Khama’s visits spark discontent among bdp primary election candidates

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SESUPO RANTSIMAKO

• Primary elections candidates accuse Khama of endorsing his allies

• There is nothing we can do about Khama’s visits-Balopi

FRANCISTOWN: Former President Ian Khama’s recent visit to Tonota has sparked fears and panic in the constituency as Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) prepare for primary elections. BDP candidates that are contesting against the incumbent Thapelo Olopeng have expressed their concern that Khama only endorses his “favourites” and de-campaigns those within the party that support President Masisi.

The incumbent Olopeng is expected to battle it out in the BDP primary elections against candidates Tapela Setshege, nominated councillor Botho Ntirang as well as councillor Peter Williams.

Last week the Former President accompanied by the Tonota Member of Parliament (MP) visited three villages within the constituency under the pretext of bidding farewell to the villagers. According to his schedule of visits he was supposed to meet his regiment in Mandunyane village for a closed meeting and address kgotla meetings in Folley and Tonota respectively. However, he addressed the kgotla meetings in Mandunyane and Folley but sought to obtain donations in Tonota.

In a Mandunyane kgotla meeting Khama dismissed reports that he has a sour relationship with Olopeng. “There is no bad blood between me and your MP. We still have a good relationship. I only learnt from the media that we have a sour relationship but that is not true. So going forward you have to understand that we still have a strong relationship,” Khama told the kgotla meeting.

As for the Foley kgotla meeting Khama stressed the point that Olopeng still asked for help from him, which is why he arranged the visit and was asking for donations to fund the MP. “Your MP has long asked me to come and bid farewell to you. And as the former President who is willing to help Batswana anywhere that is why I visited. I have given your MP some donations which include blankets and chairs and he will see how to distribute them. Very soon I will come back and teach you about vision 2036,” Khama said to the ululations.

However, shortly after Khama’s visit, BDP primary elections candidates dismissed the visit as nothing but an endorsement of Olopeng ahead of the primary elections. The primary elections hopefuls lashed out Khama accusing him of interfering with the election process. Amid the concerns raised by the teams supporting other candidates  is that Khama, as the Former President still commands a following and retains an influence in the area, therefore his donations to the constituents make a significant impact.

“Khama is definitely dividing our party, why is it that all of sudden he starts touring constituencies where his friends and confidantes are contesting for primary elections. This is totally unacceptable as the former BDP leader he has to understand that what he is doing is not good for the party,” lamented one of the candidate’s team representatives.

Khama’s visit to Tonota constituency comes after Bazezuru, that make the majority of the Mandunyane council ward threatened to punish Olopeng for the empty promises he made in 2013 during his primary elections campaigns. The MP went on to win the primaries with the community’s support and oversaw his 2014 parliamentary victory at the national polls. The tribe has expressed its dissatisfaction over Olopeng’s failure to keep to his electoral promises as he is yet to build the workshop he promised ahead of the 2014 general elections.

Khama recently appeared in Mabolwe village in Bobonong constituency to launch Francisco Kgoboko Trust Fund. Kgoboko is the BDP’s primary election candidate contesting against the incumbent Shaw Kgathi. At the launch Khama launched an onslaught against Kgathi whom he accused of trying to block people from attend the meeting.

Reached for comment BDP Secretary General Mpho Balopi stated that there is nothing they can do about Khama’s visits because he is doing what he promised Batswana before his term lapsed. “It has to be noted that before his term elapsed Khama promised to continue touring the country helping Batswana and he is definitely doing that. As the Paramount Chief we cannot block him to address the kgotla meetings because this is his responsibility,” Balopi said in an interview.

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