Botswana Nation Front leader, Otsweletse Moupo, last Saturday defied cynics within his party and outside, officially launching his arch-rival, Akanyang Magama, and his group of councilors.
The BNF hopes to retain control of the Gaborone South constituency ÔÇô a long time party fort but currently under enormous threat from rivals Botswana Democratic Party and Botswana Congress Party.
Magama, who won the previous national elections under the BNF banner, has for some time been at loggerheads with the party’s leadership, especially Moupo over his administration, resulting Magama’s group being suspended, with others being expelled.
While others were expelled from the party for alleged misconduct, Magama was lucky enough to escape the wrath of the party leadership – only to incur suspension which in some way thwarted his political leverage in the constituency because he could not freely conduct political rallies.
Matters came to a head when he recently won the party’s primary elections in the constituency only to be denied the opportunity to stand, with the party leadership citing some irregularities in the manner the elections were conducted and at the same time drumming for fresh elections – a development the soft spoken Magama believed was a further deliberate scheme by the party’s leadership aimed at sabotaging his chances of contesting the constituency that had convincingly endorsed him.
Magama sought solace at the courts, hauling his leadership on hot coals. The courts ruled in his favour and re-instated him as the legitimate Gaborone South candidate in the forthcoming national elections.
In spite of the court’s conclusion, many people believed that Moupo would resist and find a way to shut out Magama.
But on Saturday, Moupo confounded his critics by launching Magama at a rally attended by the most senior BNF members, including Motsamai Motsamai and Gaborone North West candidate, Maemo Bantsi, who humiliated Moupo during primary elections.
“Our civil war, which riddled the party and threatened to tear the party asunder, is over and you are the persons to give testament to this. The war was internal and it was us who were supposed to end it. Today, I officially launch comrade Magama and his councilors who will be representing BNF in the coming national elections,” said Moupo. “It was not only us who were reeling from the bickering and squabbles as evidenced by the current fiasco threatening to tear apart the ruling Botswana Democratic Party. Every organization has its own problems and BNF is no exception,” Moupo added, referring to fierce power tussles between Gomolemo Motswaledi and his party president Ian Khama.
Although the constituency is deemed a BNF stronghold since the era of its founder, the late Kenneth Koma, observers believe the internal bickering caused too much damage and eroded the support base to dangerous levels.
Launching his party candidates in the constituency recently, BCP publicity secretary, Dumelang Saleshando, argued his party was poised to take over the constituency because the party mandated to run the affairs of the area was irresponsible and wasted time at the courts instead of consulting the voters about the developments of the constituency.
Further argued the vice president Mompati Merafhe, while launching his party’s candidates in the constituency: “BDP is the only party to answer the plight currently engulfing the area. At times I wonder why you people of Old Naledi choose to give the mandate of this area to the brainwashed opposition. For example, tell me what Botswana National Front has done to this place…nothing at all.”
Since 1984, the BNF has been in the driving seat winning all the council seats and the parliamentary seat. With the party’s atmosphere toxic it remains to be seen if it will repeat the feat.