The Bangwaketse capital, Kanye, was reduced to a battle field for a heavyweight political scuffle which culminated with an invasion by the newly formed opposition Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), an offspring of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), much to the chagrin of the latter.
Disgruntled democrats, who recently resigned to form the BPF, descended on Kanye on Saturday for an inaugural conference and official launch, where former president Ian Khama gave a keynote address.
In a concerted effort to win the hearts of Bangwaketse, BPF left no stone unturned painting every corner of Kanye village with banners in party colours announcing the Saturday launch which its convener, Biggie Butale earlier said was expecting 10 000 delegates.
Perhaps as a last ditch counter strategy to neutralise the numbers expected at the BPF launch, BDP moved swiftly and organised a motorcade around Kanye village that ended with a public rally in the afternoon and a musical concert in the evening.
As the tension ahead of the Saturday launch reached a crescendo, Bogosi in Kanye hastily convened a kgotla meeting where dikgosi in Gangwaketse were reprimanded and cautioned against meddling in politics, a development dismissed by many as a political gimmick to discourage the tribal leadership and their tribesmen from flocking to the BPF launch.
For a long time Kanye has been an opposition stronghold especially dominated by the opposition Botswana National Front (BNF) under the leadership and influence of Kgosi Bathoen II. Consequently, the ruling BDP has never settled comfortably in Kanye constituencies.
The Patriot on Sunday team travelled to Kanye on Friday to gauge the mood ahead of BPF launch, interacting with villagers on the historic launch. One villager elder, Radifoune Motsekhumo, noted BPF launch in Kanye poses a major threat to BDP because of the popularity of and the respect that Khama continues to enjoy. He noted that the BPF message is already being preached in funeral gatherings, with Khama’s name throwing more weight behind the party.
Motsekhumo also observed that choosing Kanye as the venue was strategic because for a long time it was an opposition stronghold, and therefore in recognition of that historical context BPF used the village as a soft spot to use as a launching pad.
BPF preparation committee member who has been based in Kanye for over two weeks, Joseph Matsheka from Serowe West said the party had deployed some Kanye residents on the ground to spread the message. He also revealed that some members of the community have since pledged donations towards the launch; hence it was all systems go for the launch.
The boiling political tension took centre stage in Kanye forcing Kgosi Malope II of Bangwaketse to summon dikgosi to a meeting for all Gangwaketse tribal leaders on Friday.
The meeting was addressed by Deputy Paramount Chief Kgosi Kebapetse Telekelo, who criticised some dikgosi for their continued involvement of in politics after some of them recently accepted an invitation from Kgosikgolo Ian Khama to attend to the nearly aborted inaugural meeting of the BPF in Gaborone.
Kgosi Telekelo observed that the week has been tense due to the political events scheduled to take place in the village, therefore pleading with dikgosi to be non-partisan. “We have been worried by the conduct of some of our dikgosi who continued to be duped into being used to push political agendas of some MPs. There is nothing wrong with political events taking place in Kanye, Bogosi appreciates that,” he added.
As it is Tswana tradition for dikgosi to welcome visitors in a village, it was likely not to happen at the launch of BPF in Kanye following the clear warning sounded at the Friday meeting that dikgosi should stay out of partisan politics.
Ralotsia on BPF move
Kanye North MP Patrick Ralotsia has been talk of the village over his prospects of joining the newly formed party with some other disgruntled BDP members who lost Bulelwa Ditswe. In an interview with this publication on Friday, Ralotsia dismissed claims that he is amongst some politicians in Kanye who are set to join BPF, adding that he remains focused on the BDP.
“I am not joining BPF like many people anticipate. I have been receiving calls from some of the residents enquiring about my intention of joining the party but I am focused on BDP. However, it is my choice to associate with Ian Khama and nobody should question that; that’s filthy politics,” he added.
Ralotsia reiterated that the majority of people are scared by the connections that former president Khama forges with some people, adding that Khama has the right to interact everywhere in the country.
However, some have disputed Ralotsia’s denial of joining BPF; noting that he is just trying to be diplomatic on the issue.
Tshekedi Khama, the younger brother to former President Ian Khama, is allegedly finding himself between a rock and a hard place with pressure from some influential members of the Bangwato tribe, pushing him to dump BDP to join his elder brother’s new political home BPF.
Ian Khama has since left the ruling BDP and spearheads the BPF, a move that has sparked speculation that his younger brother TK is will soon join BPF as well. Responding to the claims of TK being pushed to dump BDP and joining BPF, former president Khama said early this week at the inaugural press conference of BPF that it’s entirely up to his brother to decide where he stands.
“For the sake of being an elder brother to Tshekedi Khama doesn’t means I will push him to dump BDP and join our party BPF. He will decide his future on his own,” Khama said.
BPF feasts on BDP
BPF convener Biggie Butale said the party will receive MPs from BDP who have shown interest to defect to BPF, indicating that the party has since received close to 100 councillors from the BDP.
He said the party will be able to provide a definite figure of how many members have defected from the ruling BDP after the launch. Butale noted that self-exiled Tati East MP Guma Moyo and Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi haven’t approached the party, saying it is best if they can answer for themselves.
However, Khama has revealed that Lerala-Maunatlala MP Prince Maele has assured him of his intentions of joining the party in the near future.