersions have been cast against area MP Tshelang Masisi’s impartiality in his constituency as he has been accused of bias and openly campaigning for one candidate against the other.
With only a few months left before the general elections, the BDP finds itself embroiled in political dire straits as waves of discontent continue to engulf its structures and constituencies in the wake of the volatile bulela ditswe primaries.
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 should attend to the more pressing business of campaigning for the general elections, lest the continued bickering works against them at the polls.