Thursday, October 1, 2020

“I travelled to Francistown and bore witness to the Chedu Choga rally”

The decision to form a breakaway party was taken in the outskirts of Gaborone. Mogoditshane to be precise. At that meeting, Francistown and its surrounding constituencies like Tati East were well represented. From Francistown came the Mayor, His Worship Shadreck Nyeku and Member of Parliament Wynter Mmolotsi.

Next door to Francistown came Tati East Member of Parliament Samson Guma Moyo.

It would appear representatives from the north managed to justify the formation of the breakaway party to their electorates. The party received overwhelming support in the north even before it was christened a name. Ever since the Mogoditshane meeting, northerners have showed great enthusiasm towards the formation of the new party.

It therefore didn’t come as a surprise that multitude of northerners bee-lined the A1 Highway from Francistown to attend the Letlhabile convention in Gaborone for the launch of BMD. The northern part of Botswana was well represented at the Letlhabile convention just as it was at the Mogoditshane meeting.

When the Francistown Chedu Choga rally was announced, I first got wind of it from a friend in Francistown who was over excited that the BMD was finally ‘coming home’. Ever since the date of the rally was announced, it became clear all roads would lead to Francistown on that weekend.
Some of my friends had initially planned to attend the Ghanzi agricultural show which was slated for the same weekend but they changed their plans on realizing the show coincided with the rally. It appears everyone wanted to witness the first ever public rally hosted by the new kid on the block. I have been closely following, monitoring and indeed mentoring the newly formed party with so much vigour and as such I could not have stayed behind when everyone deserted Gaborone for Francistown, for the rally.

It’s Friday just after lunch and I call and implore my travel companions to get ready for a 4pm departure. Travelling with ladies can be such a daunting task. It takes three hours to assemble them together and by the time we give Gaborone our clock ticks well beyond 6pm. I am with Armstrong Dikgafela and three ladies beautify the back of my car. We have another soothing companion in the form of music. Ok, we also had beer in the car and responsibility in our brains. Macecilia a St Paul’s Saule reverberates through the car radio speakers.

By the time we get to Mahalapye there’s so much happiness in the car. Everyone is talking and everyone wants attention paid when they talk. We also play recordings of Sidney Pilane and Daniel Kwelagobe’s interviews with Voice of America which were conducted immediately after the Mogoditshane meeting. Sidney Pilane dismisses Khama and points at him as the problem in the BDP. DK is at pains explaining the BDP wrangling.

We get over with political discussions and its more general talk and music. It’s more imbibing for the passengers which results into more lay by stops. We arrive safely in Francistown and head straight to Tati River Lodge where hordes of BMD members have lodged. The lodge is teeming with people. The bar is spilling with patrons and beer is rolling until Khama’s happy hour arrives. The bar closes.

Armstrong and I are staying at the Marang hotel. So are the ladies. We are just too tired for anything and as such we decide to sleep. Just like that. Just like nuns.

The big day arrives and I reluctantly drag my heavy, spinning head to the bathroom for a warm bath. Rasina arrives at Marang hotel and informs us the city is orange. As we drive to the Chedu Choga grounds, Mavis is wowed by the beauty of Francistown. It was her first time in this second city and when we arrived the previous night she had lamented that the city infrastructure is lousy and I had advised her to reserve her comment until in the morning when she would see the real Ghetto.

She is impressed by the city but reveals her disappointment at the architectural structure of Nyangabgwe hospital. Very true, the hospital is a far cry from the modern hospitals being planted all over the country.

At Chedu Choga the attendance is out of this world. Thousands of people and hundreds of cars are jostling for space. The place is orange. Literally. People are still queuing to buy BMD merchandise more especially T-shirts and caps.

The nearby Chedu Choga bar is packed with people buying hard and soft drinks. A guy staggering and holding two pints of Chibuku passes by and tries to provoke BMD followers by chanting “Botswana Matimela for Democracy” probably trying to emulate Ian Khama who has given the BMD abbreviation his own meaning. It is quite clear the BMD rally is the only place to be on this Saturday. Someone informs us not even President Khama attracted as many people when he last descended on Chedu Choga grounds.

Rasina had gone to the mall with 100 registration books but comes back empty handed as hair salon workers, taxi drivers and security guards scramble for registration. He comes with a list of phone numbers of people who have asked to be given registration forms. The BMD rally goes well without an incident save for the rowdy drunkard who kept interrupting Motswaledi while he was at the podium. No accident is recorded at the Chedu Choga rally. Contrary to some reports suggesting people were attracted by the presence of Splash music band, people start to disperse right after the last speaker, just before Splash begins to play. Perhaps this could be attributed to the fact that many people, including myself, had gone to listen to the speeches from various speakers and not for Splash music. The BMD can rightly claim ownership of the Chedu Choga grounds if attendance was to be the determiner. Afterall Chedu Choga is Kalanga for “ours only”.

After the rally we rush to our hotel rooms to freshen up before we move to Area W where a friend of mine, Mmegi staffer, Karabo Sename is hosting us for an evening of barbecue. We have a jolly time at Karabo’s place and at around midnight some of us want to go to the splash music show at the BOCCIM grounds. I’m one of those against the idea of going to the festival but in the name of democracy I decide to give in to the wishes of the majority.

The huge BOCCIM hall is fully parked but we manage to secure some space at the back where we continue to converse and enjoy our drinks. The hall is also filled with police officers and soldiers who supposedly are to keep law and order but I realize their attention is more on Splash than on revelers. With their mouths agape, the officers’ eyes are glued to the stage more than anywhere else. Just after 2a.m. the gig closes down and we file out of the hall.

Some of us do not want to retire to bed and excuses fly around as some say they do not want to sleep because they left their comfortable beds in Gaborone. We hit the Marang Casino and only go to bed at 6 in the morning. Sunday and it’s time to say bye-bye to the Ghetto and head back to the pretty little city, Gabz. It’s a convoy of cars with my friends Calibre and Vasco driving behind us and Gomolemo Motswaledi urging us to drive safely.

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