Hoisted up by a throng of ecstatic supporters, Kgotla Autlwetse thrust two clenched fists into the air in a revolutionary salute.
It was a fitting gesture. Autlwetse’s victory in the Serowe North East BDP primary elections captured the nation’s imagination by displaying all the hallmarks of a people-power velvet revolution.
It was the early hours of December 8th and thousands of BDP supporters from all eight Serowe North East wards who had kept a night vigil on the unraveling of a dynasty had gathered outside Swaneng Hill School buildings to celebrate the spilling of blue blood.
The newly elected BDP parliamentary candidate had just won a historic landslide against Minister of Defence Justice and Security and sitting area MP Ramadeluka Seretse. Ndelu, as Seretse is affectionately called is a Mongwato aristocrat whose pedigree includes a long list of Bangwato tribal chiefs. In a constituency run for more than four decades on the lines of a near aristocracy, Autlwetse’s challenge against Seretse was almost heretical. The brave commoner, however, overturned the aristocratic hegemony through his even handed personality, upsetting the social and political juggernaut that has held sway over the Central District since independence.
Seretse’s star rose with President Ian Khama. Winning the Serowe East primaries would not have been an election victory so much as a coronation. Mooted as the heir apparent to the Botswana presidency, Seretse had all the odds in his favour. The son of one time vice president of Botswana and member of the royal family Lenyeletse Seretse and President Ian Khama’s aunt, Naledi Khama, Ramadeluka Seretse has more blue-blood cursing through his veins that President Khama whose mother is of British descent. It was an open secret that as a major pawn in Khama’s succession plan; his election bid was backed by the royal family and the highest office in the land.
His ousting brought to an end what many had thought would be a meteoric rise to the top of government and has shaken the once-somnolent aristocratic social and political landscape of Serowe.
The House of Seretse, founded on the twin stones of political and royal pedigree, is already slouching off the public stage. A growing number of Serowe resident feel more kinship to the hitherto unknown commoner than the local aristocracy now perceived as distant and arrogant. With Autlwetse’s victory a dynasty is bowing to a new political order. At some stage, even President Khama’s brother, Tshekedi was worried that he may lose the other Serowe constituency to Prince Kgwaneng, another commoner. Tshekedi won the primary elections, however, something is turning.
A random survey revealed the extent to which Seretse has fallen out of favour with his constituency. Most who woke up on that fateful Saturday morning to cast a vote in favour of Autlwetse are young people. They are clear that theirs is a protest vote. The outgoing MP has been branded an absent leader whose only concern is ministerial business.
Tshepho Kgomo, a resident of Patikwane said his vote was for change. “The current MP is arrogant and distant …He makes empty promises and accuses the youth of being lazy,” he said adding that “I hope that Autlwetse will make a difference.”
Aleseng Galebale, 30, and a resident in the area says that there are no developments in the area. “The arts and cultural groups around the area have collapsed thanks to the area’s outgoing area MP”, he said.
Leneh Dikgang, 35, speaking to the Sunday Standard a few hours before results were announced said she was confident that Autlwetse would be a better leader.
“We only see Seretse during BDP primaries, besides that he is never available to us,” she said.
For Kedisaletse Gabaakanye aged 33 and struggling to find a job, the issue is personal. His vote was meant to recognize Autlwetse’s loyalty to the BDP.
“Autlwetse has been standing for elections since 2003 and has been cheated on numerous occasions,” she said.
Autlwetse is also described as a loving and humble person who treats people equally.
Kedisaletse says Seretse has failed as area MP.
“Since 2004 I have not seen any development in our area. Besides, Seretse is not careful with how he talks to people. He often times lashes out indiscriminately at both the youth and adults,” she charged.
The complaints are so rife that one comes across statements such as “I voted for Kgotla because the current MP does not treat us well….at a kgotla meeting last year he accused the youth of being lazy and too demanding from government,”
“He makes empty promises,” says Tshepo Kgomo, a 23 year old ardent supporter of Seretse’s rival, Autlwetse.
“If that man were to be President, we would be fleeing our country and become economic refuges like Zimbabwean nationals…..he is a dictator,” he states.
“Am hoping to give Autlwetse a chance and it could be worthwhile for Serowe North because we have unemployment concerns, poor roads and no access to clean water,” he said.
Brandon Makana who is aged 33 and works in Palapye says that one of Seretse’s major weaknesses is that he is not accessible.
“Most of the time we try to take our concerns to the MPs office but are told he is not available,”
He also argues that there is need for change. “Sometimes being an MP does not mean you have to be there for life….our parents respect the Seretse family but we as young people see things differently.”
He says that Seretse is preoccupied with his ministry duties.
“Autlwetse knows our concerns and that it’s Botswana first and his interests later,” he adds.
“Why is it that each and every time he comes to a kgotla meeting he is chauffeured in a brand new vehicle yet he claims government has no money or there is a recession,” he asked rhetorically.
He says that Serowe has failed to take advantage of developments in Palapye such as the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) and the Morupule B power project plant.
Seretse also faces a charge of joining politics to enrich himself. Boitumelo Gasenyang, a 27 year old man of Swaneng ward claims that Seretse is arrogant as his personal possessions have ballooned.
“He took some water affairs boreholes and now people are struggling with water because the government boreholes were sank in his land,” he accuses.
He also alleges that Seretse is building a big warehouse in Serowe.
Autlwetse, his long-time political rival has won the Botswana Democratic Party’s primaries beating Seretse by 4084 votes to Seretse’s 1478.
In a separate interview after losing in the re-run, Seretse said that the campaign was dogged by a lot of misinformation and dirty propaganda.
“It is untrue that I never visit the constituency; infact our kgotla meetings are scheduled in accordance with our parliamentary sessions,” says Seretse.
Seretse denies owning chunks of land within Serowe and dispels the reports as dirty campaign. “I do not own any commercial or industrial …I only have a residential and a small ploughing field,”
Seretse said that although he does not have a commercial plot in Serowe, he has the same land rights as any other Motswana. He denies that he is arrogant. “They hate me for urging them to reduce their over -dependence on government,” he explained.
He says that there is a greater need for self reliance now than before. His preaching that people should not complain about Ipelegeng has cost him several votes since a majority of his constituents are dependent on Ipelegeng. “I will not shy away from telling the truth and giving appropriate advice which they may not like as long as I feel it is the best advice,” His says accusations of arrogance leveled against him were just fabricated tales meant to give his rivals a competitive edge. “I hope one day they will get to know the truth,” says Seretse.