The recent retirement of Mompati Merafhe from positions of Vice President and Member of Parliament for Mahalapye West has caught the ruling Botswana Democratic Party internal structures on the back foot in so far as who is eligible to stand in the by elections.
Opinion is divided over whether or not sitting councilors should stand for the party’s primary elections.
While the party Director for Elections, Parks Tafa, had already written sitting councilors to first resign from council for them to qualify as primary election candidates, the central committee on Monday morning led by President Ian Khama overruled Tafa and gave sitting councilors permission to stand for parliamentary by-election primaries while also retaining their council seats.
From the look of things, the BDP primary elections in Mahalapye West promise to be a crowded field.
Those who have already made known their intentions to stand are Jackson Cebane, Joseph Molefhe, Maokisa Motsete, Kago Nthaga, Moatshe Senai and Bernard Bolele.
Both Cebane and Senai are sitting councilors in the constituency, with Senai holding the Chairmanship of Mahalapye Sub-District Council.
This week the Chairman of the party’s PEEC (Political Educations and Elections Committee) Bernard Bolele delivered his resignation to the President.
Bolele is one of the people who will be contesting the BDP primaries. He has in the past locked horns with Merafhe, but lost.
In an interview, Bolele said he voluntarily resigned from PEEC because he did not want to send mixed signals in as far as governance is concerned.
He said PEEC is a central structure when it comes to organizing the party’s processes, including elections and his continued involvement could attract unnecessary divisions.
“It is true that I have resigned from PEEC. I delivered my resignation in person to the President. PEEC is responsible for all party structures and all party matters ÔÇô political and electoral. Since I have declared that I am standing for the Mahalapye West primary by-elections it would have been improper for me to continue in my position as Chairman of PEEC,” said Bolele.
Bolele said after reflecting on what the implications would be he had taken a decision to “clear the air. I don’t want to create doubt and confusion. There is a possibility that other people may accuse me of possible conflict of interest if I stood for elections while also holding the position of PEEC Chairman. It’s important that I resign,” he said.
It is not yet known if Motsete will be allowed to stand by his employer, Air Botswana. Recently many state parastatals and companies in which government has a stake took a sweeping decisions not to allow employees to contest political party elections. Among these are Debswana Diamond Company, BCL, Botswana Power Corporation.
The BDP spokesperson, Lesang Magang, said the Central Committee decided to allow sitting councillors to stand because it was clear the contest is likely to attract quite a handful of them.
He said should a sitting councillor win the primary elections they will be required to resign from council before the general election is held.
The Central Committee decision, said Magang, was to circumvent a possibility of opening up many council by elections as a result of resigning council or, alternatively, inadvertently forbidding them from contesting the parliamentary primaries.┬á