The proverb “blood is thicker than water” could be in for a tough test with two politicians who are the sons of Botswana’s first president, Seretse Khama, approaching elections from opposite political sides.
This happens as Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) – co-founded by Khama 58 years ago and at the helm of the Botswana government for 53 years – hangs in the balance amid the strong political opposition it faces.
The opposition was to some extent bolstered by the departure of former Botswana president Ian Khama, who ditched the BDP for the newly-formed Botswana Progressive Front (BPF).
Khama was, however, not happy that his brother remained with BDP and has publicly expressed his desire to have him join BPF as well.
Khama left the BDP a few months ago after a fall-out with his successor, Botswana president Mokgweetsi Masisi, and joined BPF.
His brother is part of Masisi’s cabinet as minister of youth and sports.
Khama’s bid to recruit his brother
Khama is chief of the Bangwato tribe which falls under the Central District of Botswana, known as the stronghold of BDP.
He recently visited the area including Serowe West – which is Tshekedi’s constituency – and told them that he wants his brother to follow him at BPF.
This is the same area under his rule where he went months ago and announced that he was leaving BDP before the community members vowed to follow him with some literally throwing away their BDP membership cards.
After getting the community to support him, Khama has now been rallying for their support to get his brother to join him.
“You previously voted (Tshekedi) as BDP. Do you now want to vote him again as BDP or BPF? As for me, I want him at BPF,” Khama said in a video he shared on Facebook.
He was addressing a gathering in Serowe West about two weeks ago.
“There was a time they wanted to get rid of Tshekedi as a minister, but they were warned that such a move will cost them votes in his constituency. Now he is being paraded at BDP gatherings to show people that he is still there even after I left for BPF.”
BPF president, Biggie Butale, told City Press this week that they were also in support of Tshekedi joining them.
“We are much interested to have Tshekedi, and his constituency in Serowe West wants him to join us,” he said.
Butale was worried though that time was not on their side to convince Tshekedi to join them.
“The deadline and cut-off date with the elections commission is September 26. We hope we do not reach that point and he is still not with us but the last thing we want is to divide the royal family.”
Tough decision for Tshekedi Khama
Tshekedi has generally been evasive on the matter and was heard saying on a social media video when a journalist asked him about his brother’s bid to recruit him to the new party: “That’s what he is saying, that’s what he is saying”.
He did not respond to questions sent to him by City Press on the same subject.
While those who want him with BPF have only four days, posters were already out announcing that Tshekedi will be launched as a BDP member of parliament candidate for Serowe West this coming Saturday.
Will Tshekedi remain loyal and stay with his father’s party or will he join his brother at BPF?
A political analyst in Botswana, Professor Zibani Maundeni, does not see the latter happening, saying it has got nothing to do with blood.
“I don’t think Tshekedi will go to BPF. One reason is that he does not like people around Ian Khama … he doesn’t like his brother’s associates,” Maundeni said.
Khama legacy and toughest elections for BDP
Botswana is synonymous with Khama, the name of its first president and if the BDP loses power this will come with a dent to the Khama legacy.
Khama’s BPF is now in bed with Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), formerly Khama’s biggest critic as an opposition party during his presidency. “The BPF is on its own but we were brought together by our common agenda which is to unseat BDP,” said UDC spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa.
Meanwhile, Professor Maundeni sees Khama’s departure from BDP as a huge blow for the governing party.
“Khama took a chunk of supporters away with him especially those from Central District where he comes from and is a chief. BDP is likely to suffer defeat in Central District as a result if people there express loyalty to Khama when they vote,” he said.
Butale was also seemingly banking on the same notion.
“BDP won’t be able to get 29+ seats needed for outright power. They won 35 seats in the last elections and 12 of those seats were from Central District which is where Khama comes from and where we’re hoping for 17 to 18 seats out of 19 there,” he said.
Meanwhile, another party – Alliance for Progressives (AP) – was also hopeful of claiming parliamentary seats in the total of 57 constituencies countrywide.
“Internal strife in BDP and other parties have delayed them and while they squabbled, we were busy working on the ground. We’re confident we’re going to perform well in the elections,” said AP spokesperson, Phenyo Butale.