One thing is increasingly becoming clear at the beleaguered Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) - its political shenanigans are threatening to tear the party through the seams as the date for its elective congress approaches.
This week’s events at Tsholetsa House where key members of the party’s secretariat were dismissed from their work has been characterised by some within the ruling party as monkeyshine calculated to favour Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi in his quest to become Chairman of the party. Executive Secretary Sechele Sechele, Deputy Executive Secretary Lee Lesetedi, Political Officer Martha Keboletse and Finance Manager Osenotse Malela were this week informed that their services are no longer needed at the party. Said Lesetedi in an interview afterwards: “We were just informed verbally on Tuesday. We are expecting a formal communication in the form of written letters before the end of this week.”
The decision to execute the ruthless purge, which was taken at a Central Committee meeting on Monday, has been met with anger and disbelief by candidates for key positions at the party’s elective congress in July. Party insiders told the Botswana Guardian on Wednesday that the plan to remove specific cadres of the secretariat is being orchestrated by BDP Secretary General Mpho Balopi, who is said to be a Masisi sympathiser and wants to bring people who will toe the line and promote the Masisi agenda. Candidates for the position of the chairmanship of the BDP are Masisi, Biggie Butale, Dikgakgamatso Seretse, Tebelelo Seretse, Dithapelo Tshotlego and Moemedi Dijeng.
Running for party positions can be a serious matter, and the July 2015 congress that is slated for the BOMASE region is especially so. That is because it will be a prelude to a greater battle for the wider control of the political landscape, although it will not change the succession battle in the party significantly. Said a BDP member who requested anonymity: “These are very senior people who are now being sidelined. The biggest question is, who stands to benefit from this? And who is behind the process?” Accusing fingers are pointed at Balopi. “The only person in control is the Secretary General,” the anonymous member continued, as if to answer himself. But Balopi this week distanced himself from any shenanigans, saying the decision was taken by the Central Committee on Monday and that the decision was taken because the party has no money to pay staff. “The decision has nothing to do with the elections,” he said, adding that nobody is closing the BDP office. However, another BDP insider has dismissed Balopi’s denial, saying if the retrenchment is innocent, it could have waited until after the congress.
According to this insider, the decision will paralyse the party as the secretariat is responsible for all the logistics for the congress. “Who will do all this now, and are they credible?,” said a source who felt that Central Committee has gone a step too far. A candidate has made it plain in an interview that he reads malice in the recent events. Some contenders for the hotly contested position of chairman were this week not amused by the latest turn of events. Ramadeluka Seretse said he was not privy to the reasons advanced to ‘purge’ members of the secretariat, but the former cabinet minister questioned the timing of the decision. “I am not saying I smell a rat, but it is rather surprising that it should be done now,” he said. “You will rather go through the congress and restructure after the big event.”
With a sense of acquiescence, Seretse added that he hopes the decision was indeed made to improve efficiency within the party. For her part, Tebelelo Seretse said the timing is “very unfortunate” because the secretariat does all the logistics for the congress. “It is a concern,” she emphasised. “One wonders if things will go according to plan.” Tebelelo too said she was not aware of the reasons for the ‘purge.’
Some political commentators see the congress as singularly crucial because it will make or break Masisi’s ambitions. Masisi, who is being accused of namedropping on his campaign trail, told this publication last week that he entered the chairmanship race with his eye on the ultimate prize - the country’s presidency.