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.