Former mayor James Kgalajwe accuses Masisi of making political mileage out of the exercise
FRANCISTOWN: President Mokgweetsi Masisi has been accused of disregarding the wishes of the people of Francistown in renaming facilities in Botswana’s second city after some of its prominent citizens.
The President, last week, named and renamed facilities of social development in Francistown after the first members of Botswana’s parliament in 1965 across the political spectrum, with the freshly-minted interchange that is commonly known as spaghetti going to Kenneth Nkhwa of the Botswana People’s Party (BPP).
The 27 000-seater stadium was named after Obed Chilume of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) while the airport was named after a man who is arguably the most famous Francistowner, Phillip Matante, of the BPP.
Unveiling the names, Masisi said the decision to honour the political icons was informed by their commitment and diligence during their time as activists and their tenure as MPs. The three men had distinguished themselves from the rest in their contribution as legislators of the country’s first parliament, he noted.
The renaming of the facilities follows adoption of a motion to that effect by councillors of the City of Francistown in 2016 which also set criteria to be used. The Mayor of Francistown at the time, James Kgalajwe, conducted kgotla meetings where different names were suggested and adopted. Some of the names include notable nationalist John Nswazwi and football legend B. B. Sechele of Tafic.
Inspite of this, the government named the new stadium Francistown Sports Complex then. In justifying this, the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture at the time, Thapelo Olopeng, said similar facilities across Botswana were similarly named.
Former mayor Kgalajwe says he cannot understand why the President ignored the names agreed upon by the people of Francistown. “It is evident that the decision is politically motivated,” he said in an interview. “The President’s decision is nothing but political campaigning.”
In his view, of the three men honoured, only Phillip Matante is worthy of the recognition. Receiving Matante’s daughter as a member of the BDP at a rally to launch the party’s parliamentary candidate for Francistown West, Ignatius Moswaane, pointed to political exploitation in Masisi’s renaming of selected facilities after certain icons, he noted.
Masisi welcomed Matante’s daughter, Mondo, to the BDP fold last Sunday after she had been present at the renaming the previous day.
Councillor Ephraim Maiketso has expressed similar misgivings, saying Masisi had not consulted them as civic leaders. “I think Masisi is only trying to boost his campaign by renaming these facilities after some opposition activists,” Maiketso said in an interview.