Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) MPs who hold ministerial posts are pushing for reforms in the 2023 free-far-all primary elections as their political careers are under threat from challengers, The Patriot on Sunday has learned.
Some of the cabinet ministers are said to be under pressure from electorates in their constituencies who are demanding accountability and delivery on the 2019 promises. The Patriot on Sunday is reliably informed that some ministers have pleaded with the BDP leadership to scrap off the much anticipated primaries, commnly known as Bulela Ditswe, claiming that they have the potential to the party.
The group of ministers are said to have lobbied the BDP Public Education and Elections Committee (PEEC) to put their proposal to abolish primaries, for adoption during the upcoming national congress in August. Sources close to the developments confide that many cabinet ministers are supportive of the proposal to BDP President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Chairman Slumber Tsogwane to do away with the primaries.
Going to 2024 elections, the BDP is said to be treading carefully to ensure that there is no room for divisions caused by Bulela Ditswe that always give opposition a chance. “Cabinet ministers are concerned that their political careers hang in the balance. Some of the ministers are proposing that a compromise fielding of candidates be adopted as a solution. This is because some ministers have already lost control of their constituencies after their endorsed members suffered defeat at regional congresses,” a source said, adding that the concerned ministers also argue that primary elections always cause divisions in BDP.
Meanwhile, Masisi and Tsogwane are said to be concerned that suspending primaries will harm BDP. The BDP top brass is also said to be working behind the scenes backing up some of the potential candidates that will dislodge certain ministers and backbenchers from their constituencies via primaries.
This publication has learnt that BDP Chairman Tsogwane is grooming some potential BDP MPs. It is said a number of incumbent BDP MPs have disappointed the leadership and hence are targeted for replacement. “The broadcasting of Parliament proceedings on national television has exposed the party in terms of the quality of some MPs and ministers. As a result, the leadership is considering for the party to field tried and tested candidates that can match the quality of opposition MPs,” a source said.
No special case
Contacted a comment, BDP Chairman of Communications and International Relations Sub Committee, Kagelelo Kentse said the party does not have any plans to scrap off the primaries. However, he said democrats are free to present any of selecting candidates if they wish at the upcoming National Council and Congresses that will set the BDP tone for 2024 general elections.
As things stands, Kentse maintained that Bulela Ditswe is the only tool available to ruling party. Asked about if the BDP will hold primaries in all constituencies or only at those under opposition, he said where there are more than 1 candidate in a constituency they have no choice but to go for the primaries.
In addition, the BDP mouthpiece said there will be no Bulela Ditswe exemptions for ministers. He underscored that everything will be guided by BDP rules and regulations including the guidelines. “Ministers are BDP members first and therefore are guided by the party internal processes. There cannot be any exclusions or special treatment. All rules apply equally,” said Kentse on Thursday.
Cabinet seat curse
Political and Administrative lecturer at University of Botswana (UB) Mokaloba Mokaloba, said cabinet ministers often face disadvantages when Bulelwa Ditswe approaches, hence their fears. He observed that cabinet duties take away a lot of time from members of parliament who double as part of the Executive. “This means they have very little time in their hand to attend to constituency issues hence they end up as absent MPs. History shown that this is a recipe for losing both primary and general elections,” he said.
In the build up to 2019 general elections, many cabinet ministers lost primary elections. Consequently, some of former ministers protested the Bulela Ditswe outcomes without much success. Disgruntled and feeling that the BDP leadership contributed to their downfall, some of them decided to go against those who defeated them hence campaigning for the opposition candidates.
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