GABORONE, Botswana's ruling party will this weekend select its candidate for the October presidential elections, choosing from two aspirants; President Mokgweetsi Masisi and ex-foreign minister, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, who is backed by Masisi's predecessor and rival, Ian Khama.
This will be the first time the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) which has ruled Botswana since independence more than half a century, sees a genuine fight for the top job.
Whoever wins is widely expected to become president after nationwide elections in a country where the opposition is largely fragmented.
About a thousand party delegates are attending a two-day meeting in the small rural Kalahari Desert town of Kang, 400 kilometres northwest of the capital Gaborone.
BDP congresses have traditionally been rubber stamps for the incumbent's bid for re-election.
The 57-year-old BDP has ruled Botswana uninterrupted since independence in 1966, presiding over diamond-driven prosperity that stands out in a continent where poverty and turbulence are rife.
Masisi and former president Ian Khama have fallen out publicly, with Masisi reversing some of the policies introduced by his predecessor.
The ex-president has thrown his weight behind Venson-Moitoi, who was fired from cabinet in December after she announced she would throw her name in for nomination.
The rift between Masisi and his predecessor was laid bare last month when Khama accused his protege of betrayal.
Khama had last year picked his then-vice president Masisi to succeed him after serving the maximum 10 years in office.
But Masisi has moved to break with the past and establish his own authority since his inauguration a year ago.
In an interview with the SABC public broadcaster in neighbouring South Africa, Khama said he regretted picking Masisi to follow him.
He had a nature, a character which I just felt very close to and part of. What I'm seeing now is a totally different person than the one I knew, Khama said.
Regrettably and very unfortunately I have come to realise that maybe I had misjudged (him) and now we have a situation where there is a bit of a standoff between himself and myself.
Source: NAM News Network