Barring any drastic last-minute changes to the Botswana National Front ticket in Lobatse, Otlaadisa Koosaletse will get a second chance to return to parliament.
The BNF’s secretary general, Mohammad Khan, says that the party has received a letter from Solomon Diphoko, the other candidate for the parliamentary seat, notifying it that he is withdrawing his candidacy.
“With Diphoko not contesting the primaries, the likelihood is that Koosaletse will be the only candidate. However, it is not for us as the central committee to say because the final confirmation will come from the national elections board,” Khan says.
The position opened up after the expulsion of Lobatse MP Nehemiah Modubule and his party, PUSO, from the BNF. This came after a protracted public battle between Modubule and the BNF leadership.
Khan says that a writ of elections has not yet been issued because there are some issues that have to be resolved. One relates to a recommendation, not yet implemented, to weed out some members who hold dual BNF-PUSO membership.
“These are people who are destabilising the party. They have been expelled as PUSO group members but retain BNF membership. This is an issue that has to be resolved and [the vice president Olebile] Gaborone has been asked to look into the matter and decide the next course of action,” Khan says.
The BNF-PUSO relationship came to a pretty pass two months ago when a PUSO member was stabbed in the shoulder at a BNF meeting in Jwaneng.
The BNF has to move fast in Lobatse because its competition is way ahead. On Saturday, vice president Mompati Merafhe launched the Botswana Democratic Party’s parliamentary candidate, Moggie Mbaakanyi. Earlier this year, the BDP had its own ritualistic, post-election wrangling but after the intervention of the central committee, the rivalry seems to have abated.
On the other hand, BNF is going through a rough patch. Modubule and PUSO’s expulsion has destabilised the party and before his campaign can start in earnest, Otlaadisa will have to reconcile the warring factions. Modubule has hinted at the possibility of standing as an independent and should that happen, he would attempt to undercut the BNF support base.
Another MP whose parliamentary career hangs in the balance is Akanyang Magama who also incurred the wrath of the party’s leadership after he criticised it publicly on numerous occasions. Citing electoral irregularities, the party national appeals board has ordered a re-run of primary elections in his constituency but he responded by going to the High Court to maintain the status quo. The matter has yet to be disposed of but if he comes out smelling of roses, his political future in the safe BNF constituency would be secured. If the opposite happens, he would be at the mercy of the central committee.
“He would most likely be fired because the rules prohibit members from taking the party to court,” a BNF source says.
It has been suggested in the past that Diphoko would withdraw his candidacy and throw his weight behind Koosaletse who, if elected, would serve one term and make way for Diphoko in 2014. Both men fell to Modubule during earlier primary elections. That could well be what happened.