Patience is a virtue indeed. Last Saturday, after 19 years of trying – and failing – the Botswana Congress Party’s (BCP) Ruben Ketlhoilwe was voted into council.
The 59-year-old political veteran is now the councillor for Moselwapula Ward, emerging victorious in a closely contested Bye-Election.
The small constituency, located on the outskirts of Francistown in Gerald Estates, fell vacant after the death of the second city’s former Deputy Mayor, Lechedzani Modenga in February.
Competing under the Umbrella for Democratic Change’s (UDC) ticket, Ketlhoilwe defeated his nearest rival by 32 votes in an election dominated by poor turn out, with only 745 votes casted out of the 1, 725 that had registered.
The Voice’s WANANANI MODONGO caught up with the former soldier in the aftermath of his victory to discuss his political journey and his plans for Moselwapula.
Q. Tell us a bit about yourself? Who is Ruben Ketlhoilwe?
A. I am a 59-year-old Nata native. I come from a family of five, including three sisters and one younger brother.
I joined the army in 1978 at the rank of private but I was later elevated to warrant officer II.
I resigned from the military in 1994 and joined the political arena. I
am also a divorcee with two daughters.
Q. How did your interest in politics come about?
A. I have always loved politics since my Primary School days.
My Primary teacher, who was from Zimbabwe, Ernest Mpofu also buttered my interest because he used to tell us about the political regime of his native country.
I remember he would bring the Daily News and would give it to me to read; that is how I my fascination with politics developed.
When I was doing Standard 7, I moved to Francistown and schooled at Tatitown Primary.
My late cousin was also a political fanatic, which fuelled my interest further.
My cousin used to sneak out from home and go to political rallies; that was in the time when BNF (Botswana National Front) was popular.
Q. It is well documented that it took you 19 years to get into council. After so many failed attempts, what motivated you to keep going?
A. Well for me it has never been about winning but it was mobilizing my party.
I have always taken defeats kindly because I knew I was growing the Botswana Congress Party on the ground.
Q. What do you think was different this time?
A. In politics you need to strategize – which is something I believe helped me to win this time around.
All this time I had not been focused.
But after the 2014 elections I made an evaluation and realised that most of the voters are youth and they had voted for the BDP (Botswana Democratic Party).
I made it my duty to mobilise the party to the youth because most of them do not have a political home, all they care about is the mandates raised by a candidate.
Even before the Bye-Election fell, I was strong on the ground, I was mobilising for the 2019 elections.
Q. What are your plans for Moselewapula Ward?
A. I have quite a few issues with regards to the development of my area. Gerald Estates is still far behind in terms of developments, the clinic here is congested, and senior students have to walk many kilometres to Francistown Senior School and Mater Spei.
I want to propose that at least a few classrooms be built at our Junior School to cater for the Form 4 & 5 students.
Not only that, I want business to come to Gerald, there are no shops as it is so those are my agendas when I get to council.
I will be Moselewapula’s foot soldier!
Q. Out of the 1,725 people who registered to vote, only 745 voted. Why do you think that was?
A. The answer is simple; most of the people on our voters roll are not from Moselewapula Ward.
They were trafficked in the previous elections.
Some have moved out of Gerald, especially the youth who have gone to find green pastures in Gaborone and other places.
Q. Talking of these ‘trafficked’ voters, the BDP candidate you defeated, Gilbert Boikhutso, has accused the UDC of paying the late Lechedzani Modenga’s family P10, 000 to trace these voters. Care to comment?
A. Those are damning allegations!
I personally did not have any money when I made this campaign and the UDC would never do such a thing.
For starters, the people who were trafficked by the deceased will be know by his campaign organisers, who are all members of the BDP – I do not see how they would have worked with us!
We never worked with those people, but I saw a few of them in conversation with the Alliance for Progressives (AP).
Q. Boikhutso also claimed the BDP candidates he defeated in the party’s Primary Elections sabotaged his campaign by helping you. Your take?
A. Gilbert is a sore loser!
I know him quite well because we go to the same church but I do not know any of the people he defeated.