President MokgweetsiMasisi’s consultative kgotla meeting in Ramotswa this week attracted a groundswell of disapproval and discontent from some opposition leaders who felt he unfairly used an official community meetings’ platform for political campaign.
As the country goes to the polls in two weeks, opposition political leaders in Ramotswa this past Tuesday dismissed Masisi’s meeting as a cunning ploy to canvass votes for his Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary and council candidates, and in the process defiling the kgotla where the undocumented law states that politics cannot be discussed there.This is owing to what they term political undertones and jabs in his lengthy address to a large crowd of the Ramotswa residents who attended the meeting.
Opinion was however divided on the matter with other village elders who attended the meeting refuting the claims and adding that such sentiments were to be expected from opposition cadres.
Masisi had spent the chunkier part of his address advising Balete on rules of engagement on election day, encouraging them to honour and respect rules set by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) as any violation could land them in jail. He warned the electorate against politicians who have the habit of promising payment for voters if they show them pictures of the ballot paper to prove that they indeed voted for them.
“I know they will be advising you to get in there with your camera phones to get them the proof. But note that taking a picture of the ballot paper is an offense. “Should you be caught doing it, you are the one who will spend time in jail while those you were taking pictures for remain in the comfort of their homes,” he warned, adding that no one should either come to cast their ballot wearing party colours or bring vehicles branded in party colours near polling stations.
It is where the president continued to advise his audience to vote wisely for people they can trust and who can deliver, that concerned opposition leaders read malice in his deliberation. In that instance, Masisi bragged of what a great leader he has been, and what a great leader he would be if brought back to power. “To get a president of your choice in power, you ought to vote for his party’s member of Parliament and team of councillors, not a mixture. “The president then needs to have at least 29 elected MPs for him to be president.
So exercise great caution in the way you make your choices,” Masisi said, receiving raucous fits of ululations and cheers in the process. The immediate past Member of Parliament for Ramotswa Samuel Rantuana, who is currently a candidate under the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), lamented such statements by the president, saying they amounted to a campaign for his parliamentary candidate and councillors.
Rantuana’s sentiments were shared by Boniface Mabeo, the area’s parliamentary candidate for Alliance for Progressives (AP), who even complained that Masisi was now taking the limelight through the mention of his campaign mantra, the issue of turning Ramotswa into a pig production hub and the related value chain. “That has always been my campaign issue – my pet project. Even here in Ramotswa they call me Radikolobe because of my unapologetic call for pig production in the area. Now Masisi was shining as he advised on pig production and farming and the crowd was excited.”
Mabeo was also not amused when the president made subtle jabs at his predecessor. Masisi said should he lose election on October 23, he and his wife will pack and go.
“I will not look back to harass my successor and wanting to dictate to him how to run things. I will neither go around disturbing the peace of the country,” Masisi said, something Mabeo cited as an example of a president playing politics. Mabeo added: “He has not even been visiting our village, only coming now two weeks before elections. His visit was politically motivated.”
Rantuana said Masisi’s visit to Ramotswa was futile as no one heard how their lives will change. “He even blamed and indirectly attacked me in a kgotla meeting for voting against the funding of the Masama project in Parliament. His visit was all politically motivated,” Rantuana said.
However, BDP parliamentary candidate for the constituency, Lefoko Moagi, refuted claims that the president was talking politics. “You can always expect such sentiments from opposition activists and leaders. Their job is to always look for something they can oppose. “The president was only advising the electorate against flouting the rules on election day. He also explained our country’s electoral process and wanted the people to understand how succession will happen should he lose elections.
He was neutral in his advice. Maybe they could not stomach the fact that the people cheered as he spoke and they felt he was in the process of winning their trust.“And if they say the president was campaigning for me, what then do you call a situation where the UDC candidate Rre Rantuana was even made to sit at the top table near the president? “He is as ordinary as the rest of us parliamentary candidates, yet he was given the advantage of being seen at the top table next to the president. Should I also deem that as preferential treatment?
He is no longer an MP but he was given VIP treatment next to the president while the rest of us sat where everyone else was,”Moagi said.