Three months before the Botswana Democratic Party elective congress in Tonota, party activists are increasingly becoming audacious and openly declaring support for their preferred candidate for the chairmanship of the party. The incumbent, Mokgweetsi Masisi is defending his seat against cabinet minister, Nonofho Molefhi who is challenging him. Asked why he supports Masisi ahead of Molefhi, Jojo Lucas said, “It is no secret that I am behind Masisi. He is a hard worker. For example, ever since he became chairman of the party, Masisi has recruited more than 500 members from the opposition. He is determined to make the BDP great again.”
However, former specially-elected councillor, Ford Moiteela, a supporter of Molefhi insists that, recruiting new members into the BDP is the mandate of every member of the BDP. “Everybody, including Molefhi, has been doing that. The difference is that, the efforts of the other BDP members are never captured by state media such as Btv, radio or Daily News,” said Moiteela. He added that, as far as he is concerned, not all the recruits who have been associated with Masisi were in-fact recruited by him in person.
“In many cases, some of the people from the opposition such as Lotty Manyepedza and Ditiro Majadibodu from the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) were recruited by the secretary general of the BDP, Botsalo Ntuane and all that the Vice President did was to publicly welcome them into the BDP at a rally arranged for that purpose,’’ noted Moiteela. Moiteela says he supports Molefhi because he is accessible.
On the other hand, Lucas thinks Molefhi is too soft to lead the BDP at a time when the opposition has formed itself into a united front. “Molefhi is no doubt a very humble man. He is also too soft in fact and that is why the opposition wants Molefhi to win. They do not want Masisi because they know he can be aggressive when the situation calls for that. He can match them,” said Lucas. He wants Masisi as chairman beyond July because, should Masisi lose the chairmanship of the party, he will remain out of the central committee until April next year when he becomes party president.
“It would be most unfortunate for the BDP members to reject him at the congress because that would relegate him into obscurity. That way, he will almost have no influence in the party. He will only be visible in government. That way, he will not be able to continue bringing people into the party because he will be absent from it,” said Lucas.
Moiteela however feels Masisi is holding too many positions. “He is over-burdened. Besides being VP and overseeing ministers, he manages the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) and Poverty Eradication Programme. He must represent the president in outside fora. All these things require a lot of time. In the case of Molefhi, the understanding is that, the moment he wins the chairmanship, he will resign from cabinet and concentrate on strengthening the party ahead of the 2019 general elections. We need to admit that opposition e nonofile. Go botlhokwa gore BDP le yone e nonofe. What we need is a strong party. That kind of party will win the elections and give us a strong government,” said Moiteela.
While Lucas believes that Masisi has been weakening the opposition, especially the BCP by recruiting its activists, Moiteela believes that Molefhi would not only unite the party but make the Botswana Movement for Democracy irrelevant. “Molefhi’s charisma transcends the controversies that led to the split of the BDP in 2010 and the formation of the BMD. Should he win the chairmanship, the atmosphere will change and there will be no need for the BMD. This is what BMD members, including their MPs are saying. With Molefhi as chairman, they will return to the BDP,” claimed Moiteela.
As a man who respects tradition, Lucas does not want Masisi challenged for the position of chairman nor that of presidency of the party. “We should endorse Masisi and make him president beyond 2019 because that has always been the tradition of the party. The president has always been succeeded by his vice president. Besides, a rejection of Masisi amounts to a vote of no confidence on the President himself because he has declared support for his Vice President,” said Lucas.
Moiteela disagrees. “Nothing binds people to follow a tradition. People are free to abandon it if they feel it no longer serves their interests,” he said.