Last year when President Mokgweetsi Masisi (then Vice President) vowed to entice scores of opposition activists to join the ruling Botswana Democratic party (BDP), many including BENJAMIN KELEPANG dismissed his statement as a bluff.
However just over two months in office, Masisi has won the hearts of several opposition die hards, including Kelepang who defected from the Botswana National Front (BNF) and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and entered the BDP kraal, two weeks ago.
Singing from a different hymn book this week, Kelepang speaks to FRANCINAH BAAITSE MMANA.
Q: You have been a member of the BNF since 2014, why sudden defection to BDP?
As you have stated I have been a BNF member since 2014, but I defected because I no longer agreed with its policies and regime.
Two weeks ago I decided that I did not want to be part of the history, part of the leadership that will kill BNF.
It has built itself on criticism and self criticism.The older BNF believed in equality and political education.
These days policies are about UDC or nothing, and autocracy. Anything to the contrary, you are the enemy of the BNF!
Q:BNF councillors in Thamaga allege that they had stopped you from participating in this election season campaigns because they felt you were a liability. Many people are accusing you of defrauding them of their hard earned cash. Is that why you left?
I knew very well that these issues that people term as “controversy” will crop up.
Controversy itself is controversial. I can say for example, if you can ask Ndaba, he would tell you about how Pilane is controversial, Ask Boko for instance, he would tell you that Masisi is a problem.
It depends on where you stand and what picture you want to paint of your subject.
Controversy can never be stopped, if we start finger pointing, you would be surprised that many fingers are in fact pointing at the accuser.
Q:Is it true that they stopped you from participating in campaigns?
It is funny because such talks… look at their response on facebook and ask yourself, is it true?
People have different ways of showing grief, some faint, some wail louder while some don’t show any emotion. Such talk is due to bitterness as a result of me parting ways with them.
Q: Please address the question asked, did they or didn’t they summon you and orde you not to take part in campaigns?
They never did. When I defected, I was a chairperson of the Kumakwane /Thamaga committee, both for UDC and BNF.
I had campaign strategies. Can a constituency chairperson, both for UDC and BNF be told that he is spoiling the campaign when he in fact has to be leading the campaign?
Q: You contested for Thamaga South ward in 2009 and 2014 and lost. Will you try your luck again under BDP?
No, I am not contesting. Some are saying I am an opportunist.
I was once voted by 200 voters and BDP voted by over 1000, if I was an opportunist, I would have defected then.
Today I left after being voted by 900 with the BDP beating me with a margin of 50. This is proof that there is no issue of opportunism.
Q: BNF members are of the view that UDC had a fat opportunity to win the ward, but that your scandals of cheating women spoiled it all, not only for you but for the party. What do you say to that?
Like I have told you, BNF has never won Thamaga South, but all the years I have contested we were increasing the votes.
I got good numbers in the past elections and that showed I was working hard for that ward, but since I was always attending party meetings due to my position at constituency level, I could not pay all needed attention to the ward.
Q:You have bad mouthed BDP in the past, so why choose it over other political parties?
Yes I have spoken bad about BDP, a lot. David once said I was once a child and my thoughts were childish, but now that I am old I think mature things.
A politician’s whole purpose is to serve people.
If you are in a party that doesn’t give you that opportunity and there comes a party like BDP and gives you the platform to serve, the only thing to do is to join it.
Q:Were you bought to join the party?
No they did not because, as I have told you, I sponsored BNF politics from my own pocket.
I will do the same at BDP. I was not bought, it was a personal decision because I believe Masisi promises to be a good leader, someone that can be trusted.
The best thing we can do for our country is to stand with him, support him so he can take this country to greater heights.
Q:Was it him (Masisi) that recruited you to the BDP?
I am close friends with Minister Mabeo (Tshenolo). He had spoken to me on several occasions and for so long he wanted me to join them.
Q:Talking of political sponsorship, I am told you stopped working since 1998. How then are you earning a living?
True. It doesn’t mean if you are not in formal employment you cannot afford to sell even a bag of oranges, e.g when you are not working people would ask you where you get money, yet they are the same people who often call and buy livestock from you. Even selling eggs can give a man an income.
Q: I am told your source of funds is usually from unsuspecting women who fall for your charm?
If I try to explain these issues, they will keep us going round and round.
I will be lying if I say I don’t owe anyone because sometimes I borrow with a thinking that I will repay or having an opportunity of business which then later goes wrong.
I owe some people and I am trying to repay them and I am failing to pay some. Get me clear, I am not starting to owe them recently.
I owed them even when I was at BNF. I do not only owe women, but men as well.
It is only that a person always looks bad when he chooses to part ways with others.
Q:Why is it that BNF don’t show confidence in voting for you at party level. You have tried your luck to contest for positions of BNF’s youth league’s Secretary general in 2010 and that of Party’s Publicity Secretary in 2016.
I was standing against a man I respect so much, Mohwasa. He had over 20 years experience as Secretary General, but he won with a margin of 54.
I was very proud and happy at my performance. It showed growth and hope.