BPP’s Makhani slams Biggie Butale’s leadership in Tati West

Chedza Mmolawa

Tati West constituency has become a center of controversy as prospective Members of Parliament (MP) from both the ruling party and the opposition battle it out for the 2019 general elections. The Botswana People’s Party (BPP) MP prospect, Tshepo Makhani said in an interview with this publication that it is time Tati West went back to the BPP after 30 years of it being a BDP domain. The Tati West constituency was one of only three constituencies won by the opposition in the first election in 1965 and retained by opposition until 1989. Makhani said there are many outstanding developments that Butale and his BDP have failed to implement since 1989. He said the current instability of the BDP in Tati West is a testimony of those failures.
“Ikalanga is still not taught in schools, there is a high shortage of land, there is high unemployment rate in the region, disappointingly low standards of education, just to name a few. Butale has been an assistant minister and Simon has been the youth chairperson in Tati West and what have they done to contain our challenges? The answer is nothing, so they automatically decampaign themselves. Tati West, is an entirely rural constituency, and has remained in the grip of the Botswana Peoples’ Party (BPP) which united the people, who are predominantly Bakalanga, around the issue of their language especially after its removal from the school curriculum in 1972. With that, I appeal to the people of Tati West to vote for change going to the 2019 general elections,” Makhani recently claimed.
On the 25th of August, incumbent MP for the constituency and Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness, Biggie Butale suffered a humiliating loss at the party primaries, losing by 2022 to novice politician Simon Mavange Moabi who is said to be President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s golden boy. Butale challenged Moabi’s victory at the primaries and was granted a reprieve a week ago when the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Central Committee informed him by letter the they had ordered a re-run of the primaries.
In the interview, Makhani argued that he will take advantage of the BDP re-run between Butale and Moabi. He said it is during such a time of weakness within the ruling party that the people of Tati West should ask themselves what the BDP has done for them and not concentrate on who will win the re-run.
However, Makhani is not entirely in the clear to challenge the winning BDP prospect as he challenged by veteran opposition politician Richard Gudu who is the chairman of the Botswana People’s Party (BPP) at the party’s primary elections, which are slated for November this year. Unlike in the past elections, Gudu will not enjoy the luxury of free reign in the constituency as the novice politician and youthful Makhani of Kalamati village is determined to “bring winds of change to the constituency.” Gudu has been unsuccessfully contesting the North-East constituency since 2004. In 2014, he represented the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) where he garnered 3506 votes losing to Biggie Butale of the BDP who secured 4510. The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) candidate obtained 1671 votes while an independent candidate picked up 819 votes. This year Gudu hopes he can successfully bag a win against young Makhani because of he has been tried and tested.
Makhani is also confident he will win the primaries and told The Botswana Gazette that it is the right time for him to run for elections. He said the BPP leaders have played their part and it is time the youth help their elders out. “In Setswana we say, ‘tlhako le lesha le agelwa mogo lelegologolo,” said Makhani. He revealed when he made the decision to contest for elections he had no idea he would have to fight for his position against one of his political mentors, Richard Gudu. He said he only found out last year in October after rumours that the veteran politician had hung his gloves were denied by Gudu himself.
Makhani made it clear that he has nothing but love and respect for Gudu who has played a vital role in his growth and appreciation of opposition politics in the country and especially in Tati West. “I have a lot of admiration and respect for my rival and consider him to be not only my mentor, but my brother. And even though we may be contesting against each other, we share the same democratic values.”
In spite of the closeness of their relationship, Makhani is confident that the people of Tati West will vote wisely by voting for him because like most of the voters in the area, he grew up living in a one room thatch house having to walk for over 12 kilometres a day to get to school. He said like many Batswana he understands the pain of sharing his tertiary allowance with his parents and siblings, and that is what makes him a relatable youth and ideal parliamentary candidate. “I understand the challenges of the people of Tati West and I believe I have gained sufficient personal and communal experience to be part of the solution.”
Makhani’s contender, Gudu said he is confident he will win the primary election. He also announced that this will be the last time he will be running for elections. Gudu said politics is not a sprint but a full-on marathon and that he has come a long way. He said his mission is to serve his people as he has always done in the past.