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Saleshando to settle for Maun West

There is light at the end of the tunnel for Botswana Congress Party (BCP) president, Dumelang Saleshando as his hunt for a constituency towards the 2019 general elections might have just come to an end.

Saleshando is set to contest under the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) ticket in Maun West. This follows unsuccessful attempts to dethrone, Goretetse Kekgonegile in Maun East. The party has since realised it will be shooting itself in the foot because Kekgonegile is popular. However, comradeship among UDC contracting partners, especially with the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) may pay dividends to one of Botswana’s political heavy weights.

BMD, which won the constituency in 2014 through Batawana paramount Chief, Tawana Moremi, is highly likely to give Saleshando the Maun West ticket since the party does not have a strong candidate to contest for that constituency. Kgosi Tawana has since resigned from politics and is reported to be sympathetic to Alliance for Progressives (AP).

Negotiations are said to be ongoing between the BCP delegation and the BMD according to sources who spoke to this publication. Saleshando’s case according to sources in North West was further eased by the fact that there is currently no serious candidate for the BMD in the constituency.

Tawana’s anointed candidate, Moalosi Sebati has since defected to the Alliance for Progressives (AP). Kubung ward Councilor, Galaletsang Mhapha who was tipped to contest the parliamentary seat for the party has also joined the BCP. This compelled the UDC/BMD leadership to consider Saleshando as the candidate for the constituency, more so that he is considered a more sellable candidate against Reaboka Mbulawa. “We have a surprise for Mbulawa in 2019, I cannot say anything for now but soon you will see,” one UDC activist in Maun told this publication on Thursday morning.

The idea to contest in Maun West has always been supported by many within the BCP and UDC because they are of the view that Saleshando is a household name and will be easy to sell as a candidate. The party is said to have reconsidered making Kekgonegile pave way for Saleshando after deep thought and arriving at the idea that should they go that route, the party would be shooting itself in the foot. Kekgonegile’s popularity in Maun East is said to have grown immensely since 2014.

 “Yes he is a sellable product who can contest well in West (Maun) because Reaboka Mbulawa is unopposed and already he has one foot in parliament. If you bring Saleshando there it is easy to convince voters because he is a household name. But then when he ousts Kekgonegile who is popular here (Maun East), chances are they may lose,” said a source.

This could effectively mean that the BCP’s 2014 candidate in the area George Lubinda’s political days are numbered. This argument is based on the fact that Kekgonegile lost the 2014 elections to Konstantinos Markos of the BDP by 6046 votes to 5304; with Osimilwe Fish of the UDC a distant third with 2062 votes. This is a slim margin which the BCP can turn around in 2019, should Saleshando be allowed to contest in Maun East.

It is expected that Saleshando who has served two terms (2004-14) in Parliament representing Gaborone Central could turn tables around in Maun- a traditional BDP stronghold. In 2014 UDC’s Tawana Moremi II won it comfortably by garnering 7271, with Mbulawa getting 5335 and BCP‘s George Lubinda managing 2359. The pendulum was swinging in favour of Mbulawa in the absence of Kgosi Tawana, but now the ‘surprise’ could be an insurmountable mountain for the BDP’s money man.

At the time of going to press it was not yet clear whether this was the beginning of cooperation between opposition parties in the Umbrella. BMD leaders had in the past categorically said they will not share their constituencies with any party, even those in the umbrella.
“I have not yet meet the UDC/BMD leadership over the issue. I was in Maun over the holidays. Some people in the constituency have asked me to consider contesting in Maun, I will definitely consider the request,” Saleshando said when asked about the matter.

“We are not yet at a stage to answer questions regarding either council or constituency candidates for 2019. We are though getting ready for primary elections in all our 14 UDC given constituency,” BMD spokesperson Winfred Rasina said when asked whether they have given Saleshando leeway to contest in Maun West.

Rasina further added that, “We continue to engage our regional, branch and wards structures to provide and to be provided with guidance on how to ensure a smooth process of primary elections and as to where possible allow branches to decide on a consensus candidate.”
Maun, like other constituencies including Molepolole will be the centre of attraction in 2019 as no party is certain who will bag them.

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