Africa-Press – Botswana. Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) legislator, Onneetse Ramogapi is proud to have ended over five decades of the ruling Botswana Democratic (BDP) dominance in the Palapye constituency. But, the recent defections of the only two UDC civic leaders elected in the 2019 general election have left Ramogapi skating on thin ice. Mmegi Scribe RYDER GABATHUSE writes that, Ramogapi, the lone political wolf has a mountain to climb
FRANCISTOWN: Ramogapi’s defection to the opposition Botswana Congress Party (BCP) prior to the 2019 general election has given him ample time to work on a seemingly conservative Palapye constituency that has enjoyed loyalty to the ruling BDP since independence in 1966. It was almost unthinkable for anyone to imagine that one day, any party ousting the ruling party from its long time stronghold of Palapye. Traditionally, within the BDP of years of yore, winning the party ticket was akin to winning the real elections given the conservative nature of the electorate in the area.
James Olesitse, the Palapye-based businessman-cum politician was the epitome of a perennial loser at the hands of the BDP. His decision to step down paving way for the current MP, somewhat paid dividends. It has since changed the political landscape of Palapye indicating that everything was possible. Olesitse has since been rewarded with appointment to the office of the MP in Palapye after his efforts to oust he BDP decades ago proved very hard to realise.
Olesitse, a seasoned opposition politician had tried his luck under the Botswana National Front (BNF) and the BCP, without any hope of making it. Perhaps, the change that ushered the BCP to Parliament in Palapye should be attributed to the role played by the new kid on the political bloc, Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), an offshoot of the ruling BDP and an opposition coalition under the ambit of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
The new party (BPF) became a true kingmaker altering the political landscape of Palapye after so many years of failed attempts. From its formative days, anger in the BPF camp hardened feelings so much that the party diehards vowed to oust the BDP from the area, a feat that they achieved with ease. It was the BPF troops led by former BDP operative in Palapye, Lawrence Bodilenyane, a retired banker, whose vow to oust the BDP instantly became true. He was incensed by just one incident in which he claimed Vice President Slumber Tsogwane didn’t have kind words for his leader, former president Ian Khama. It was Bodilenyane who led a team of concerned Palapye BDP diehards to air their concerns to their leader in Gaborone. From that incident, the political scales in Palapye were tilted in favour of the opposition. There was hullaballoo that the BDP will not make it, no matter what. There were even open calls for the then area MP, Moiseraele Master Goya to change his party colours if he wanted to make it. But, Goya’s loyalty to the BDP could not allow him to entertain the wishes of the new party as it was not tried and tested at the time. He ultimately paid the price in the end, as he is now the former area MP after losing election.
From independence, Palapye has had only five legislators starting off with the late Moutlakgola Nwako whose constituency included majority of the villages around Tswapong. Subsequent delimitation exercises kept on reducing the then vast Palapye area from the time former president Festus Mogae, took over as the Palapye MP. Boyce Sebetela and Moiseraele Master Goya will carry the good work of the BDP dominance until Ramogapi cut the long journey in the last general election. As for Ramogapi, his last blow came when the Makhura brothers defected from the BCP to join the BPF and BDP respectively, a few months ago. It was George Makhura (Khurumela ward) who took a bold step by defecting to the BPF followed by his brother Jordan (Morupule ward) who broke tradition by defecting to the BDP.
The duo’s defections have definitely hit Ramogapi hard, as it’s the councillors who mostly do the legwork in the absence of the MP to keep political business going on in an area. The civic leaders in our political set up are the anchors Ramogapi
however, consoles himself that as the area MP, there is no way; he can’t work with the councillors.
He says, fresh from the 2019 general election, he called all the councillors and impressed upon them the need to work together as a team. He however, concedes that the civic leaders come from different political parties with different ambitions and it could harm his political ambitions. “Honestly, the councillors do call their meetings and I join them as they address the people. So far, so good,” he told Mmegi in an interview this week.
His relationship with the councillors has been very good and he claims they work amicably. So, he works and plans with the councillors in their respective wards and he adds that after all, the main thing is to serve the people. It’s apparent that Ramogapi’s journey to the 2024 general election is not going to be that easy working in the entire constituency alone, as politics is a game of numbers.
His downfall might come from the same councillors that he has a ‘steady’ relationship with as they also have a business to advance the agenda of their parties.
“It requires double efforts. In fact, I have to work 10 times more than others for me to return to Parliament after the next general election,” he conceded.
For many weeks now, the MP has been attending events in Palapye and them immediately rushing to Parliament so that he doesn’t miss the debates, as he knows his constituents watch and listen to radio and national television and follow the social media coverage of the debates.
The years he spent as a councillor in Palapye and the chairperson of the Palapye Sub Council have taught him a lot in the art of canvassing in political elections.
“I know what it entails in an election, all the requisite strategies to beat my competition,” he said. He warned those who might undermine his political strength despite his predicament that saw his councillors deserting him, to only do so at their own peril as he is very much into the political game. “I still enjoy support of the people and I will continue being available for them no matter what,” promised Ramogapi, who is rated as one of the robust and erudite debaters in Parliament.
Ramogapi has enlisted the use of Facebook, WhatsApp, short message service (SMS) and other social media applications to reach out to the people of all ages in his constituency.
He credits his easy accessibility and open door policy as qttributes that will continue to work wonders for him in his area. He emphasises that at Parliament, he is always on his toes to serve the people who took him there without fail.
“I am there to serve the people and I will use the time effectively and efficiently knowing that the people will judge me by how I deliver,” he noted. Ramogapi has already asked many questions in Parliament and contributed fruitfully to the debate. This has elevated him to the league of top contributors in the August House, something that he hopes will continue to win him the hearts and minds of the people.
Ramogapi won the 2019 parliamentary elections after garnering 5,582 votes followed by Moiseraele Master Goya of the BDP with 5,252 votes. BPF represented by Dr. Kolaatamo Malefho got 1,806 votes whilst 1,306 people voted Gape Motswaledi of the Alliance for Progressives. Independent candidate Boniface Mankanku got only 52 votes. The Palapye legislator is fully aware that come 2024 general election, it’s not going to be easy as competition is going to start right from inside the UDC and outside.
Given his amount of work, he claims to be ready for any eventuality. He is however, aware that nothing will come on a silver spoon. He will have to sweat to continue winning the hearts and minds of the hard-to-please Palapye constituents.