With the country set to go to the polls in just nine months, anxiety is growing amongst members of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), as the party is yet to set a date for its Bulela Ditswe.
Normally, BDP would have their primary elections in August the year before a General Election, giving winning candidates a full 14 months to campaign for votes.
This time, however, whoever stands for the ruling red party is likely to have just over half-a-year to convince the people why he-or-she deserves their precious vote.
Currently, only the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) have held any primary elections, although they are still to complete the process.
Calling for calm, the party’s Secretary General, Kavis Kario assured The Voice the Central Committee were working hard to ensure the primaries take place sooner rather than later.
“We have been trying to move as quickly as possible but we are mindful of being diligent and thorough to avoid conflict about things not being done in the right way,” explained Kario, who refused to be drawn on exactly when the internal elections might be.
“We may have them in the next three months or so but we cannot confirm anything as there is still work to be done. We have procedures, we have structures and a lot of administration work to complete so really I cannot comment on that one,” he said.
Quizzed on the cause of the delay, Kario was quick to point to the pandemic, which he noted has set the party back by a year.
“There are election years which are free and without issues, but this one we had to deal with Covid which pushed the Population Census 12 months late. The census was to be done in 2021 but ended up being done in 2022. Delimitation Report was done early 2023 followed by demarcations of councils in July so everything pushed us 12 months late. These are the major delays of the primaries,” explained the SG.
Despite Kario’s message of reassurance, most of the BDP’s Council and Parliamentary hopefuls are said to be on edge as they watch helplessly while opposition parties take to freedom squares on full campaigns.
Aspiring candidates are not allowed to openly canvas for votes until after the primaries when the BDP representative is confirmed.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, party members warned the delay was handing the advantage firmly to the opposition.
“It is killing us and the silence will leave most of us hospitalised with high blood pressure. This is so nerve wrecking, I even had a terrible dream that our party lost the strongholds, hey we are having nightmares!” declared one member targeting a place in parliament.
Another says the uncertainty started at the Palapye congress back in early September.
“The party was dismantled in Palapye congress where democrats were careless enough to pass a resolution that forfeited rights of the constitution, structures in the constituencies and left the Central Committee to handle such a huge party alone in an election year. This was extremely unpopular and a huge error to start with.”
Elaborating further, the disgruntled insider said, “Since Independence, a National Congress post election solidified structures to ready up for elections. But [this time] on the contrary the solid structures with solid custodians elected from Tsabong to work mutually with the same Central Committee (CC) were allowed to be disassembled in Palapye at an Extra-Ordinary congress. This was because most aspirants were forming these structures. Surprisingly everyone at CC is also aspiring for something.”
Fearing the worst, Democrats accused the CC of sleeping on the job, at a time when it needed to be at its busiest.
“Palapye Congress set the party into full slumber mode by sucking out the energy and fire needed in any election year. This has never happened since Independence.”
Another aspirant said the silence and confusion surrounding Bulela Ditswe has brought membership registration to a standstill.
“No membership cards are being produced, voter rolls have not been verified for new wards and constituencies; this alone will take over three months to complete. This takes us to at least April to ready up if at all Bulela Ditswe will take place. This is already casting doubt on the legitimacy of any primaries at the moment.”
The concerned BDP veteran revealed several party structures collapsed after the Palapye congress because of aspiring candidates pulling out from them.
“This is the first ever IEC (Independent Electoral Commission) registration since Independence to take place when the ruling party has not fielded candidates. This will surely punish us in the long run. The current registration is lackluster and unexciting for most democrats at the moment. We are so worried as party elders and can only wonder to what is happening while we try our best to salvage whatever we can to keep afloat,” he concluded grimly.
The clock is ticking, time is moving and members are restless.