Botswana Democratic Party’s massive recruitment drive launched on the opposition and led by party Chairman and Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi has completely infiltrated its breakaway party, Botswana Movement for Democracy.
Botswana Guardian has observed that all the BDP’s new recruits come from the BMD. However, the over 50 rank and file BMD members that have defected to the BDP all came from one faction sympathetic to Advocate Sidney Pilane. Since his arrival the party has been deeply divided especially after the Mochudi West Branch admitted him back into the party he founded in 2010.
Sources at BMD have revealed that the anti Pilane faction led by party President Ndaba Gaolathe and his vice, Wynter Mmolotsi is having a field day as the BDP continues to recruit members who are deemed to be pro- Pilane led by BMD Chairman Nehemiah Modubule and Secretary General Gilbert Mangole. “What the BDP is doing is making it easy for Gaolathe who has declared his position against Pilane joining the party. That is one other reason why you would never hear the party leadership position on the exodus and defections of members to the ruling party. This is because those people are the ones who were sympathetic to Pilane”, said a BMD National Executive Committee member.
It is understood that after the BDP started making inroads on the pro- Pilane camp (Modubule- Mangole led faction) the Gaolathe-Mmolotsi led camp decided to come to the table to negotiate a compromise. Prior to the defections they insisted on a Special Congress as opposed to a compromise, which was suggested by the Modubule-Mangole faction. The rank and file members who are joining the party en-masse have been associated with the pro Pilane camp. These are the people according to sources who were ready to fight tooth and nail for Pilane and were holding various positions in the party structures.
After he was admitted back into the BMD, Pilane is said to have assisted in resurrecting the collapsed structures across the country. The rank and file members who were on various party structures were ready to ensure that come the Special Congress they would ensure Advocate Pilane’s admission into the BMD is voted for. BMD Youth League President Phenyo Segokgo is said to be among the party leadership who are against Pilane’s admission. Segokgo even though most of the members who are leaving the BMD are youth has been mum on the matter raising suspicions that he could be among those who are celebrating the dismantling of the pro Pilane camp.
Segokgo has since stated that they are worried about losing members but they cannot be commenting on the same issue each week as the BDP parades the new recruits. Most of the people who have been paraded by the BDP as new recruits from the BMD, have indicated that they left because the leadership is at loggerheads. They have also stated they were being victimised because they supported a certain individual who the party leadership did not want. If what the new recruits said is anything to go by then more BMD members especially those in leadership positions are expected to join the BDP. Yesterday BDP was scheduled to welcome yet another prominent figure from BMD. BDP Secretary General Botsalo Ntuane said their focus is on recruitment and they care less about the BMD factions. He wondered how if politics is a game of numbers- then losing members could stabilise the BMD.
Ntuane stated that those who join the BDM do so voluntarily while others are recruited. “We have three categories of recruits- those who volunteer those that we recruit who promise to join only to back track and those who promise and eventually join the BDP. We do not recruit along factional lines and those that we recruit we make it clear to them that as BDP we do not condone factions”, explained Ntuane. For his part Mmolotsi declined to comment saying the Secretary General is best placed to comment as the custodian of the party secretariat. Mangole could not be reached as his phone was off. Pilane despite having been followed by this publication to respond to a questionnaire delivered to him regarding his return and influence in the BMD has not responded even though he promised to do so.
There are growing concerns that Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi risks compromising his chances of retaining the position of Botswana Democratic Party chairman which he reportedly seeks to defend at the elective congress next year.
Masisi, who is the current Vice President also seeks to succeed President Ian Khama as Head of State when Khama retires at the end of his two five-year terms in 2018. Unconfirmed reports say that, the current Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development, Nonofo Mofefhi, is challenging Masisi for the two positions. A recent visit to Tutume by Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi has ignited angry accusations by members of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in the area who complain that the VP disregarded protocol when he jetted into the village and met party members with neither the involvement nor knowledge of the party structures in the region or constituency.
It is alleged that Masisi has been meeting and talking to party veterans such as former Members of Parliament for Nkange constituency Obed Chilume and his successor, Ambrose Masalila. Sources in the BDP in the Nkange constituency which encompasses Tutume note that in the runup to the 2014 general election, there was palpable animosity between Chilume and Masalila on the one hand and Batshu on the other. Masalila lost the BDP primary elections to Batshu before the 2009 general election. Apparently, he was not happy with the outcome of the primary elections hence the fallout, which sources say continues to this day. BDP sources say that Masisi, who has been recruiting members of the opposition and especially from Botswana Congress Party, wants to position his own people in the constituency to help his bid for the chairmanship and later, Head of State.
This has not gone down well with supporters of Edwin Batshu, the sitting MP as they insist that Masisi wants to replace Batshu with former BCP chairman Batisani Maswibilili in the next general election. Maswibilili, who is the current Chairman of the BCP Committee of Elders, has unsuccessfully contested the constituency losing to Masalila twice and to Batshu once. Matters allegedly came to a head when Masisi was officiating at Batshu’s victory party recently. “We had heard rumours that the Vice President had been holding clandestine meetings with both Batshu’s detractors as well as BCP members he is allegedly recruiting into the party to oust Batshu in the next election. What we found suspicious about the whole thing is that the Vice President never saw the need to meet party structures in the area. He went behind them and held secret meetings with some members instead.
“This has prompted suspicions that he has a hidden agenda,” said a party official in the area speaking on condition of anonymity. He added that, because the rumours of Masisi’s alleged flirting with BCP activists had been flying thick and thin, Masisi seemed to confirm them when, to the utter chagrin of the BDP fraternity, he invited the group of BCP members who had sat under a tree at the victory celebration, to come forward and sit at the top table which they reportedly did. When contacted for comment, Maswibilili could only say, “I will not glorify the madness of the BDP members and duplicity of some BCP members who are spreading the false rumours.” Maswibilili, who does not understand what the fuss is all about, refused to shed more light on his relationship with the BDP save to say that he innocently attended the rally with other BCP activists.
Interestingly, a BDP councillor, Ishmael Mokgethi and Botho Ntirang are said to have openly come down heavily on the Vice President regarding his way of operating. Mokgethi, who is the chairman of the Tutume Sub-District, reportedly lambasted Masisi for holding secret meetings with certain party members in the constituency to the exclusion of others especially the party structures. When contacted for comment, Mokgethi said, “It is true I complained about certain things that I felt were not being done properly.” For his part, Ntirang is said to have lectured the party ‘elders’ on the need to be careful with new recruits. Masisi has been accused of being obsessed with new recruits at the expense of the older members who have demonstrated undying loyalty to the party. There has also been a tendency by Masisi, who has been on the rampage winning over members of the opposition to the ruling party, to have them welcomed at rallies outside their places of residence. For example, when Ditiro Majadibodu and a number of BCP members joined the BDP, they were unveiled at a rally in the Barolong-Mabule constituency during a by-election there.
More recently a group of BDP members returning to the party after leaving in connection with their controversial loss in the primary elections towards the 2014 general election, were paraded at a rally in Kalakamate just before the recent by-election there. Some of them come from Zwenshambe while the others originate from Nlapkhwane villages. “It is true that I stood to address the issue of welcoming people back into the party but outside the places they stay and will likely contest. The time has come for us to evaluate the benefits of this new strategy. Some of us doubt if it works,” said Ntirang. Chilume denied knowledge of any plan to oust Batshu. While he admitted to having had meetings with the Vice President, he said, “Maswibilili and I meet a lot over issues of the development of our village. I am one of the founders of the BDP especially in this area and therefore as far as Masisi is concerned, I worked with his father at government when Mokgweetsi was a student. We discuss a lot of things and not Batshu. In any case, as chairman and Vice President, Masisi does not need permission from anyone to visit whomsoever he wishes to visit,” said the veteran politician.
As far as he is concerned, Batshu need not fear anything because if the people want him, they will return him to Parliament. “Why is he afraid?’’ asked Chilume rhetorically. In an interview, Batshu denied knowledge of the allegations doing the rounds that he is the target of an internal effort to replace him. “To be honest, I am not aware of it but in politics, there are always enemies. Regarding Maswibilili, I personally would be happy to have him in the BDP. With respect to who stands and who does not, that is a matter for members to decide. There are processes to be followed,” said Batshu. Masisi could not be reached for comment as his mobile phone was off air at the time of going to press.
The recent exclusion of Botswana Democratic Party(BDP) secretary general, Botsalo Ntuane by party leadership from the list of Specially Elected Members of Parliament is said to have galvanised the anti-Masisi lobby in the party.
This happens a few months before the party’s elective congress next year in which Minister Nonofo Molefhi is expected to challenge the incumbent, Mokgweetsi Masisi. Indications are that when President Khama retires in 2018, Molefhi will challenge Masisi for the position of president. Media reports show that party leader President Ian Khama, overruled the party caucus and insisted on the nomination of little known Bogolo Kwenewendo and Mephato Reatile much to the chagrin of many BDP MPs who had lobbied for Ntuane as they believe he deserved recognition for the leadership he has provided to the party since he assumed the secretary general-ship in July last year in Mmadinare.
The nominations were an outcome of a recent controversial amendment of the Constitution increasing the number of SEMPS from four to six. “We rallied behind Masisi in large numbers inMmadinare because we did not want to embarrass him by voting somebody else for the chairman of the party. He was already the Vice President and had we denied him the support, he would have lost and that would have been a vote of no confidence on him. This would have compromised his chances of succeeding Khama as President of this country. The one thing he must remember is that, we had not even made him Vice President ourselves.”
By failing to defend Ntuane for nomination at the next year’s congress, said a former rabid Masisi supporter who preferred anonymity, the matter will not end there because Ntuane was “voted into the position of party secretary general by us,”. He said that although he has been known to be a Masisi supporter, should Molefhi enter the presidential race, “I intend to support him. We want to punch Masisi hard.”
Among the litany of Masisi’s transgressions is reported proclivity to work almost exclusively with new recruits especially from the opposition. “The fact that he surrounds himself with mainly rejects of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) is itself a vote of no confidence on all of us who have been loyal to the party. Since he does not have confidence in us, he must not expect us to support him for either the chairmanship or presidency of the party.
“For both these positions, we would rather rally behind Molefhi should it happen that he runs,” said the source who does not think it is difficult for Molefhi to topple Masisi considering Ntuane’s and Molefhi’s support at the Mmadinare congress last year where they got the highest numbers in the categories they contested. Ntuane beat his rival by a big margin while Molefhi, who stood for an additional member, was endorsed by the largest number of people in that category.
Indications are that the daggers are now out for Masisi. For instance, the BDP WatsApp and Facebook pages were awash with slogans such as Ko Kalakamate re nonofile (Loosely translated that, in Kalakamate we are strong) after the BDP beat the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) in the Kalakamate by-election last week. The new councillor Zibani Mbalambi is said to be a Molefhi supporter. The slogan is also used to celebrate Molefhi’s popularity among his supporters.
The last couple of days have been sad moments not only for the BCL employees but also for the business community at large. The Selibe Phikwe business community on Wednesday expressed great disappointment at the decision by government to close down the BCL mine.
At a forum supposed to have been addressed by Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi but addressed by Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Advocate Sadique Kebonang at Selebi Hotel in Selibe Phikwe, the business community told Kebonang and his team of senior government officials that there is no point to address them as they had already made their decision to shut down the backbone of Selibe Phikwe economy. Andrew Frantzeskou, General Manager of Syringa Lodge who has been a resident of Phikwe for the past 43 years, said Phikwe will be nothing without BCL. “We survive by BCL. The economy of Phikwe should have been diversified many years ago. All the businesses here will be forced to lay off staff. What happens to our properties, where do we go?” he asked rhetorically.
One former BCL mine superintendent who identified himself only as Smith, and had worked for BCL for 16 years asked the government how it let the situation to get out of hand when they could see that the mine was not sustainable. He said if at all what the government is preaching that the mine has not been making profit for its entire 40 years, why did it allow it to get to this stage. According to Smith, BCL is currently besieged by a crisis of management. Kebonang assured the business community that the liquidator will go through all the processes to check if indeed there has been mismanagement at BCL. Some of the businesses that have been sub contracted to BCL are left wondering how they are going to approach their employees to tell them that BCL is no more, and that they no longer have jobs.
Kumbulane Mabena of the Business Community Association in the SPEDU region expressed that, “the process of getting SPEDU and it moving forward has been a very slow one”. SPEDU is the next government’s vehicle to turn around the Phikwe town.
Mabena added that decision-making at government level is very slow and SPEDU officials are always saying that they are constrained. “As we move forward together as stakeholders, the business community is willing to help with ideas. Let us not take the usual route that we have been taking in making decisions, we should involve one another,” Mabena pleaded with the minister.
A representative from Morula Private School, where some of the BCL employees have school children attending there at a subsidised fee, asked if the fees would be honoured going forward now that the company has shut down. “Without the BCL subsidy, our school will close down in January 2017.” In response, Kebonang said the school fees for this month would be paid. As for the coming periods, the liquidator is the one who will be handling every matter that concerns the creditors.
Other concerns raised were that the SPEDU Board of Directors does not have a representative from the Phikwe region. Kebonang responded, “I do not have an answer to that, but it makes sense to have someone who understands the region so well sitting on the Board.” On other issues, he also revealed that the government has decided that it will set aside P13million per month to continue running the shafts that cannot be shut down now. Employees have been allowed to remain in the BCL houses. On the 7th February 2017, Warren Dixon, the liquidator will submit a detailed report on his findings to the high court.
The sole reason of operating a business is to get sustained profits, nothing else. This does not matter if government or a private investor owns the business. I am compelled to reiterate this statement because of the current tightrope that government is currently walking through in a desperate attempt to save BCL copper mine.
Looking from a distance, it will appear the executive arm of government is having limited options. However, some four hundreds of kilometers, north of the capital city, more than 4500 workers trek to BCL copper mine in Selibe-Phikwe to make a fortune for the company and a meal for their families. However, in recent months, workers and indeed management have become increasingly jittery and restless. The fear? They might just wake up and discover the government had closed the mine, for good! For sometime now, BCL has dominated high-leveled closed-door meetings at the government enclave. The agenda items centred on how the copper mine should operate sustainably and profitably.
Two weeks ago, a local business weekly made chilling death knell to miners with its article titled ‘Finished and Klaar’. In the article, the paper said cabinet has taken a decision to close the mine as it is not sustainable to run. The determination on whether to shut down the mine or not remains a very challenging decision to make by cabinet. However, what is key is what government should do with a profitable future BCL. The mine is currently operating at a loss and it has a mountain of debts to descend from. However, the mine is currently not producing anything to generate revenue, let alone pay its numerous creditors. It will seem BCL top executives these days spend more time discussing how they could sweeten their funding proposals for impactful responses.
However, what is becoming clearer by the day is that the same government is running impatient that BCL has now become more of a burden, competing with other equally important national projects, with its piling financial proposals on the back rock of drying state coffers.
It’s a precarious situation for President Ian Khama’s government, which is expected to post a P6 billion deficit in its current budget (2016-17). The choice to close the mine will not be helpful for now, as government has to first recover the invested billions of Pula. Government has also made guarantees to BCL mine, including the recent $100 million from Barclays bank. Any solution must ensure the mine returns to profitability in the medium term. This of course, is if the global commodity crunch was to end and prices for copper warrant sustained mining.
While government’s top officials are still in deep thoughts about how to deal with BCL, the critical matter that should be lingering on their heads is how to deal with the mine’s shareholding structure. It is a decision that could have been made some years ago, but unfortunately it was not to be. Currently, government is the sole shareholder at BCL. This has become increasingly knotty, as whatever demand BCL makes government has to bear it alone. In the modern business world, this kind of business model is eroding fast. It is even problematic for Botswana government, which surprisingly but forthrightly speaking, seems not to truly understand the art of mining.
I strongly believe that to solve this menace, once and for all, government should just sell part of BCL once the mine is profitable. The share sale will prove vital during unprofitable and unsustainable periods. If government had partnered with other investors shareholders at BCL, it could have acted as fallback and even more importantly, as a measure to spread risk in the highly volatile mining business. De Beers and Botswana have had a largely successful partnership with their Debswana.
For example, when Jwaneng was facing possible closure in the foreseeable future, the two shareholders quickly jumped in and invested P24 billion in a project known as Cut 8. The project is expected to prolong the life of the mine by at least a decade or so. When the Russian company, Norilsk sold its minority stake at BCL some few years ago leaving government as the sole shareholder, an expression of interest should have been opened immediately to invite strategic investors on board. At the current time, BCL’s aging equipment and mining underground become expensive; the deeper the mine, the more expensive and risky to run it.
Recent loss of lives at the mine can attest to this. The Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi admitted, as Bloomberg recently reported from Kigali, that the mine is costing them dearly. “It's unprofitable, unsustainable and expensive,” he said this on the sidelines of the African Union elective meetings two weeks ago. Further, the republic’s number two said they will continue to inject P1, 4 billion on the mine to keep it afloat every year, even when the company was to stop mining.
This perhaps shed some light on the imminent closure of the mine. To save taxpayers from further paying more for BCL problems alone, government should at the earliest possible time part sell the mine. This will not be for the first time that a government does this. In Russia, Vladimir Putin’s government has sold part of its stake at Alrosa to plug its budget deficit. For now, government is likely to come with a workable solution to keep the mine running. However, to avoid falling into the same pit year in and year out, government should sell part of its shareholding at the Selibe Phikwe mine. The money raised would be thrown in the economic diversification efforts.
Gaborone High Court has dismissed an urgent application by Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) last night (Monday) after the latter were denied an opportunity to hold peaceful demonstrations over prevailing BCL mine accidents. The application requested the court to order the Commissioner of police to amend a permit granting the union to petition Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi over the BCL mine crisis.
The BMWU was expected to march from Notwane grounds to the Office of the President (OP) in Gaborone to protest against prevailing accidents that recently claimed the lives of BCL mineworkers at Selibe Phikwe. Nevertheless the BMWU is expected to deliver the petition to Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi at Notwane grounds this afternoon. However, both the OP together with the police earlier turned down the planned peaceful demonstration, which was supposed to take place today at the open space next to the OP this afternoon (Tuesday).
The initial petition was served as an appeal to the Vice President after the board of Directors of the BCL mine and the Minister of the Minerals, Energy and Water Resources Kitso Mokaila were allegedly unable to attend to the mine accident crisis. According to the BMWU press statement, the BMWU on the 22 June 2016 requested to deliver a petition to the Masisi which was accepted and confirmed in writing by the high office on 28 June 2016 stating. At the same time, an application to hold a demonstration was lodged with B.L Bareki, Officer Commanding District No. 3 of the Botswana Police Service on 22 June 2016. The application was seeking a permit to take part in a peaceful demonstration from Notwane grounds to the OP.
According to the Union, the OP Senior Private Secretary one Pilane, the high office declined a request for the demonstration. Moreover, the BMWU said OP decided that the petition should not be received in Gaborone but rather at Selebi Phikwe. However, the BMWU argued that they were informed very late about the decision taken by the OP to turn down the demonstration. Nevertheless, the BWMU argued that they could not change the venue from Gaborone to Phikwe as they had already agreed earlier with the Vice president to petition in Gaborone.
Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi has been placed on the weight scale and found to be too light to qualify as the country’s next president.
Francistown South Member of Parliament (MP) Wynter Mmolotsi told a fully packed political rally at Philip Matante East ward that his greatest fear and worst nightmare is for Mokgweetsi Masisi to be the next president of Botswana.
“The time I was still a member of the BDP Masisi was like a ball boy in terms of status,” said the deputy president of Botswana Movement for Democracy, adding that Masisi “held no position of influence,” and has never contributed anything of significance to the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) since its formation.
He said it boggles the mind as to why President Ian Khama handpicked him to be his successor at the expense of other deserving BDP members who could do better than him. But then he answered himself: “Masisi was chosen simply because he is Khama’s bootlicker as he dances to every tune the president plays,” he said.
Mmolotsi continued that while at the BDP he was ranked No. 5 in the party’s hierarchy as deputy secretary general higher than Masisi, who was at the time “just a nonentity,” he said wondering what qualities Masisi possesses to make him a president. Mmolotsi implored voters to not vote for BDP candidate Peter Nare as he accused the ruling party councillors of sleeping on the job and preferring beer guzzling over the concerns of their electorate. He added that the current BDP councillors in his constituency are not at all cooperative and sabotage whatever developments are earmarked for the area.
“Most of them do not have my phone number and there is one particular councillor who spends most of his time drowning himself in beer and I want you as responsible citizens to desist from wasting your votes. If you vote for Nare, you will be making the gravest mistake as I long to work with a councillor from the opposition since most of us have the interests of our electorate at our hearts compared to the BDP councillors who are only concerned with the politics of the belly.”
He pointed out that he had a good working relationship with the late Shadreck Nyeku who was his comrade and a workaholic. He begged the electorate to vote for Uyapo Nyeku on the 23rd of April 2016 since he is a capable leader who can take their ward to another level.
Tension among democrats continues to play itself out as the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) prepares to go to an electoral congress in Mmadinare next month. Things are in that descending order of importance. An invitation by the Southern Region to former president Sir Ketumile Masire has triggered heated debate regarding whether Masire has endorsed Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi for the position of party chairman. Masisi is contesting against four others in Dikgakgamatso Ramadeluka Seretse, Tebelelo Seretse, Biggie Butale and Moemedi Dijeng.
Since the Jwaneng regional congress last Saturday, reports have emerged that Masire wrote a letter to the Southern Region endorsing Masisi. This is something that both the Region and Masire have vehemently denied. However, what all agreed is that Masire was invited as an elder who comes from that region and was to give a word of encouragement at the regional elective congress. However, Masire did not attend as he had travelled to Dubai to attend a meeting of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation as a board member of the governance body. Instead he wrote a letter of apology declining the invitation. It is his response that has caused so much brouhaha.
Masire’s letter reads in part: “Although I have retired from taking part in party meetings and other activities, I would have loved to have taken part in your meeting which should, amongst other things, be a congratulatory one for somebody from the region, being the Vice President of the country, as well as a preparatory meeting for presenting him as the region’s candidate for the chairmanship of the party in Mmadinare. May our hopes and wishes find grace in the eyes of the Lord. Wishing you a successful conference.” Former cabinet minister, Peter Siele, read the letter. The latter was among several party elders who were invited to grace the occasion by the region’s former chairman Julius Kamodi and his committee. Siele has confirmed attending the congress as an elder and being asked from the floor to read Masire’s message as well as give a word of encouragement.
Kamodi says they invited “all our elders, especially those who served in Parliament, to embrace congress. When we invited Masire, he did not know who would be here or who would be elected. He responded by tendering an apology. He was merely congratulating our region for having produced a Vice President as this was the first congress he would attend”. On Wednesday this week, Masire sought to set the record straight and denied ever endorsing any candidate for any position. Says Masire in a strongly worded statement: “I am a board member of Mo Ibrahim Foundation on Governance. In that capacity, I was due to attend a meeting in Dubai on 5 - 7 June 2015. Two days before my departure, I had an invitation to speak in Jwaneng at the Domkrag meeting of the Southern Region. I declined because I was going to be in Dubai on the day for which I was invited.
“I however thanked the chairman for the invitation. I also congratulated them for one of their parliamentary candidates having become the Vice President of the country and wished them to put up a credible candidate for the chairmanship of the party. Since I had no pre-knowledge of whom the conference would decide on, I could only express the hope for their candidate to be worthy to hold that position. For all I know, the candidate could be from any other region. “Having outlined the above, I am not in a position to apologise to anyone for responding to the chairman’s invitation the way I did. Common courtesy demands that if you get an invitation, you should express thanks for it and acknowledge whatever the meeting is intending to achieve. This was the essence of my response to the invitation. This is what constitutes the body of my letter to the chairman, and if he chose to share that with the meeting, it was up to him.
“If those who heard the message interpreted it in the context of the North and the South, it would be most unfortunate. I can only say to them, ‘Gomotsegang, welang dibete,’ my message was not meant to support any candidate over any other. We have a very good slate of candidates for the chairmanship of the party. Age, gender and youth are all brandishing their amour for the battle for the chairmanship of the party. It is up to them to ask for inspiration for the congress to choose the best from the good, the better and the best.
“Perhaps this is as good a time as any to express my concern. We seem to be missing the substance to embrace the shadow. Botswana is whatever we can wish it to be. Botswana is more important than parties and parties are more important than individuals and individuals are more important than their positions. Things are in that descending order of importance. What is worrying now is that positions seem to be deemed to be more important than the party and the party more important than the country.”
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) national chairman, Daniel Kwelagobe has declared his support for Tebelelo Seretse in the ongoing race for the position of party chairperson.
The BDP will hold its elective congress in Mmadinare this July. Member of Parliament Biggie Butale, former MPs Ramadeluka Seretse and Tebelelo Seretse, Moemedi Dijeng, Seteng Motalaote, Dithapelo Tshotlego and Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi are contesting for the hot seat. Masisi, the latest entrant in the race, is expected to automatically succeed President Khama as Head of State when the President retires in 2018.
His supporters argue that, doubling as chairman of the party would make him a better president of the party as he would be closer to the party structures. Kwelagobe disagrees. “That is a joke. What is needed is not somebody who will become chairperson to learn the goings-on of the party first but someone who goes in there to lead the party.” In an interview, Kwelagobe, spoke glowingly of Tebelelo Seretse.
“I support Tebelelo Seretse because of her long and meaningful activism in the party. She was in the BDP Youth Wing during her early days. I was in the leadership of the mother body myself from which I took note of her contribution to the BDP. She travelled the length and breadth of this country raising funds for the youth. As an adult, she led the BDP Women’s Wing. She has both been a Member of Parliament (MP) and of the Central Committee,” said the former MP for Molepolole South and former long serving party secretary general.
Ironically, Seretse challenged Kwelagobe at the Kanye congress in 2010 but lost. Back then, President Ian Khama, who publicly supported her against Kwelagobe, spoke in glowing terms about her. He described her as a selfless visionary while portraying Kwelagobe as a self-seeking individual who was also a spent force. The historically conscious Kwelagobe reminisced, “Only a few years ago, she was rightly portrayed by this country’s leadership as a visionary and quality leader. That still stands and if anything, she has become even better in terms of quality,” opined the man many say knows where all the bodies are buried with respect to the BDP.
It is widely speculated that Khama backs Masisi in the high stakes fight for the chairmanship of the party. Former party chairman, Guma Moyo has been quoted in the media declaring his support for Masisi for the position of chairmanship. Meanwhile, another BDP veteran, who is also a former Minister, Margaret Nasha, a close friend of Kwelagobe, decided to be diplomatic when asked to say who she supported.
“Let the best person, the most hard-working, approachable person who genuinely cares about the party and its members win. I know exactly who that person is. But I am not sharing that information with you,” wrote Nasha in an SMS in response to an enquiry. She also revealed that she had spoken to the person she supports and wished that person well. Is it Seretse, who happens to be a woman like herself? The gender activist replied, “Your suspicions could be true.”
Both Kwelagobe and Nasha do not share the concern by onlookers that the number of people contesting the chairmanship of the BDP is needlessly high. “Not only is this good for democracy. The party constitution gives everybody the right to vote and be voted for. It is easy for a two-way race to develop into factions,” said Kwelagobe without elaborating. He is happy that none of the contenders is circulating a lobby list. Expressing concern over allegations of vote-buying even in an internal party elections, he said that people should consider somebody for endorsement on the basis of the person’s abilities as well as what the person has done for the party. According to Nasha, “The number of candidates does not necessarily bring polarisation. Democrats deserve the right to choose. The more the merrier!”
Like Kwelagobe, her choice is, “Somebody who knows the party and works hard. Not an armchair leader.” Nasha, the immediate past Speaker of the National Assembly recently published a book casting aspersions on the party leadership especially Khama much to the chagrin of those concerned. For his part, former cabinet Minister, Peter Siele, said that he was not yet ready to share his voting habits. “To be honest, only one candidate, Mokgweetsi Masisi, has sought my support. As for the other candidates or their campaign teams, they are yet to talk to me,” said Siele adding that he had sat with Ramadeluka Seretse and Masisi in cabinet. Outgoing BDP chairman, who also doubled as Vice President Ponatshego Kedikilwe would not be drawn into discussing his preferred candidate either.
“My answer is that it has to be somebody who shows he has the welfare of the people at heart by creating necessary opportunities for them. It has to be somebody who can appreciate the challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality. It has to be someone who understands the demographic changes we face as a country. It has to be a selfless person who appreciates that the party is above self,” thundered Kedikilwe.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has not endorsed any candidate for the crucial elections to its central committee that will be the major item on the agenda of the ruling party’s congress in July in Mmadinare.
Deputy Administrative Secretary Lee Lesetedi has rubbished rumours that the party had endorsed Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi as utter speculation. Nothing of the sort was agreed at a BDP meeting that was held in Palapye on Monday this week, Lesetedi said. The rumour was the result of a misunderstanding, he explained. When one councillor asked Masisi if he was standing for the chairmanship of the party at the Palapye meeting, Masisi’s response was that he would answer the question only if it was asked by the President.
In Lesetedi’s view, endorsement was neither right nor wrong because such a conclusion would depend on the motive. There would be nothing wrong with endorsing a person of the right calibre to take the party to greater heights, he said. He emphasized that any endorsement would have to be done carefully to avoid factions that may arise in the party as a result of people taking sides. According to Lesetedi, the BDP wants all the candidates to have the liberty and an equal opportunity to contest.
Asked why this time around the BDP was not endorsing any individual as former president Festus Mogae had done with Khama as chairman, he said that was not an option in today’s circumstances because the party had to be called to order after Mogae’s endorsement of Khama. “Remember that the endorsement of Khama was a remedy to BDP factions,” he said. “It was intended to stop divisions within the party. For us to endorse an individual, there has to be very good reasons, such as when the stability of the party is under threat.”
The endorsement of Khama during Mogae’s tenure was an attempt to neutralize factionalism in the BDP which was torn between the Merafhe-Nkate and Kedikilwe-Kwelagobe factions. Khama subsequently defeated Ponatshego Kedikilwe for the chairmanship of the BDP at a congress held in Ghanzi. Asked about the calibre of candidates that the party wants, Lesetedi said he could only comment once the party had consulted its members on what kind of candidate are wanted.
But can the BDP avoid situations where a successful candidate quits as a throwback to what happened after Guma Moyo defeated Pelonomi Venson-Motoi at a congress in Maun?
Biggie Butale, Dikgakgamatso Seretse, Tebelelo Seretse, Dithapelo Tshotlego, Seteng Motalaote and Moemedi Dijeng are in the race for the BDP chairmanship.