Friday, September 30, 2022

Letlhakeng West by-election will test BDP’s horsepower for change

It’s hard to have a political conversation that does not quickly turn to Odirile Motlhale.

The Member of Parliament’s decision to rejoin the Botswana Democratic Party has been a leading main item since newsrooms opened for the New Year.

Just as it was never clear why Mothale ever left the BDP for BMD in the first place, it still is not clear why he has left the BMD, much less why he is now rejoining the BDP. That the Member of Parliament is not making any attempts to shed any light on the rhythms behind his two-step dance is immensely unfortunate, coming at a time when public trust among politicians is at a record low and public spirit among our politicians is effectively non-existent while gales of public disillusionment with everything political are reaching new heights.

Those who profess to know Motlhale say his fate is infinitely linked to Botsalo Ntuane; an uncharitable euphemism for saying it is Ntuane who does all the thinking for Mothale.

“When Ntuane left, Motlhale’s fate was sealed. It was only a matter of time before he too went back to the BDP,” a BMD activist said to me this week.

So much about Botswana’s politics of conscience and conviction!

It has knocked me out just why the media has allowed Motlhale’s latest incarnation to even start to make political weather, when as previous similar┬á events have so comprehensively shown there will not be much water to flow from this latest defection.

The real big topic for the next few months and beyond will be the death of Maxwell Motowane and its ramifications on the country’s political landscape.

As a result of Motowane’s death, there will be a by-election in his Letlhakeng West constituency, a by-election which will provide a glimpse of what to expect at the General Elections due next year.

Nobody can honestly, much less confidently predict which party will take Letlhakeng West.

Because the constituency has in the past exchanged hands between the governing BDP and opposition Botswana National Front, everybody will walk into the by-election fancying their chances.

While incumbency should under normal circumstances work for the BDP, this time around it may prove a real baggage. The BNF and their alliance partners are likely to point out that they are not responsible for the lack of effective representation the constituency has suffered.

This is not to say Motowane was not a capable representative of his people.

The truth though is that his position in cabinet provided a distraction to what work needed his attention in the constituency.
This should be a lesson for Members of Parliament who also double as cabinet ministers, or more potently, a warning to those backbenchers who endlessly dream of an appointment into cabinet.

When election time comes, a ministerial position always proves an unmitigated burden, not least because of inordinate times ministers spend at the capital required to run a government when political rivals are on the ground making campaign gains. For ministers, their positions are made even more tenuous because being in government they invariably have to take personal responsibilities for the many faults of a government they are a part of even as they personally may not have agreed with such decisions. It is always an unenviable task for a party of government to go into a by-election in a marginal seat at a time when the government is considered insensitive and lacking in compassion. It becomes even more of a double-whammy when the vacancy has been left behind by a member who was also a front bencher. Yet all those unpleasant factors are what the prospective BDP candidate will inherit as the party walks into the impending Letlhakeng West by-election.

For the BDP candidate, Letlhakeng West by-election will not be very much different from walking into a minefield. The BDP candidate will, once the campaign starts in earnest, find themselves in a position similar to that of a child who is dragged before a hostile tribunal to answer for their dead father’s alleged crimes into which they themselves had played not even a remotest part.

For their part, the BNF alliance walks into the Letlhakeng West by-election defiantly optimistic and out to prove a point; that the congenital reluctance by Botswana Congress Party to become a member of opposition alliance even in the face of such glaring circumstances that dictate for unity can be overcome. The opposition electoral mantra in Letlhakemg West is likely to be that the BDP has no horsepower for change, that the BDP has been given a chance and has proved wanting. Squalor, grinding poverty and ethnical alienation of the people of that constituency will most likely provide the battleground.

The flag of the BNF-led alliance is by all probability likely to be hoisted by Filbert Nagafela.
I cannot imagine a more fertile ground for Nagafela, arguably one of the country’s most eloquent and oratorical politicians to excel as he makes a last pitch back into parliament to come and close what has for him been an admirably long and determined career in Botswana’s unrewarding opposition politics.


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