It is now official.
The Botswana Congress Party will not be contesting Letlhakeng West parliamentary by-election.
They have, instead, ordered their supporters to rally behind the Botswana National Front.
It is important to point out that the BCP support for BNF should not be taken at face value as to mean any new-found love with other opposition parties.
After weeks of campaigning, following a task team that we were told had been assigned to assess BCP chances at Letlhakeng, it was discovered on the eleventh hour that the party’s short-lived candidate, one Thuto Thuto, had actually not registered for the 2009 General Elections, a heinous political omission that by law disqualifies him from becoming a candidate in subsequent by-elections.
With tails between their legs, the BCP smart Alecks were humiliatingly forced to withdraw from the race and somewhat grudgingly pledge support for the BNF candidate, Filbert Nagafela.
“The BCP leadership takes full responsibility for this omission. We wish to apologize to our members and the People of Letlhakeng for this inadvertent omission,” said the party statement.
It was a deceptive deployment of language and semantics to conceal and underplay more painful facts of carelessness on the part of a political party better known for intellectual rigour, erudition, attention to detail and premier sophistry.
A BNF activist tells me he wishes BCP had contested or, better still, supported the BDP: “Their support bodes ill for us. We have never won an election with BCP backing. It will bring the best out of the BDP,” he said.
It is an exaggeration, but one that makes a point, nonetheless.
Without sounding superstitious, much less creating a fantasy world for the BNF and their partners, there certainly is a price to be paid for going against the grail, and BCP gaffes at Letlhakeng may just be the beginning ÔÇô the first omen of more bad things still to come their way.
In the meantime, the Botswana Democratic Party owners are fighting a battle of their life.
They are alarmed at the growing prospect of a BNF victory at Letlhakeng West.
President Ian Khama is wholly correct in his analysis that the outcome of this by-election will go much beyond just Letlhakeng West.
A BNF victory (and there is a real life chance that they might win) will provide them with a marvellous opportunity to not just smell blood, but also taste it which might spur them into dreaming big ahead of the big match due next year.
This is a worrisome possibility; hence President Khama has adopted a keen interest in the overall strategy that his party adopts in its approach to the contest.
What happens next week at Letlhakeng has the potential to shape Botswana’s national politics, especially next year’s General Elections.
The president’s attachment to what comes out of Letlhakeng is unmistakable. That attachment is more a function of what may become of opposition victory rather than a fear for BDP losing just one constituency.
Cabinet ministers are under constant orders to offer a helping hand to the excitable campaign manager, who is himself a shameless carpetbagger who recently defected from the BNF.
To a journalist, nothing gives greater joy than watching a powerful politician as is President Khama, with the entire state machinery behind him for once showing all signs of vulnerability, exposure and mortality as his usual traits of invincibility give way to uncertainty, hesitation and speculative frailty.
To a political observer, there is no greater pleasure than going past the usual predictable outcome of an election.
Nobody can say with any certainty how the results will pan out this time next week.
From the look of things, the Botswana National Front fancies their chances.
And they are being realistic.
But still these are the early days.
The BNF should not get carried away.
Losing is a territory the BDP has never known.
And from their behavior they also do not want to know.
Why this by-election might be the BNF to lose, it would be suicidal to think that BDP will easily give it away just like that.
We have a nice encounter in our hands. The best we can do is to sit back and savour the moment.