The Kgotla has been turned into a freedom square and government officials are being enlisted on the side of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) election campaigns as President Lt Gen Ian Khama throws out the rule book in an attempt to ensure a win at the general elections in October.
The Block Three Kgotla in Francistown West on Thursday turned into a clash of red and Orange T-shirts as BDP and Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) members ignored the unwritten rule and turned up dressed in political party colours for what was supposed to be an official Kgotla meeting addressed by President Khama. The President poisoned the air at the Kgotla, already fouled by political tensions when he openly campaigned for BDP parliamentary candidate for the area, Silvia Muzila. BMD Member of Parliament for Francistown West and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) parliamentary candidate Wynter Molotsi told the Sunday Standard that, “I was shocked to hear the President asking the Kgotla to vote for Muzila in the coming elections because the former BDP candidate for the area has since defected and was the one responsible for causing factions within the ruling party.”
Molotsi said when the President arrived to address the Block 3 Kgotla, “members of the BDP were already seated dressed up in party colours. Seeing this happening I quickly arranged with my campaign team to dress up in our party colours and join the kgotla meetings. So there were two political factions in the kgotla being the members of the BDP and the members of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). In what is turning out to be a pattern in President Khama’s Kgotla meetings-cum political rallies, BDP activists are being deployed in the place of civil leaders to run the meetings. This is believed to be part of a dirty tricks campaign planned by the ruling party.
Before addressing what was supposed to be an official kgotla meeting, “President Khama asked for Muzila who is the BDP candidate whom I will be contesting against at the general elections; the president ignored me at the time. Muzila was given the role of showing the President around the constituency despite my presence as Member of Parliament for the constituency. When we arrived at the block 7 Kgotla, Muzila was again assigned to welcome residents to the kgotla,” said Molotsi. The role of showing the president around constituencies is traditionally reserved for constituency members of parliament and not party activists.
Molotsi told Sunday Standard that President Khama told the Kgotla meeting that, “he wanted Muzila in parliament because he can relate well with her. Quite shocking, Muzila was dressed in BDP colours suggesting that this was part of a plan orchestrated by the ruling party.” Detailing how the BDP planned to sideline him from the Kgotla meetings in his constituency, Molotsi told theSunday Standard that, his constituency office received a letter from the District Commissioner on the eve of the planned meetings indicating that the President would address kgotla meetings in Goshwe, Barolong and in Francistown.
He said the letter did not specify exactly where in Francistown the President would be addressing the kgotla meetings. “I think this was a deliberate move to stop me from attending the meetings. I only learnt during that day that the President was going to address kgotla meetings in my constituency. That is when I decided to attend the meetings though I was not invited. I should put it on records that the day before the kgotla meetings, BDP members aboard BDP branded cars went around the constituency announcing the President’s visit and encouraging members to wear party colours on the day of the visit. I was suspicious because the announcement was made by the party instead of the district commissioner office as is the norm,” he said.
Government Spokesperson Jeff Ramsay said the President’s Kgotla meetings, such as those in Francistown, are always official. Ramsay was responding to accusation leveled against President Khama that he was abusing public resources to campaign for his ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). Ramsay said the President’s walkabouts can be either official or as was the case in Francistown political. “I am informed that the President initiated the Francistown walkabout as part of a political rally, though members of the public in various political colours as well as the general public joined him,” he said. Ramsay added that, “If Government employees are there on official duty yes it is appropriate.
In such circumstance they cannot be in party colours or otherwise join in the political activities.” “The President always travels with security and some members’ personal staff. District Commissioners are generally expected to accompany the President when he is in their areas. The protocols governing these matters are not new, having been the same for previous Presidents. As in other countries it is understood that the President is always the President and as such must have certain elements of support 24/7,” he said The UDC will next week address a press conference on how the president is abusing state resources in his political campaigns.