The contrasting worlds of Kgathi and Kgobokwe
It’s a little after 7am on a bright but breezy Saturday morning when I arrive at the first polling station in Bobonong.
My arrival attracts quizzical stares from the few voters that have braved the early morning chill to take their place at the front of the queue.
I guess an overweight dude wearing a Voice branded t-shirt and carrying a camera isn’t exactly what voters wanted to see!
I ignore the awkward stares and proceed to the classroom where I introduced myself to the presiding officer.
She wasn’t too pleased to see me either.
“Ga re bue le babega dikgang, please tswela ko ntle (we don’t talk to the media, please leave),” is her rather rude greeting, before, perhaps softened by my hurt expression, she adds, “Just wait outside I’ll give you the returning officer’s contacts.”
Indeed she was good to her word and a few minutes later I punch the digits scribbled neatly on a piece of paper and get through to Douglas Letsholathebe, the returning officer, who gladly gave me an update.
I quickly learn that both candidates, Shaw Kgathi and Francisco Kgoboko had already cast their votes.
Disappointed that I missed a picture opportunity, I walked back to my car, when suddenly, “The Voice, re a mothopholla Kgathi (We are voting Kgathi out),” a gentleman in the queue blurts out randomly.
Ordinarily I expected someone to come to the defence of the incumbent but there was absolute silence as I turned back to face the visibly tipsy middle-aged man.
I drove to the second polling station to meet the returning officer for further updates and as my luck would have it, Kgathi drove in just moments after my brief interview with Letsholathebe.
A few ladies clad in BDP overalls walked towards his land cruiser and engaged in muffled conversation.
Women took turns to chat up the incumbent who never set foot outside his impressive 4×4 Landcruiser.
The rest, however, keep their positions in the queue.
I walked up to the driver’s side just as he engaged his reverse gear.
“The Voice! What’s the latest in The Voice,” he said as he shook my hand warmly.
“Well according to analysts you are in trouble. Where’s your challenger, I thought he’d be running around canvassing for last minute votes,” I teased, intrigued to see Kgathi’s reaction.
“He’s hiding. He doesn’t have support here; he lied to the media now he’s in hiding.
“The media actually misled him. The Voice was campaigning for him, what’s your reporter’s name? She was openly supporting him. I’m however not worried, everything is going according to plan as you can see, all these people are my supporters,” he said, with a sweeping gesture towards the general direction of the queue.
If he was concerned he didn’t show it. In fact, Kgathi was his usual jovial self, throwing jabs at both his political opponent and the media.
I wished him luck as he drove off, thinking perhaps I had misread the mood and that Kgathi, as he always seems to, would emerge victorious.
Two young men immediately approached me.
“A reng? Mopalamente o na le stress, his people are campaigning inside the polling station as you can see (What did he say? The MP is stressed),” one of the young man, who introduced himself as Stopper, said pointing to a group of ladies clad in BDP red.
“We are voting for Kgoboko,” added his mate.
I then left the polling station and headed to the shopping complex where I was supposed to meet Kgoboko.
My branded, tight-fitting t-shirt and camera once again attracted attention, and, as I approach a group of older men engaged in political banter, one of them pleaded, “We were all denied the right to vote. Our names were not in the voters roll, please go and publish in The Voice.”
Kgoboko finally arrives and the worried old men and women immediately tell him their frustration.
They hog him and express their fear that elections could be rigged.
“I understand your concerns but don’t worry there’s just too many of us. Babirwa have made up their mind. I’m not even worried about a few who couldn’t vote,” Kgoboko concluded confidently.
“We want the numbers to be so high. We want Kgathi to feel our anger,” said an older man, holding Kgoboko’s hand firmly in his grasp.
At this point I’m now convinced that Kgathi’s days as a Member of Parliament are over.
I part ways with an extremely confident Kgoboko and am left wondering how a political strategist and veteran like Kgathi could have failed to read the mood on the ground.