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Of Tshimoyapula and political mercenaries

Publishing Date : 10 October, 2017

Kesitegile Gobotswang (PhD)
BCP Deputy Leader

On October 7th 2017 the people of Tshimoyapula, Majwanaadipitsi and the surrounding areas will vote in a by-election occasioned by the passing on of Mosarwe Leposo (may his soul rest in peace).  In preparation for the by-election political parties started the potentially divisive process of identifying suitable individuals to be their candidates.

Consistent with the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) the united opposition would be represented by a Botswana National Front (BNF) candidate. The decision was informed by results of the 2014 General Elections. Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) represented by Modala Modala obtained 345 while Mosarwe Leposo representing the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) garnered 611 votes.  Botswana Congress Party (BCP) did not contest the ward in 2014.

By all standards in Serowe constituencies UDC had done well in the 2014 elections managing to push the ward within striking distance.  Motivated by the numbers polled in 2014 the name of Modala Modala was presented to be the UDC candidate in the by-election.  
To his credit Modala continued to partake in community development sponsoring Prize Giving events at the two primary schools in the ward as well as playing a pivotal role during the recent 50+1 independence celebrations.  He is a humble man who served the country well as a former officer in the Botswana Defence Force (BDF).  His integrity is intact. The young and old speak highly of the gentleman.   

In rural constituencies the good character of a candidate is a necessary requirement in an election.  It is a trait that is seriously lacking in the BDP torch bearer.  Katholo Tapologo who is a candidate representing the BDP is highly rumoured to be involved in criminal activities in the locality. Word going around the ward is that he is a suspect in three cases of stock theft. The UDC candidate has confirmed that he is one of the victims of Tapologo’s misdeeds as he owes him a cow he loaned him in 2014. The most dramatic was an incident at which a complete carcass of a cow allegedly stolen by Tapologo was confiscated by the police during a funeral night-vigil.  The meat was meant to feed mourners the following day consistent with the Tswana tradition.

The BDP man is described as someone who is capable of doing the unthinkable such as separating milk from a pot of tea or salt from cooked meat. Had the BDP candidate been from the opposition he would not have made it to the nomination station. In fact he would not make it to October 7th 2017. His dockets are likely to be the latest addition to many other dockets involving powerful individuals associated with the BDP which are kept under lock and key by Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), a clear case of selective prosecution.  The recent revelation by the newly appointed Attorney General declaring that under his tenure Ministers will not be prosecuted was shocking but not surprising.

The controversy around the BDP candidate is not helped by the method used in the selection process.  In a desperate move to have a compromise candidate the moribund party adopted an unconventional approach in the form of the Ipelegeng “Yes or No”.  It is said the selection method excluded the preferred candidate while denying members to exercise their right to vote.  The move will clearly favour the UDC candidate who is likely to benefit from a protest vote.

In an unlikely event that the BDP candidate wins, the people of Tshimoyapula and Majwanaadipitsi may find themselves going for another by-election assuming that the justice system is not interfered with. Stock theft is a serious matter and Tapologo may face a lengthy prison sentence if convicted of all charges.

As for the independent candidate, in the word of Sir Ketumile Masire, she is either foolish or very brave.  Taking on two political heavyweights in the form of UDC and BDP will be an uphill battle. Chibuya Dabutha who is a permanent resident of Serowe surprised many by contesting a by-election in a locality where she has no social or economic connection.  The only link she has to the area is that Tshimoyapula is in Serowe North constituency in which she resides.  It will not be an issue if she was contesting for the constituency.
Because she resides outside the ward Dabutha does not appear on the Tshimoyapula voters roll. Consequently she will not be voting for herself on October 7th, 2017.

Politically, Dabutha who is known for her strong views against opposition cooperation ceased to be a member of the BCP upon submitting her name to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) as an independent candidate.  She is a lone ranger who was elected Secretary General of BCP Women’s League only to resign soon thereafter in 2015. Her campaign took off to a bumpy start as she attempted to use BCP colours in her campaign. She was officially cautioned by the IEC to desist from using the colours of another political party following an official complaint from the BCP. She then grabbed the purple colour of the newly formed Alliances for Progressives (AP).  Somehow she found her black and white colours unattractive.

As someone who is planning to try her luck in the Serowe North constituency in 2019 the stakes are high for her. If she loses badly on October 7th her political ambition will be severely dented. The presence of the independent candidate in Tshimoyapula by election race saw the emergence of political mercenaries.  The English dictionary describes a mercenary as a person who is a member of a private army hired to fight wars in foreign countries, a soldier of fortune or a dog of war.  A few well known political nomads and some misguided political delinquents who have issues with UDC or its contracting partners chose to support the independent candidate.  The soldiers of fortune are doing it for the BDP, not because they expect their candidate to win. 

A close assessment of their operations shows a close link to former BCP members who defected to the BDP in 2015 after they were promised a better life. A post-election battle is likely to ensue over the next political home for the independent candidate.  It will be a protracted tug of war between the BDP and the newly formed AP.



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