BY KHONANI ONTEBETSE & REUBEN PITSE
Former Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Ramadeluka Seretse has broken ranks with the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) insisting he will contest as an independent candidate during the upcoming general elections.
The former Serowe North Member of Parliament broke his silence last week maintaining he will respect the wishes of his followers who have convinced him to stand as an independent candidate.
Ramadeluka’s position is contrary to the BDP’s stance that losing candidates in primary elections should not contest as independent candidates.
Instead, the party has urged and cautioned losers of ‘Bulela Ditswe’, a preliminary vetting process of eligible party candidates for political office by popular vote, to rally and support winners.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Sunday Standard, Seretse said he took the decision after his followers and other supporters asked him to contest the parliamentary seat as an independent candidate.
He also said his followers asked him not to leave the party. Seretse said initially he questioned the motive of some people who approached him and proposed that he should contest as an independent candidate.
“At first I could not believe the evidence of my ears because some of them are people who are not close to me. In fact, some of them had previously labeled me as an arrogant person. Of course some of them were people who have supported me before,” he said.
Seretse says the people, whom he declined to mention by names, questioned the credibility of Bulela Ditswe saying it was “rubbish.”
He said the party also came under attack from the disgruntled members as a result of the controversial Bulela Ditswe.
“They are residents of Serowe and some of them were from Tshimo ya Pula ward. During our interactions, they told me that if I don’t heed their call they would mobilise other members to vote for the opposition,” he said.
He said he held several meetings with them and at one stage one of the elders in the village aged 94 attended the meeting to boost his morale.
“They were between 130 and 140. Still I was not convinced because some of the people were those who were not on my side. I even showed them the constitution of the party that what they were asking me to do was in contrary to some of its regulations and rules. But they insisted that what they wanted me to do would in the long run be beneficial to the party,” said Seretse.
He said his followers and well wishers also advised him that should he win the election as an independent candidate he should rejoin the BDP at a later stage.
“Serowe has never been my strong base, I always relied on surrounding villages but now I have a strong base also in Serowe,” said Seretse.
He said he recently travelled to Gojwe and Serule villages which he labeled as some of his support bases. His followers there, he said, supported the idea that he should contest as an independent candidate.
“I warned them that they are likely to be suspended or even expelled from the party but they insisted that cannot happen. They said we should forget about the party regulations and do what is asked of me,” said Seretse.
Asked if he was not inviting expulsion from the party himself, Seretse said he was prepared for any eventuality.
“You need to believe in people and take risks. I also advised them not to talk ill of other members of the party or candidates. They said the party has cheated them through Bulela Ditswe. They told me that they wanted one of the candidates during the primary elections – Puma Matlhware,” he said.
Seretse said his followers also informed him that Bulela Ditswe has failed them dismally.
“They said during the counting of ballots Matlhware was leading with a huge margin only to emerge a loser at the end,” he said.
Seretse said before approaching him, the concerned members lodged a complaint with the party structures but this did not bring the desired results.
He said the complainants said they were cheated because in some instances polling stations were closed before closing time while others had ballot boxes kicked and votes spilled.
Asked if the party was aware of his decision to contest the election as an independent candidate, Seretse said he has not sent an official communication to the party.
“But I think the party is now aware of my intentions because I have not made this a secret. Even at the just ended retreat some members approached me to confirm and I told them that it was true,” he said.
Seretse said: “Of course there are those who attempted to talk me out of that but some said I was exercising my democratic right to do that. I told them that I’m not doing this out of malice. I’m doing this for the love of the BDP.”
Asked if he was not part of the New Jerusalem faction, Seretse said that he was not aligned to any faction of the party.
“I just learnt about that faction from the media, I don’t even know who the members are,” he said.
Asked if his actions were not in defiance of party’s position or an act of indiscipline, he said “I agree that it is defiance because already they have a candidate who is also the area MP. I wouldn’t say it’s not defiance.”
Seretse further said: “It would be unfortunate if the party were to think I’m the problem. I’m not a problem but a solution the BDP. Our Bulela Ditswe has no integrity. Why can’t we do it like we at the national elections because we are a party in power. What we do at party level should be reflective of what is happening at national level.”
He said “We don’t want to correct it; there are even problems relating to the voter’s roll. During national elections as the ruling party we ensure that elections are free and fair, our opposition has never complained about that, but during Bulela Ditswe there are always issues.”
Asked if he was not advancing his personal interest instead of that of that party, he said: “I will take anything that the people throw at me. I will die for the people. The interests of the party should not go against the interest of the people. The party has to implement the rules. But now it is power politics instead of people based power; the very people who give you power.”
Seretse said the people’s rejection of Bulela Ditswe system should not be viewed as an act of indiscipline.
“They complained that there was only re-run in some council wards but nothing was done about the disputed parliamentary seat results,” said Seretse.
Contacted for comment, Member of Parliament for Serowe North Constituency, Kgotla Autlwetse, briefly told this publication that he was not aware of any independent candidate contesting against him in the coming general election.
“Mokoko in my constituency how and who?” he asked in bewilderment.
“It is premature for me to comment on something that I have not received officially nor heard of in the corridors. Let me wait until I receive official notification from my party [the BDP]’ said Autlwetse.
He said surprisingly he had heard whether or not there are some BDP members who have resigned from the party in his constituency to join other political parties.