Part of the proceedings of the Botswana Democratic Party congress for the Francistown region which was held at Shashe-Mooke on Saturday had to be called off that evening due to a downpour.
The region, made up of Tonota, Francistown West, Francistown East, Francistown South and Tati East constituencies, had met to elect a new committee, make resolutions for the forthcoming party national congress and appoint delegates to the congress. The gathering only spent time commenting on the chairman’s remarks, reports from the five constituencies and resolutions from the Francistown East constituency. The ‘African time’ syndrome, it would appear, turned out to be the biggest enemy. Scheduled to start at 8.30 am, the congress, inexplicably, did not start until after noon.
By the time it rained, which was at around 5 pm, it had become clear that there would be no elections because there was no electricity at the venue. To complete the programme, the region will meet on Saturday 7th March at a venue to be announced. Elected in November 2012, the outgoing committee, according to its chairman, Ford Moiteela, failed to hold a congress in 2014 because of the busy campaign schedule for the elections that year. “Firstly, there were primary elections to run, conflicts to resolve before the general elections themselves,” he reported. According to Moiteela, there were 41 primary election complaints from the Francistown region alone. He said that his committee held workshops for those disgruntled with the primary election outcomes.
“We were partly successful in our reconciliation efforts but in some cases, as you know, disgruntled primary election losers stood as independent candidates. Others have simply disappeared and do not take part in party activities. We tried to be as proactive as possible in conflict resolution. For example, instead of waiting for a conflict to flare up, we sometimes took the first step. I call upon the local structures to approach these people with the view to bringing them on board. The challenge is that, if you do not do that, you will have no reference on the basis of which to veto them out of the primary election process for the 2019 general elections.
Write them invitation letters to party events and assignments,” he advised. An elated Moiteela reported that, of the five constituencies, the BDP won four with only one constituency in the region going to the opposition. “With respect to the wards, we won 31 out of the possible 38 wards. I am not ashamed to say we did our best in the rather difficult circumstances,” boasted the outgoing chairman who is defending his seat. Despite the achievements, Moiteela noted that, there were several challenges in the region such as the fact that party structures are not functioning. This, he said, has made it difficult for the party to have continuous political activities even after the general elections. “With their victory celebrations, the opposition has been more visible than us. The other one of our challenges is the fact that, the primary elections caused bad blood among us. We are still not united months after the primaries,” lamented Moiteela who added that, in some cases, the primary elections were not conducted properly hence the disgruntlement.
Seeming to differ with the party leadership on those who defied the party after the disputatious primary elections and stood as independent candidates, he insisted that, the BDP needs its disgruntled members back. “Politics is about numbers. If you look at the numbers some of them got as independent candidates, you will realise that, an attempt to sideline or ignore them will not benefit us in any way,” maintained Moiteela who underscored the need for BDP members to speak freely. “In the past, our conferences and congresses were held in July during the long weekend. This provided us with ample time to deliberate on issues. If we do not address issues, we will not be able to solve them and if we do not provide forums for discussion, people will discuss party matters everywhere,” said Moiteela. He said BDP congresses should deliberate on national issues such as shortage of land and unemployment. He feels the BDP might have alienated a lot of voters by failing to deliberate on these issues.
The outgoing chairman also called for a meaningful contact between cabinet Ministers and the party. Moiteela is content that his region is playing prominent roles in the bye-elections, for example, at Mokoboxane, Orapa and Letlhakane. In contrast to Moiteela’s view on disgruntled BDP members who contested as independent candidates, the BDP President, Ian Khama, has vowed never to welcome them back into the BDP. Regarding internal party debates, Khama is on record complaining that party members discussed internal party matters on facebook.