There is no doubt that the ruling BDP and its candidate are the weekend by-election’s biggest losers. Between the two, it is Molale’s personal loss that stands out.
The situation gets worse when one adds to the mix President Ian Khama’s succession plan of which Molale is a central pillar.
There is a context to it.
Barely seven months after dethroning the BDP from its erstwhile stronghold in the Barolong territorial district, UDC’s James Mathokgwane failed to resist a plum post of regional director (operations) at the Selibe-Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU).
Without blinking and even bidding his electorates farewell, Mathokgwane served the National Assembly Speaker Gladys Kokorwe with his immediate resignation.
Mathokgwane’s acceptance of the lucrative offer boded well for Khama from the beginning as it offered Molale ÔÇô who had retired from the civil service to jpin politics an opportunity to contest for a constituency which if successful would allow him to be a contender for position of vice president.
The plan was not however without hurdles as some within the party activists showed interest in trying their luck. Molale managed to win the controversial primaries.
According to the BDP insiders, the margin with which UDC had won the October general election Goodhope/Mabule was not much of a worry since the party leadership believed it could easily win back the constituency in the event of a by-election.
The BDP banked on its massive pooled-together human and final resources as well as state resources that it would easily deploy in a by election campaign. The plan was well hatched and after Molale won the controversial primaries, the party deployed all available resources in its bid coupled with Khama walkabouts.
Most cabinet ministers traversed the length and width of the constituency addressing kgotla meetings which the opposition decried was a clear campaign strategy to boost their candidate in the upcoming by-election.
The party leadership further managed to reign in the primary election losers to rally behind Molale so as to provide a united BDP front.
Unbeknown to the party strategists, UDC played its cards in a smart fashion by roping in Barolong paramount chief Kgosi Lotlamoreng to counter the plan. To that extent, the umbrella coalition agreed on a compromise candidate.
Not leaving anything to chance, the UDC declined to participate in a debate by the candidates initiated by the state-owned Department of Information and Broadcasting which directly falls under the ambit of Molale.
The debate was scheduled to feature all the three candidates contesting the by-election in Kgosi Lotlamoreng of the UDC, Molale of the BDP and Comfort Marupinjg of the Botswana Congress Party.
It would appear BCP did not pose much of a threat to the BDP given the marginal votes it had polled in the October 2014 general elections. The real opponent in the by-election was the UDC which for the first time had snatched the constituency from the BDP. The constituency had always been regarded as one of the ruling party’s strongholds in the southern part of the country.
Declining its candidate’s participation in the debate, UDC vice-president Ndaba Gaolathe explained that his party had gathered that their candidate was not going to get fair treatment from state media moderators.
Gaolathe explained further that leadership had taken the decision not to honour the debate after campaign teams on the ground advised them not to. Gaolathe was reported in the press saying that after weighing their options on the invitation, they did not want their candidate to be exposed to a string of groups of people whose motives were not known.
Instead, he said, the campaign team wanted their candidate to focus on meeting as many voters as possible physically.
The paramount chief was said to be seized with the obligation of reaching out directly to the voters.
Although BCP is licking its wounds from the weekend loss, the primary losers are the BDP and their candidate. The party employed all imaginable resources to win the constituency. In the end it was all in vain.
In fact the party emerged more bruised than in the general election as the margin further increased, further denting future chances of the ruling regaining the constituency in 2019 with or without Kgosi Lotlamoreng contesting.
If at all Molale had harboured any intentions of becoming vice-president during the remaining years of Khama’s presidency, such hopes have totally been extinguished. The constitutional provision for election to the office of the vice-president clearly disqualifies a specially elected member of parliament from holding the position of vice-president.
The only reprieve that Molale can get currently is if Khama returns him to the office of special elected Member of Parliament. Achieving that will not be much of a hurdle as the president could easily command his elected Members of Parliament to endorse him again.
Molale’s loss also has further implications for Khama’s succession plan if the intention had been to elevate him to the vice-presidency.
Impeccable BDP hardliners associated with Masisi are said to be happy that Molale’s loss gives their man an undiluted advantage to become the next president of the country when Khama steps down at the end of March 2018.
As for the BCP, the loss puts the party in an even bigger dilemma. Although party president Dumelang Saleshando indicated willingness to cooperate with other like-minded opposition parties, his party’s bargaining power has been extremely weakened by the poor performance in the past general election and the weekend by-election.
Social commentary is abound that the best the BCP can do is to now succumb to UDC propositions on the model of cooperation going forward before the next general election.
If both UDC and BCP fail again to agree on a model of cooperation before the next general election, their vote splitting could might give the BDP another lease of life.