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2019, the Year of Bloody Politics

Publishing Date : 07 January, 2019

Author : TEBOGO KGALEMANG

As Botswana celebrates a new year, the political temperature will certainly increase as 2019 is the year for national elections.  Never in the history of Botswana has there been so much tension leading to the elections. 


Prior to the elections all political parties will be having congresses/conferences to in preparation for the elections.  The national nlections are expected to be held in October as has been the tradition.  And in 2019, the outcomes are not guaranteed for any political party.
First it starts with the extension of voter registration by the Independent Electoral Commission to March 2019.   A new voter registration window has been opened between January to March 2019. 


IEC has set itself a target of a million voters and currently they are around 500 thousand registered voters.  A key concern for the IEC still remains voter trafficking even with the extended registration.  Some analysts have predicated there may be a further need for a supplementary voter registration later in the year if the IEC doesn’t reach its target.


Key political events to watch are the ongoing cooperation talks between the opposition parties; the winning back of AP to the Umbrella Movement; the BMD fight with the UDC taken to court; the anticipated BDP Congress were for the first time there will be a challenger to the Presidency of the Party; and the phenomenon of the BDP vs BDP through the courts.


Starting with the opposition, it is fairly safe to say the marriage between the Botswana National Front and Botswana Congress Party through the Umbrella for Democratic Change is intact.  What may linger is the division of constituencies between the two mature political parties in the event that UDC succeeds in its full expulsion of BMD or if AP decides not to be part of the Umbrella Movement.   Some constituencies became free after the UDC expelled the BMD.  These were the constituencies that had been allocated to the BMD previously.  For now, it would appear the BNF and BCP have some sort of a formula in the sharing of the freed-up constituencies.  


What appears to be of immediate interest to the UDC though is not to hurry on sharing the spoils of the freed-up constituencies, but to seek further cooperation with other political parties.  AP has been the primary target, but the effort to get them back to the UDC fold will prove to be a difficult task.  AP is still sulking after feeling betrayed by the leadership of the UDC when they had a bruising fight with the BMD faction of Sydney Pilane.


  They felt the leadership of the UDC could have done more to avert the destruction of the BMD by Sydney Pilane and his followers.  Reached for comment, one political analyst said AP however also needs to introspect, “going it alone may not necessarily be a wise move”.  Some serious soul searching needs to happen early in the year.  The party hasn’t reached the heights of the “Mmono Fever” when there were still BMD. 


Resources have been limited, likewise the penetration of the party to would be voters hasn’t been that exciting.  So, at the end of the day, the party may find it more convenient to be with the UDC then to slug it out on their own.  On the whole, it remains to be seen in 2019 if the opposition will rid itself of its curse of internal squabbles and approach the National Elections as one united front.  


Not that things are any better at the BDP.  Actually, they appear worse at this stage.  The BDP had a difficult 2018 which is going to jeopardize their chances for an increased majority in parliament.  Factionalism and elusive unity are the main challenges.  It all started with the worst transition between the President Mogkwetsi Masisi and his predecessor Ian Khama.  This has now brewed to an open out war between the two Heads of State.  It has become so bad that nationally you are either a Masisi or a Khama person.  This is the new ugly face of factionalism within the BDP.  It has replaced “Barata Phati” versus “A-Team”.  


From the transition, what followed was a complete kindergarten mess of what was Bulelwa Ditswe.   Scores of Cabinet Ministers lost their constituencies to political minnows.  All fingers pointed at Tsholetsa House, and in particular the Secretary General Mpho Balopi.  Even at one stage the President bemoaned the quality of candidates Bulelwa Ditswe produced for the 2019 National Elections. 


Put bluntly, one loosing Minister demeaning said “how could the BDP entrust the primary elections to Mpho Balopi, who is political lacking and one not fit even to lead a Borehole syndicate”.  He even questioned if let alone he has ever been a class monitor before, thereby questioning his leadership qualities. The Secretary General of the BDP has not enjoying any peace.  Apart from him being blamed for the poor showing of the BDP in the 2014 National Elections, he’s been seen as the Achilles heel of the Masisi Administration.  


He has become unpopular with the democrats, with many seeing him as divisive and having a dangerous ambition to eventually succeed Masisi.  He was accused in 2018 for dicampaigning Vice President Slumber Tsogwane, for posing conflict of interest in being party to International State Visits by President Masisi and using BDP donor money for his own use.  Things got out of control towards at the end of the year were he was accused of assaulting a Party Member at Tsholetsa House.  The matter was reported to the Police and is before the courts.


The phenomenon of the BDP vs BDP through the party became a common feature in 2018 and is still frustrating the party.  Kamal Jacobs of Lobatse took President Masisi to court to challenge the constitutionality of Masisi being president of BDP.    The matter is before court and a ruling is expected soon.  In another case, Biggie Butale has also gone to court to challenge the BDP on his loss in the primary elections.  Prior to that, Tshekedi Khama had approached the courts to bar Moemedi Dijeng to stand as a candidate in the Serowe North primary elections.


The highlight of 2018 for BDP is when out of the blue, Pelonomi Venson- Moitoi announced she will be challenging President Masisi for the Party Presidency.  This set the cat amongst the pigeons.  But Pelonomi is no ordinary Pelonomi Venson.  She has the full backing of former President Khama, and her candidacy is seen as a proxy for the Khama’s.  Scores of Bangwato descended upon the main Kgotla before Christmas to what was originally deemed an ordinary Kgotla meeting to be addressed by Kgosi Kgolo Khama, but what then turned out to be an unofficial launch of Moitoi.


It became apparent at that meeting that Khama is going to deliver on his promise to take the fight to Masisi, and Moitoi is going to be the first foot soldier.  Team Moitoi is going to rely on the Khama magic, and is also getting resourced by wealthy South Africans.  A notable size of current ministers are going to be part of her team, so will be several other elders of the BDP.


The Serowe meeting makes for a difficult BDP National Council slated for March and an Elective Congress thereafter in July.  Many in the BDP are predicting that Masisi is going to be first unelected President, and that his tenure will end in 2019.  Unelected because he would have run through a mandate of succession but won’t have the votes within the BDP to seek his own fresh mandate at the Congress.  


Those in support of Masisi say he needs to win an election as BDP President and there is a growing school of thought that he needs to be given a clear mandate to govern on his own terms.  What is worrying for his supporters is that, “you cannot be president without carrying both the north and south of the country.  Like in South Africa were you can’t win the leadership of the ANC without Kwazulu Natal, likewise you need the north and central of Botswana delegates to win the BDP leadership.  That’s were the most candidates come from,” said a source.


“As for Moitoi the question remains, is Botswana ready for a female President? And how people view her as being used by the Khama’s to take back power to them? That’s the obstacle she has to overcome.” After all, Botswana enters the new year, electioneering by political parties is going to be intense.  Each party has its fair share of challenges, but nonetheless expect long bruising battles ahead.  There will be few winners especially with the BDP.  The faction that wins will seek to extinguish the rival faction for good, politically and economically.

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