Following the formation of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) in 2010 by people who had either resigned from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) or expelled from it because of “indiscipline”, the situation became so fluid in the ruling party that the question “who is leaving the BDP next?,” became pertinent.
So serious became the situation that members simply could not trust each other. The BDP leadership, led by President Ian Khama, had no choice but to address “star rallies” in strategic constituencies in an attempt to stem the tide. One of the most memorable of these public rallies was in the Tsamaya Ward in 2010.
This meeting was held apparently to both dissuade BDP members in the Tati East constituency from following in the footsteps of the area MP, Guma Moyo, who was among the founder members of the BMD and assure everybody that the party was still “intact.”
By invitation to the podium, constituency and ward officials including councillors assured the general membership and the president who was in the company of cabinet ministers and party officials that they remained loyal to the ruling party despite media reports of resignations from it in other parts of the country. Among those who declared their undying commitment to the party at the Tsamaya rally was Reginald Mudongo who nevertheless tendered his resignation from the party in favour of the BMD only a few days later.
At one point, with the most MPs, the BMD was the leader of opposition parties in parliament. The party had scores of councillors and a total of nine MPs, eight of whom came from the BDP. The BMD also attracted hundreds of members from the other opposition parties, causing anxiety in the opposition ranks.
The euphoria about “the Orange Revolution” was however short-lived, as the return of Philip Makgalemele and Patrick Masimolole cast aspersions on the viability of the project as it was viewed by many as a vote of no confidence on the party by the two MPs. The credibility of the BMD would suffer another setback when Moyo, and later Sydney Pilane and Kabo Morwaeng dumped it. The party had to employ a lot of resources on damage control when some members of its youth league resigned citing lack of inner party democracy as their reason.
After the return of Botsalo Ntuane to the BDP in June this year, the BMD leadership assured the nation that there would be no more high profile members leaving the party. The recent departure of Odirile Motlhale, a founder member of the party and the MP who also doubled as deputy treasurer, contradicts this claim. His departure could also mean that the party is faced with a situation where members cannot trust each other.
Motlhale cites personal and family commitments as the main reason for his departure. After Ntuane’s resignation, Motlhale, in response to enquiries about his political future said, “Some of us have certain convictions that made us join the BMD and they will remain.”
In his resignation letter Motlhale proffers a disclaimer that he would not be joining any party. The “independent MP” game is not new. When Moyo left the BMD in October 2011, he not only declared he would not be seeking membership of any party, but claimed he would not be available for re-election in the 2014 general elections. In less than five months, the Tati East legislature had done what everybody else, except himself, had known all along.
He joined the BDP! Besides, indications are that he is contesting the next general elections.Similarly, Morwaeng said he was not joining any party when he left the BMD but was welcome back into the BDP within a few days of the claim. To his credit Ntuane never played the “independent MP” antic.
Pilane has thus far stuck to his “independent” status which he announced when he left the BMD months back.Of greater significance and rather unusual is the fact that, with the exception of the youth league members led by Armstrong Dikgafela, BMD defectors, unlike those for instance, of the BDP, BNF, Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Botswana People’s Party (BPP), almost invariably get out of their way to exonerate the party from any blame regarding their decamping.
It is expected of politicians to tear their old home apart on their way to a new one. True to form when they formed or joined the BMD, defectors tarred the BDP, describing it as corrupt and undemocratic. The unusual trait could mean that the concerned people are men and women of honour.It could also mean that the defectors did not return to the BDP on the basis of any principle.
Says the secretary general of the BMD Wynter Mmolotsi, ”They need to be careful because anything about the BMD being the reason for defecting back to the BDP would be malicious and a cover up. Their return has nothing to do with the party or even politics in general. Their return has a lot to do with their personal interests,”
The secretary general’s position tallies with views that the returnees have been bribed and have to be careful because an attack of the BMD by them would attract retaliation from the party which would be too happy to see their erstwhile comrades’ skeletons tumbling out of the cupboard.
Mmolotsi is happy that even the defectors have enough conscience to exonerate his party. Asked whether he intends to leave the BMD, he says, “I can assure you that nothing has changed for the better in the BDP. In fact, things are worse. For me, the struggle continues until final victory.Only those driven by personal interest or have given up on solving the plethora of problems bedeviling this nation can think of going back to the ruling party.”
Tawana Moremi, who has been silent for some time amid allegations that he and Khama have reconciled and he might be rejoining the ruling party, was not available for comment by press time, as his phone was off air.