Botswana Congress Party (BCP) took the lead ahead of other political parties and held primary elections over the weekend in preparation for next year’s general elections.
BCP held primary elections in 11 constituencies around the country including in Maun where majority of incumbent councillors lost to new comers.
Some critics have opined that the loss suffered by sitting councillors, especially in a constituency where the party President, Dumelang Saleshando is a Parliamentary candidate, has something to do with the councillors’ endorsement of BCP’s decision to pull out from opposition coalition, the Umbrella For Democratic Change (UDC) and it could therefore be an indicator of what the voting trend would look like for BCP at the 2024 general elections.
Nonetheless since the party is the first to go for polls in new constituencies and wards (including Maun North) many of which were recently redrawn by delimitation commission, The Voice Journalist FRANCINAH BAAITSE spoke to the party’s Publicity and Information Secretary, MPHO PHEKO about their experience at the polls. She also had a chat with political analyst, MOTSOMI MAROBELA on the outcome and meaning of ballot figures recorded by BCP during the primary elections.
We held primaries in constituencies which have been awarded to us by our election partners. We are still having talks with other opposition parties. We have already announced our partnership with Botswana Labour Party (BLP) and will be finalising talks with another party hopefully before the end of this month. So this weekend we held primary elections in which 511 candidates contested for council and Parliamentary candidacy.
Delimitation brought its challenges, for instance in Kgatleng Central, which is a new constituency, over forty people could not vote in a single ward simply because they live across the road and therefore misplaced in a different ward. But we are happy we did this because we know how to navigate the challenge going forward.
We have to readjust the wards. But I am happy with the numbers looking at the fact that those who voted over the weekend were strictly card holding members of BCP. In terms of going forward the party is in a good position to contest 2024 elections.
Motsomi Marobela (Secretary Political Education -Botswana National Front)
The low turn-out of electorates which was recorded in some areas during BCP primaries can be due to a number of factors, but in this case we have to understand that BCP has bowed out of UDC and this can be problematic for them because generally Batswana are in support of united opposition including BCP members.
Some BCP members are feeling threatened, they fear that if BCP stands alone, it will cause vote splits in wards and constituencies within the opposition strongholds and the beneficiary of this will be the ruling party.
Looking at the trend, this won’t be the first time, it has happened before, more than once in fact where one opposition party pulls out from united front, giving BDP an advantage of vote splits.
But politically it is suicidal for BCP to go in alone. Already BCP stood alone in a series of recent by-elections, they lost but when you looked at the combined opposition votes, BDP would not have stood a chance in any of the by-elections had BCP not pulled from UDC. This shows that generally people want change and trust a united opposition through UDC to usher in that change.
Another thing is that BCP membership is confused, the party is out of UDC but at Council and Parliamentary level they are still under UDC, they are confusing their membership. They are hypocritical. They would have demonstrated in principle that they are out of UDC by withdrawing such membership including from Parliament and Council seats, that is the only logic and honourable thing they can do.
This betrays the very principle of governance they so like talking about, they are betraying themselves by thinking they can do this on their own. Batswana want a united opposition.
Kenson Kgaga (Boro-Senonnori councillor)
Delimitation did not impact the election results in anyway. What I realised, from all the five sitting councillors, myself included, save for one who lost to an older contender, was that the issue of age came into play. Young people voted in large numbers and that is the trend that I suspect will continue even in the coming general elections.
My fear is that older leadership is being discarded not because they cannot deliver but simply because young people want to vote for younger generation, younger leaders who will buy them liquor and spend night clubbing with them. They do not care as much about developments as they do about entertainment and fun.
Another thing is that there is still confusion among BCP membership regarding whether the party is still part of UDC or not. Legally BCP is still a member of UDC, the only thing is that its leader, (Saleshando) has been suspended and as a party we cannot sit and watch and leave things for the last minute, we’ve got to prepare for the general elections but our leadership is too slow to clarify these issues; Saleshando is on suspension from UDC, not expelled so we are still very much under UDC.