‘No one can salvage BDP from its self-destruction’

Ernest Moloi
Monday, 31 July 2017
BDP members BDP members BOTSWANA GUARDIAN

Moses Ntwayagae joined BDP in 1977 at the age of 26 years at the same time when the party formed its Youth League. 

In fact he was born into Domkrag because his parents were members of the party. He didn’t know anything about opposition parties. He was a staunch critic of opposition parties at the time and didn’t share any of their ideologies.

He says they built the BDP Youth League. At that time Domkrag was a party that taught a great deal. Here is his account:

We had seminars at which we were drilled on governance issues and party mobilisation and strategies. When I joined the party I became deputy chairperson of the Youth League.

Mma Mophuting was Chairperson of the Youth League when it was still only Gaborone constituency. There was no Gaborone South or Gaborone North at the time. I was elected into the committee and when its term ended I was elected deputy Chairperson for Laughter Kopi, who was Chairperson.

Later at a youth congress held in Selibe Phikwe it was decided that every region must have a Choir. I am the first person to form a Choir in Gaborone called Bontleng Choir. In 1980 there was a youth festival at Ditshupong, which was officiated by Lady Ruth Khama. Bontleng Choir represented Gaborone. At the same time we formed another Choir called International.

In 1980 after the choir festival Matlhabaphiri approached me and asked that we use Bontleng Choir as the basis for the Party Choir. It was formed in 1981 by GUS Matlhabaphiri, Grace Petersen and I as its first Chairperson. There was Mma Magapa, Mr. Suping and Mr. Mokgobelelo and Thabeng as well as Mme Josephine Mohutsiwa and many others of Bontleng Choir. Others didn’t join, but these are the founding members of International Choir. We composed songs and I conducted the Choir. I remember very well when Mozambique president Samora Machel came to officiate at the Trade Fair and we needed to compose a song for him, which task was given two others but could not deliver. Then Daniel Kwelagobe asked me at the last minute to compose the song and in to two days’ time I had composed the song and was teaching it to the Choir!

Then we went for Choir competitions but International was transformed into a Party Choir so that it did not compete. Bontleng competed for the first time in Serowe where it took position three in BDP Choir competitions. Then in 1986 it competed in Molepolole and I won the trophy.

From 1985 to 1994 we had participated in eight competitions out of which my Choir had won five. We competed as Branches at regional level then proceeded to Nationals. Music for me is a talent from God that I was born with. I can’t tell you how I came to be a musician. I am not educated, my mother and father were singers.

I joined Seventh Day Adventist Church where I met people like Batho Molema who were very inspirational. There was one gentleman by the name Dal Kote who once worked for Radio Botswana. He inspired me very much with his voice. I emulated and exceeded him! Rre Batho Molema and Chris Mpuang were my music teachers in the Church Choir. They used to make me sing in Staff Notations, that’s where I copied notes and eventually became a singer and conductor through observation. That is my journey at BDP Youth League. 

The last Choir I conducted was in 1995 when I had relocated to Shoshong from Gaborone, after taking the Shoshong Constituency Choir when the constituency was still under Member of Parliament Modibedi Robi. It also competed with the other strong Choirs I had conducted before, but it still managed to win the cup in Selibe Phikwe.

The present day Donkrag

Today’s Domkrag pales in comparison to that of bo Rre Masire (the late Sir Ketumile Masire) and bo rre Peter Mmusi! Granted, change is constant, but I believe development must lead to righteousness and justice. However, when you check out the real situation, it is characterised by infighting and power struggles, which is not good for the party. In my analysis I still believe that the BDP did a very good job from 1965 until 1989, when things started sliding. I saw how things were not done properly in government. In 1989 I was nominated as a Councillor in Gaborone, my Chairperson was Paul Rantao. He loved me. But he belonged to opposition.I am stickler for procedure. I don’t necessarily blindly follow a person. For instance if the party constitution provides for procedure and you persuade me to go against it, I refuse.

In that Council, as you know as competing parties there is always disagreements. As a result I was caught right in the middle. At that time there were two Motions – one from then deputy Chairperson, Tshepo Motswagole (currently High Court Judge) for the opposition and another by Thuso Makgekgenene for the BDP. In my view both motions didn’t make the grade but were personal sentiments, which I didn’t agree with.

Motswagole’s motion was a personal attack on Matlhabaphiri. I didn’t agree with it and argued vehemently against it until he withdrew it, while Thuso’s was an attack on Rantao. I singlehandedly debated it and tore it apart. At that time I had gone for a year without being included into a single committee because I was considered arrogant. My partner in crime was Pelotelele Tlhaodi, but after those motions, I was selected into four committees!In 1995 I came to Shoshong at the request of Modibedi Robi who wanted me to help him with his campaign for primary elections and later national elections, which tasks I acquitted admirably as he went on to win both although at the time BDP was basically just riding on the crest of a rich wave. And then I was nominated into Central District Council. In 1999 I was asked by Kalamare people to come and represent them as their Councillor. I enjoyed my term as Councillor there for 10 years when I decided to leave in 2009 to pursue other commitments. I felt I had done my part after 20 years as Councillor. I don’t think politics is an inheritance it is service, that’s why I left. My track record speaks volumes there! The Trust and the Community Hall whose plan was modelled on the Selibe Phikwe plan are some of my legacies.I believe that at that time most senior party leaders in the likes of  bo-rre Mmusi, Patrick Balopi, rre Kebatlamang Morake; David Magang, who I still remember vividly, Ronald Sebego and Michael Tshipinare had a great love for me. It seemed they had respect for me because of my musical background but also for my oratory skills. They used to invite me to address political rallies and sometimes to teach in seminars. That’s how I grew up in Domkrag. But at that time there was respect for fellow democrats, when there was difference of opinion between members it would be solved internally you didn’t hear the matter being addressed in freedom squares. 

Yet factions existed at the time in BDP from as far back as 1991 when the late Moutlwakgola Nwako would challenge Mmusi in vain. Then rre Mompati Merafhe and Festus Mogae came in. I think the coming into the picture of these two men rattled Ponatshego Kedikilwe who eventually joined forces with Daniel Kwekagobe’s faction and they became very strong factions to contend with.

Yet these differences were not overly blown out of proportion like it happens currently. I don’t know. It may be because at that time there were no Facebook and Internet, but I know we were a generation that had respect for human dignity. 

I used to differ with Matlhabaphiri but when it came to party work we put all those differences aside. There were factions like Nkate/Merafhe and Kedikilwe/Kwelagobe these caused differences and realignments, but there was respect for one another notwithstanding. I remember the 1993 BDP congress known as Kgola Disana which was an open forum to thrash out our differences that started at 8PM and ended at 5AM. It was just open debates with no insults, scuffles and fistfights. 

When it ended we were a united party and went to elections. It was thought that Merafhe would win because he had been very vocal in debates during the night with an upper hand over Kwelagobe. But in the morning Kwelagobe worked his campaign magic and he won the election as secretary general while Mmusi won as Chairperson.

There was a repeat in 1995 in Mogoditshane when Kwelagobe won yet again. The 1997 congress was another hotly contested and it took another whole night of jostling and debating to resolve our differences so that in the morning we opted for compromise instead of elections by selecting from both factions to make the central committee. 

BDP has a strong tradition of conflict resolution which surpasses all other political parties to this day. It knows how to avoid crisis, it would rather go for a retreat than plunge headlong into an intractable crisis. This was best shown in 2003 when Ian Khama and Kedikilwe contested for the chairmanship and President Mogae made a divisive statement whilst opening a Women’s Congress in Selieb Phikwe that Vice President was campaigning for the chairmanship of the party with his blessings!

Some members of Kedikilwe’s faction such as the late Gomolemo Motswaledi and Gilbert Mangole were very unhappy. After the Gantsi congress there was a retreat arranged at which Mogae apologised that he never meant Kedikilwe any harm but that he had to lend Khama support since he was the one that had handpicked him from the Botswana Defence Force! Even then he apologised. I also remember in 1989 when the late Edison Masisi at a congress in Zwenshambe moved for compromise requesting that (re beile botsetse) the incumbent committee should continue instead of voting that would have caused many divisions! Only after general elections would the election of the central committee resume.

In 1998 when the late President Sir Ketumile Masire stepped down, I was Councillor. We were worried that some of the infighting in the party that were threatening the stability of the party could soil his reputation as the country’s best president ever. In my opinion Masire remains the best president ever.

I left the BDP in 2010. I feel the party did very well, but that it should have stepped aside in 1989 to rejuvenate itself. In terms of development today, we are marking time instead of going further unlike in the past. By this time we should be in a position to make timber and planks for roofing and ceiling on our own; but if you look at the programmes that BDP is making they are intended to woo voters, there is no planning at all.

What needs to be done is to remove the BDP from power not through hatred but the ballot box. I don’t have hatred for BDP not by the slightest degree, I only wish for democracy that is accompanied by developments that will realise job creation to avert the high rate of crime that we are witnessing. BDP must step down. 

I see lots of problems for the BDP. I don’t see anyone who can salvage it from this pit. 

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