The Botswana Democratic Party structures in Francistown seem to be just about to dismantle in the aftermath of the bloody bulela ditswe primary elections, which seem to have bred discontent and internal wranglings, polarizing the ruling party more than ever before.
Save for Phandu Skelemani’s Francistown East constituency where he was unopposed, the volatile Francistown South and Francistown West constituencies have been engulfed in a simmering conflagration of protests, threats of sabotage in the forthcoming general elections and discontent over what most party members describe as blatantly flawed primary election procedures.
Immediately after the August 30 primary elections in Francistown West, former district commissioner, Sylvia Muzila, who was pitted against incumbent, Tshelang Masisi, and former mayor Peter Ngoma, declared that she would not accept the results of the poll, citing a number of irregularities. In almost all of the council and parliamentary elections, there were allegations of cheating, flawed voters rolls and voter trafficking.
All of the councilors who were unseated in Francistown West, among them deputy mayor Esther Mokgosi, Wilfred Masima and Ace Ntheetsang, have since registered their protests with the party structures and are hoping that they will be given a second chance to contest.
One can safely say that the election results cut across the board as a number of the councilors who won and those who were unseated was aligned to either one of the three warring parliamentary candidates being Masisi, Muzila and Ngoma.
Masisi has since protested the ousting of his mate, councilor Ace Ntheetsang, by Ngoma sympathizer and former Botswana People’s Party Secretary General, Cornelius Gopolang, from Kanana Ward. At the same time, Masima, who was also a Ngoma sympathizer and Mokgosi, a Muzila ally, have also registered their protests with the party leadership. This clearly shows that the BDP will have its hands full in dealing with protests in both the parliamentary and council elections in Francistown West.
It has come to the attention of The Sunday Standard that incumbent Khumo Maoto has also hit an about turn and lodged a complaint against the outcome of the Francistowm South primaries where long time nemesis Wynter Molotsi trounced him by a margin of over 700 hundred people.
Francistown South, which has over the years been a pain for the BDP, once again threatens to implode and blow the party structures to smithereens. If the BDP leadership does not work hard to quell the simmering explosion, possibilities are that the Botswana Congress Party’s Vain Mamela might just sneak through and snatch the constituency.
Over the years, the BDP’s bulela ditswe primary elections have brought more harm than good and bred a lot of discontent within the party structures.
In the 2003 primary elections in Francistown South, Molotsi supporters vowed that they would work to sabotage Maoto in the general elections.
Information reaching The Sunday Standard indicates that the tables have turned and now it is Maoto’s supporters who have vowed that they will not work with Molotsi. Just as it took the intervention of party leaders like former President Festus Mogae and then secretary general, Daniel Kwelagobe, the BDP will possibly have to work harder to avert the impending disaster and restore peace to the volatile constituency.
The legendary rivalry between Masisi and Ngoma in Francistown West has also come to the fore, and it looks as if, with the recent addition of Muzila into the brawl, old grudges will once again be reignited.
Apart from his beef with Ngoma, Masisi and Muzila do not see eye to eye. Even before the primary elections, the incumbent shot salvos at the then district commissioner, accusing her of using her position to launch an early campaign to unseat him. It was Muzila who rejected the election results outright on August 30 citing massive election fraud.
Francistown is not the only place at which the BDP is spending sleepless nights over the bulela ditswe controversy. Democrats from all over Botswana are screaming foul as protests are flagrantly dismissed over technicalities without considering their merits. At the same time the BDP stands at risk of spending valuable time dealing with protests instead of preparing for the general elections. There is no doubt that whatever the outcome, bulela ditswe will always breed discontent among democrats who feel cheated out of a chance to represent the masses.
While the BDP leadership insists that bulela ditswe is a democratic process that has shifted power from the all too powerful committee of 18 to the masses, there is no doubt that the waves of disgruntlement, as measured by resignations and the number of protest plaguing the party, will in the long run cost the BDP dearly.
“It is a fact that issues of voter trafficking and election fraud are inherent in bulela ditswe, but sometimes the party leadership seems not to be working hard to rectify these glaring mistakes. I do not believe that party members would spend their time and energy in fruitless protests unless there is some truth in them,” said a BDP veteran in Francistown.
He also added that democrats holding positions of power have also turned themselves into “a miniature committee of 18” as they abuse bulela ditswe’s loopholes to favour their preferred candidates.