In what political pundits see as deliberate moves to shore up its political campaign ahead of the 2014 general elections, President Ian Khama and his vice, Mompati Merafhe, descended on the constituencies of Tonota South and Tati East on Thursday.
While the duo’s visits to the two constituencies have been explained as normal consultative kgotla meetings, sources within the ruling Botswana Democratic Party have indicated that the visits have nothing to do with the normal consultations but rather are a disguised way of shoring up their party’s showing in the coming elections.
Khama held a meeting at Mandunyane Village in Tonota South while Merafhe held another meeting at Tshesebe in the Tati East constituency.
As for Tonota South constituency, where Khama was making a second appearance in less than a month, the sources maintain that the president is surreptitiously campaigning for his confidante, Thapelo Olopeng, of whom it has become an open secret that he will be challenging incumbent legislator and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Pono Moatlhodi, in the BDP primaries.
With regard to Tati East, Merafhe had the duty to underhandedly show that the party has fully embraced Samson Guma who once defected to the Botswana Movement for Democracy before returning to his erstwhile political home of the BDP.
“Given the president’s ever tight schedule, how does he get time to visit one constituency several times in a space of one month? It is clear that there is a hidden agenda behind the visits. It is not farfetched to speculate that he is up to something and, in this case, the only plausible explanation is that he is doing some work indirectly for his friend Olopeng. Obviously Olopeng has the blessing of the president to challenge Moatlhodi and, as friends and business partners, he (Khama) is duty bound to support and indirectly endorse him to the people in the constituency. It is a fact that Moatlhodi cannot be regarded as somebody whom Olopeng can simply walk over in the primaries hence the concerted efforts to leverage him to oust Moatlhodi,” said a BDP insider.
Olopeng has, meanwhile, remained tight lipped to insinuations that he is eyeing Moatlhodi’s constituency and that he will slug it out with the incumbent once the party opens up its primaries.
BDP sources also maintain that the vice-president was doing the same rounds for Guma in Tshesebe.
“He definitely said nothing to that effect but his appearance as a high ranking BDP official obviously adds impetus to the party’s acceptance of Guma upon his return from the BMD. While Guma has also not gone public on his availability or candidature in the coming general election, it is an open secret that he will be standing hence the need for the party’s high rank to indirectly lend him the necessary support and show the people that he is currently their preferred man. Mind you, even when he was with the BMD and later as an independent legislator, Guma has never been detached from his constituents. He has always remained tightly close to them. Any democrat who would dare challenge him in the primaries will face an uphill battle. Further, Guma and Olopeng are busy partners and Olopeng has had an upper hand in recruiting Guma back to the BDP fold. The BDP high rank is therefore duty bound to appease him and show him in all respects that he has been fully accepted back hence Merafhe’s presence in his constituency,” said the source who added that the cattle restocking following last year’s outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease is just being used to window dress the party’s real intentions.
In Tshesebe, Merafhe assured the farmers that government is doing all in its power to eradicate and avert future FMD outbreaks, which have had a debilitating effect on their livelihoods.
The VP is also concerned with the high rate of crime in the North East District, which he has attributed to illegal immigrants who are running away from Zimbabwe’s political and economic woes.
He said it has become costly for the country to be perpetually repatriating the illegal immigrants, adding that Zimbabweans are our neighbours and relatives but the situation of border jumping is unacceptable given the link of the immigrants to crime.
He also blamed some villagers for aiding and abetting illegal immigrants whom they often hire for cheap labour.