Guma: Man of controversy

Controversy has always stalked the former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) chairperson Samson Moyo Guma ever since he entered active politics more than a decade ago.

In the dirty world of politics the outspoken Guma rose from nowhere to become one of the most powerful figures within the ruling party, only to fall from grace in a short period of time.

This week, Guma’s resignation from the party’s top post less than five months after his election caught many off guard, but those who have known him for many years are not surprised by the turn of events. Guma resigned from the chairmanship citing the need to clear his name from insinuations that he was working with President Mugabe’s ZANU PF to undermine President Khama’s succession plan. In addition Guma is accused of fiddling with the voters’ roll in an effort to ensure that his preferred candidates win the recent Bulela Ditswe primaries. To understand the enigma that is Guma one has to look at the political history of a man whose political and business life has been marred in controversies.

When he first contested Bulela Ditswe against the former cabinet minister Chapson Butale in 2003, Guma attracted controversy with his unusual campaign strategies. When his competitor took to the freedom squares and house-to-house campaigns, Guma funded workshops around the constituency where hundreds attended and were given food and drinks. With a huge purse Guma could afford to use his financial muscle to outsmart his competitor. Despite complaints raised by Butale and his team that Guma was buying voters with food, Guma won the Bulela Ditswe convincingly, ending the political career of one of North East longest serving MPs. As an active member of the then dominant A-team faction Guma soon became the darling of the faction. There is no doubt that at one point he was in the good books of president Khama. More often than not president Khama publicly referred to him as ‘Motebele wame’.

He did so not out of derision, but out of jest and affection, sources have said. Again, Khama’s personal friend-Thapelo Olopeng is Guma’s business partner. It wasn’t a surprise that when he became president in 2008, Khama appointed Guma the assistant minister of finance. Guma was to stay in the position for only eight months, before Khama pushed him out over allegations of corruption. The allegations were never tested in court after the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crimes decided against charging Guma. At that time, Guma who was angry at the manner in which he was forced to resign from cabinet, had tendered his resignation from the party and parliament. He later withdrew the letters after his fellow BDP members convinced him to.

Things were never the same following his resignation from parliament – Guma changed alliances and joined the less-dominant Barataphati faction. He became one of the most prominent members of the faction – leading the pack together with other leaders such as Gomolemo Motswaledi, Botsalo Ntuane and Daniel Kwelagobe. In parliament he became one of the fiercest critics of government policies. During the 2009 Kanye congress Barataphathi won all the contested positions in the central committee. Further Guma was elected into the central committee as an additional member. Again Guma’s stay in the central committee was short lived.  Internal disputes within the party that led to the suspension of Gomolemo Motswaledi from the party didn’t go well with Guma and other Barataphathi operatives. After months of bitter feuding with president Khama, Guma was expelled from the party after he failed to appear before the party disciplinary committee. Instead he had attended a meeting to map the formation of Botswana Movement for Democracy. Several other senior BDP members later defected to the BMD.

At the BMD, Guma who is often described by his detractors as imperious, was made the party’s interim treasurer – a position he held from 2010 until 2011. During the BMD first congress in 2011 Guma flatly refused to be drafted into the party’s central committee raising speculations that there were internal squabbles within the party. Not the one to hesitate from taking a decision he resigned from the BMD in July 2011, citing his deesire to resign from active politics in 2014.
“He was seriously thinking of quitting politics altogether. He had realised that BMD was not about to take over power from the BDP. Again there was some sort of reconciliation between him and Khama. The president had made it public that he erred in forcing him to resign in 2008. All these may have forced him to cut ties with the BMD, the party that he helped found,” said one BDP member who left BDP to BMD and later rejoined the BDP.

After some months as an independent MP, Guma finally joined the BDP in January 2012. Not the one to hide his ambitions, a few months later it was said that he was eying the position of chairperson. With the support of key party members and financial power Guma was able to defeat Pelonomi Venson- Moitoi – a seasoned BDP veteran and education minister at the Maun congress in July 2013.

Last modified on Friday, 06 December 2013 15:17

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