The new entrant in the race for the presidency of Botswana National Front (BNF) Dr. Baatlhodi Bucs Molatlhegi says he’s expecting a torrent of hostility towards his newly declared candidature.
Molatlhegi said this on Wednesday when he announced his candidature for the BNF presidency in Gaborone. The onetime BNF Young Turk said that those closest to him are bracing for possible antagonism that will accompany his quest for the presidency. Should Molatlhegi win the BNF presidency, he will also assume the leadership of opposition coalition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). “I’m aware, my family is aware and the team behind me is aware. We are ready for it. But what we would not do is stoop that low. We are not going to throw stones back, we are not going to throw glasses back. Let them insult us,” said Molatlhegi who is also a partner in a Gaborone law firm.
Furthermore, he also stated that the mudslinging he awaits is a result of the dearth of ideas and inability to maneuver the battlefield of ideas by opponents. “Once people don’t have answers to issues, once they can’t meet you on the facts about what is happening to this party and country, they resort to insults and when they go that low road, we go up because I have not been trained on insults by the BNF.”
Molatlhegi further stated that his focus will be on issues that matter to the BNF, Umbrella for Democratic Change UDC and country. “So, we won’t be intimidated. Anybody who is planning that, know that you have a match. We won’t insult you but we will keep with the issues,” he said.
While, he did not name names, Molatlhegi was seemingly referring to a self-style band of activists that are loyal to Boko. ‘Fear Fokol’, loosely translated to mean ‘zero fear’ or ‘no fear’ are aggressive loyalists who have been known to ruthlessly savage the UDC leaders’ opponents.
Furthermore, Molatlhegi appeared to be referring to a crystallized school of thought that believes in little competition for positions at party level and UDC. This dominant school of thought holds that opposition parties and coalition are still fragile arrangements which needs to be handled with utmost carefulness to prevent collapse and breakdown.
The Bobonong born Doctor of Laws graduate is expected to be Boko’s toughest in-house challenger since he assumed the presidency in 2012. Flashes of his presidential campaign’s blueprint beamed wantonly at his launch. His nascent campaign came complete with a point man and campaign manager, Thamaga councilor Tona Selala, who is an experienced hand in internal BNF politics.
In the hour long briefing, the aspiring leader of Botswana’s dominant opposition party mentioned Boko’s name only once. Through this, Molatlhegi was appearing to avoid pitfalls that did in the recently collapsed Reverend Dr Prince Dibeela challenge. According those close to the BNF, Dr Dibeela’s campaign was infiltrated and collapsed because in place of solid alternative propositions for the mass based organisation, it was instead Boko’s name that became the centre of their discussions. They obsessed about removing Boko instead of bringing alternative ideas to take the BNF forward. Their race was shortlived.
BNF spokesperson, Justin Hunyepa denied the existence of a structure or grouping inside the party called Fear Fokol. He said the BNF has platforms internally, where members can lobby fellow comrades or express grievances.
He denied that the party leadership can entertain lawlessness and hostility against any comrade who stands for elections. “We, in the BNF, do not believe that even Boko’s lobby group can call a press conference to discuss their fellow comrades, particularly casting them in bad light. The BNF is the pioneer of inner party democracy through what has become known as temporary platforms (lobby groups) ahead of elections, ” said Hunyepa.
On other issues, Hunyepa said it is shocking that some party members who claim to have its best interest at heart and want to take it forward are telling all and sundry that it is in ICU. “Why would a member claim his own party is o0n a deathbed, yet seeking to be elected to lead the same?” he asked.
In a statement released late Friday Hunyepa said: “It is therefore grossly misleading and incorrect for Dr Bucks Molatlhegi to make announcement on public media platforms claiming that the BNF is in ICU. While it is democratic for members to stand for any party position, we advise BNF members to resist temptations of undermining the party in public platforms as per the party’s guiding principles.
Hunyepa argued that for the first time in the history of Botswana opposition politics, Boko successfully steered a united umbrella party, a feat that has been elusive for decades now. “And the BNF has defended and sacrificed for this unity initiative, remaining fixed and committed to this project. The UDC today is the darling of Batswana across the political divide, and the only hope and alternative for the citizens’ emancipation from the BDP misrule. The popularity of the UDC has proven that no opposition party will survive outside this united front. It is public knowledge that the UDC did very well in 2014 and 2019 general elections and was only robbed by the massive BDP rigging machinations,” said Hunyepa.
Former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan was more abrassive. He said Molatlhegi joining the race is a welcome development, and that no one is going to prohibit him from contesting or campaigning. “It is just that the BNF is not a retirement home,” he threw a jab.
Khan said there is nothing like fear fokol in the BNF. “It is a load of rubbish,infact they are hallucinating. There is nothing special about Molatlhegi and his cabal. This is not the first time BNF goes for an elective congress and it’s not the last time. Normally it is the delegates at the congress who decide, not some imaginary gang that doesn’t exist,” blurted Khan.
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