BNF’s president Otsweletse Moupo has run his lap as the results of primary elections for his constituency clearly show. Now, argues ABRAHAM MOTSOKONO, the only honourable thing left for him to do is to step down.
There are various hypotheses that one needs to consider as the basis for investigating events of the past weekend within the main opposition Botswana National Front (BNF). For the record, party president Otsweletse Moupo was soundly beaten by an “ordinary” member of the organisation in the primary elections for his Gaborone West North constituency, a development that effectively diminishes his hopes of representing the BNF at the 2009 general elections. Firstly, one has to look at the traditional representation system of political parties once they retreat to congresses at which each ward is required to send a certain number of delegates (five from each ward in the case of BNF) and other auxiliary organs of the parties which also have to send delegates.
These are the people who vote at congresses. Therefore if the majority of them are for a certain position, then that position sees the light of the day be it election of the leadership or a policy matter. In a democracy, that inner party system functions best when there is consultation and a free flow of information from the bottom to the top and top to bottom.
The system becomes more productive if intra-party consultation at all levels of the party exists, such that when delegates attend congresses the positions they represent are in fact the majority view of the party rank and file of their respective constituencies. Historically, BNF has suffered perennial features of dysfunctional structures, which should explain ‘Operation Tsosoloso-’ a campaign to revive party structures throughout the country. Although the campaign was
launched with pomp and ceremony in the local media, there has not been feedback as to whether ‘Operation Tsosoloso’ yielded any results in terms of the revival of party structures on the ground.
So, under the delegate system, any tendency or lobby group within the party can easily hijack the entire decision - making process at the higher level of the party if party structures are dysfunctional. The phenomenon is not new in the BNF. Allegations of such hijacking were recently made in the aftermath of the 2001 BNF watershed congress at Kanye when Dr. Kenneth Koma announced he was stepping down as party leader. Then the ‘Party Line’ tendency within the BNF alleged
that the ‘Concerned Group’ had in fact simply rounded up people and labeled them delegates representing particular constituencies where the party was non-existent.
This disgruntlement was so strong that it led to the formation of the splinter National Democratic Front(NDF). Now the recent primary elections during which the BNF President was roundly defeated by Maemo Bantsi is taking place at a time when Moupo has recently been reaffirmed as party leader at the 2007 Molepolole special congress of the BNF. The question that begs an answer is whether the delegates who voted for him at the congress were espousing the position of the rank and file? Had the party structures consulted extensively on the choice of the leadership before retreating to the special congress?
It is doubtful whether under the conditions leading to the Molepolole special congress suffi cient consultation had been carried out. To start with, the convening of
that congress was a one man’s decision – a presidential decree that Moupo evoked to deal a fi nal blow to his detractors in the BNF Central Committee.
By then ordinary members of the BNF could not comprehend the real issues at stake for the congress. Obviously the issue was not merely about the choice between Moupo and his deputy Kathleen Letshabo (who led the other faction) as personalities. Rather there were critical issues on party policy, the calibre of BNF leadership and the political morality that has characterised BNF.
But did an ordinary party member have information? As there was a lot of spin in newspapers with media houses divided on the issues surrounding the BNF leadership there must also have been a lot of misinformation and disinformation bombarding the BNF rank and fi le. For example, just on the eve of the
Molepolole congress one weekly newspaper ran a lead story to the eff ect that “Kwelagobe marries Letshabo” and that particular issue of the newspaper was widely circulated at Molepolole ostensibly to create an impression that Letshabo had a politically unsavory relationship with a Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) heavyweight Daniel Kwelagobe when in fact the content of the published story was merely that Letshabo’s daughter was getting married to Kwelagobe’s son.
Even the photos displayed to accompany the story were not of the bride and groom but Daniel Kwelagobe and Kathleen Letshabo and that had the eff ect of misinforming and distorting the true nature of the crusade which the Letshabo faction of the BNF was fi ghting for: the principle that the BNF leader must be
The Letshabo camp, also on principle challenged Moupo to come out clean on issues relating to his personal fi nances and the affairs at his law firm. They felt that he owed BNF followers full explanation on the series of scandals that had dogged him just before.