Despite last October’s victory by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), the party still has more obstacles to overcome and deep wounds to heal as it heads to its elective congress this year, which was consensually postponed last year by the members.
Prior to the elective congress which its dates have not yet been confirmed, the party is likely to see the incumbent Secretary General (SG), Mpho Balopi contesting against Shaw Kgathi who is currently the Deputy Secretary General (DSG) of the party and Kagelelo Banks Kentse who is Head of Communications.
However news reaching this publication shows that His Excellency President Mokgweetsi Masisi has broken rank with his ally, Balopi. It is said, Masisi has been watching how things pan out and finally came to a resolution that Banks replaces Mpho Balopi. Sources say that, Masisi is also hesitant of having Kgathi for the same position and the person he is deeply rooting for the position is Kentse. Kgathi is taken as old guards that should be replaced by new faces. Kentse joined the BDP from Botswana Movement for Democracy in 2018 after Masisi assumed the Presidency.
The Members of the Central Committee (CC) are also alleged to be against Balopi remaining in the same position. A close source to this publication has articulated that Masisi believes that the reason why the party is in “shambles” is because of Balopi, who he says has deeply divided the party over the years. Moreover, Balopi is reported to be still working with former President Ian Khama, which does not sit well with President Masisi. Reports from sources say that Balopi justifies his relation by saying that he and Khama have known each other from time immemorial and he is what he is because of Khama. Balopi first became the party SG at a time when Khama was leading the party.
In an interview with this publication, Kentse denied claims that he is also eyeing the SG seat and that he has the President’s support. “I have not considered standing in any position for the elective congress nor has there been any discussions on the position between me and the President.” He further slammed the alleged fall-out between him and Balopi emphasizing that theirs is a healthy political relationship.
When asked about the alleged reconciliation between he and Balopi meeting because of Masisi, Kentse said, “from time to time the President would call members of the party, yes we have met with the President but only to discuss the status of the party and not what is being alleged.” When reached for comment Balopi said that it was too early to announce whether or not as an incumbent he would like to retain his position as Secretary General of the party. “All will be announced in due course, there are certain procedures and principles that need to be followed within the party, nevertheless, whether or not I am interested.’’
Balopi -who won the Gaborone North constituency by 9566 votes, was rewarded with a Ministerial position heading Ministry of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development- is alleged to be displeased by this appointment. Being one of the most senior amongst the elected MPs within the party structures, had his hopes high. Impeccable informants this week revealed that Balopi believes he should have been given a more senior ministry which corresponds with his position within the party. In fact, it is said, he was eyeing Kabo Morwaeng’s Ministry of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration.
As it is, Balopi is the third most senior member of a party, coming after Masisi and Tsogwane. However Kagiso Mmusi, who is Masisi’s ally has been given Ministry of Defence Justice and Security which is the second senior after that of Morwaeng, Balopi has read malice from that. Building up to the elections at a time when the Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane was de-campaigned by Khama, there were pessimism within the party that Tsogwane will retain the Boteti West Constituency.
By then the party’s top brass had a contingency plan and Balopi’s name was mentioned on numerous occasions to Masisi in case Tsogwane lost. This left him licking lips for possibility of bigger and better things in government, until Masisi revealed his cabinet, says a source. The BDP SG is alleged to now be working overtime to de-campaign Morwaeng in Molepolole South constituency for the 2024 General elections. He is alleged to be against the appointment of Morwaeng at the ministry and feels betrayed by Masisi.
A reliable source to this publication has also revealed that Balopi has placed Jeffrey Sibisibi, who is a former Council Chairman of Kweneng District to challenge Morwaeng in the 2023 party primary elections and has since dispensed resources within the constituency to hit the ground running. News reaching this publication is that initially Balopi had not been a part of Masisi’s cabinet plans and was only added a day before swearing in when other party advisors cautioned President Masisi that it might cause conflicts within the party.
NORTHERN FACTION TAKES SHAPE
In other related reports, there is another alleged faction that is building up behind the scenes. The team is dominated by the northern based party members and those who are feel betrayed after ‘sacrificing’ for the party, including those who campaigned for the party in the past elections. Most of them are angry members who were not rewarded despite their hard work (names withheld). The main agenda of the faction is to frustrate Masisi and ensure his preferred candidates do not succeed at the expected congress.
The alleged faction was seen at Dibete this past weekend where informants say they were plotting on how to execute their move. At this time, the team is yet to take shape but it is busy working to ensure that they will be ready when the time comes. Dates for the party elective congress are expected to be revealed by the party central committee which is expected to meet early February.
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.