As the fight for the soul of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) intensifies it has become apparent that Moyo Guma has become the common enemy of all the three candidates vying for the chairmanship of the party. Guma, together with Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi and Patrick Balopi, all declared interest to replace outgoing party strongman Daniel Kwelagobe as BDP chairman at this year’s congress.
But Guma’s candidature had been questioned following his short romance with the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD)- an offspring of BDP, for which he also served as founding member and founding treasurer. His opponents said the BDP constitution, which stipulates at Section 30.6.4 that, “save that a member admitted from another Party shall fulfil all of the above as well as remain for a period not less than two years before such member can become a member of the Central Committee” bars him from contesting. However, the BDP party lawyers recently gave Guma the green light to contest.
The decision followed President Ian Khama’s advice to seek a second legal opinion on the legality of Guma’s candidature. The second legal opinion came from South African-based advocate, Johan de Waal who corroborated BDP lawyer Parks Tafa’s opinion that because Guma was not joining the BDP from any political party then clause 30.6.4 did not apply. But the Barata-Phathi members sympathetic to Venson-Moitoi question the authenticity of the legal opinion. “Who initiated it and what are his intentions?” a party insider queried.
Barata-Phathi feels that to seek a legal opinion on Guma’s candidature was premature, as the party has not yet declared candidates for the July congress. They feel that Tafa, who approached the South African attorney, is conflicted because he is an active member. Reached for comment Tafa said he was asked by President Khama to seek that legal opinion. Khama first sought the legal opinion of Collins Newman and Company but because there were some within the party who did not agree with Tafa’s opinion, he then asked the latter to seek an independent opinion. Khama announced de Waal’s decision during last Monday’s central committee meeting.
Tafa meanwhile rubbished claims that the central committee has to declare candidates. The BDP lawyer noted that whoever is challenging the legal opinion by de Waal is by and large challenging Khama’s powers. “Those people are misleading you and are also confusing the primary elections process with that of the congress. Whoever has a problem should go and challenge the president.” Meanwhile, this publication understands that there are renewed calls for Moitoi and Balopi to meet and come up with one consolidated lobby list that will contest against Guma.
This issue was being discussed in hushed voices but a source on Wednesday said that both camps from Balopi and Venson-Moitoi now strongly feel that it is time to meet and talk. “We need to wipe out Guma’s campaign,” said a Venson-Moitoi sympathiser. The two camps are of the view that Guma does not qualify. “Guma should not win at all costs.” Another source closer to Balopi camp said while the second legal opinion favoured Guma, animosity remains in other camps. For his part Guma said the two legal opinions are confirming what he always knew. “I always knew that I qualify.” He said he was not aware that Balopi and Venson-Moitoi now want to collaborate against him.