Botswana: Mekoko Fashionable in 2019

The local political landscape has shifted with an influx of independent candidates now throwing their hats into the ring in order to represent different constituencies in the National Assembly and wards in this year's elections.

Pundits observe that 2019 general elections could possibly turn out to be the most ever infiltrated by the high numbers of independent candidates vying for the parliamentary and council seats. With less than three months to go before the elections in October, there appears to be a proliferation of independent candidates unlike any other elections before under IEC watch.

IEC has so far received 21 confirmations of independent candidates contesting for parliament, followed by a whopping 223 aspiring independent council candidates, revealed IEC Secretary Keireng Zuze.

The escalating number of independent candidates is attributed to the increasing tensions across the entire political divide as a result of the disputed Bulelwa Ditswe last year, notes political analyst Mokaloba Mokaloba.

Mokaloba indicates that the prompt rise of independent candidates has been long envisaged from the protests of primary elections results that were rife in the ruling BDP and BNF last year.

"A lot has unfolded after the party's primary elections, which saw most ministers in BDP losing to the new faces leading to massive protests. BNF primaries were also marred by the protests and most of the defections were by the aggrieved members," said Mokaloba.

He noted that as it is a trend that Mekoko historically don't perform well at the polls, the only threat they pose is vote splitting which will count more during this year's elections.

Moreover, the influence of Khama has been also cited as the reason for a rapid increase of independent candidates based on the fact that majority of the contesting mekoko's are close to Khama.

Another political analyst Anthony Morima indicates that most of independent candidates who broke away from the BDP are likely to join Khama's new political party Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), especially those from the central district.

Zuze on the other hand observes that the number of Mekoko both for parliament and council can still increase, as registration of independent candidates will run until nomination day.

IEC secretary indicated that the 2019 elections are witnessing more rise in independents as compared to the last general elections which recorded 254 mekoko for council seats.

In 2014, 24 parliamentary mekoko registered and so far 21 has registered with a possibility of surpassing the figure a bit more.

She said IEC has no legal guideline or provision that regulates the registration of independent candidates therefore nothing can be done by those candidates who prefer to be mekoko.

Prominent figures

Here is a glimpse of ex ruling party, BDP members who revives political careers as independent candidates in the much anticipated 2019 elections.

Prince Maele

Maverick incumbent Lerala -Maunatlala MP has come out as the most popular candidate who has announced lately his intention to contest for the elections as an independent candidate.

Maele's decision to go solo follows his suspension from Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in April, with the suspension barring him to contest for the parliamentary seat under BDP banner.

The MP who seems to be enjoying the backing of the constituents who during consultation meeting recently vowed to support their MP to win back the constituency.

He won the party primaries for the constituency last year, garnering 3 528 votes against his Setlhabelo Modukanele's 3 231 votes.

However, former president Ian Khama when quizzed about Maele's possibility of joining BPF said Maele hasn't yet approached the party, indicating that he is assured that he might join at later stage.

Robert Masitara

Another former BDP stalwart Robert Masitara pulled a surprise declaring to contest for Gaborone Bonnington North as an independent candidate, making a return to elections after losing at the 2014 elections.

He is vying for the constituency which he was once it's MP against incumbent MP Duma Boko who is the leader of UDC, Poloko Pitwane (Former Limkokwing President) who is also contesting as Mokoko.

Masitara was defeated by Duma Boko of UDC garnering 7 694 votes against Masitara's 4 222 votes and BCP's then Annah Motlhagodi coming behind with 2 387 votes.

Ramadeluka Seretse

Former Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Ramadeluka Seretse is one of the members who have broken ranks with BDP after losing the 2018 Bulelwa Ditswe elections against Kgotla Autlwetse.

As it still not known if he will join the newly formed Botswana Patriotic Front, Ndelu as he is popularly known in the political circles has since insisted he will contest for Serowe North as an independent candidate during the upcoming elections.

Seretse lost the party primary elections back to back against the incumbent Serowe North MP, Kgotla Autlwetse during the 2013 and 2018 primary elections respectively, leaving him amongst disgruntled politicians who opted to contest as solo candidates.

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