Motlatsi Molapisi has run his race and is ready to hand the baton of leading the oldest political formation, Botswana People’s Party (BPP) to the next cadre of the party. Interestingly he does not want to play any role in determining who takes over from him, “the party will decide at the end of February,” he said when contacted this week.
Being president of the BPP has gloss to it in the current opposition political landscape. The President of the BPP is automatically the chairman of the main opposition formation, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). “Yes, it is not about Molapisi but the BPP, whoever is elected at the end of the month will take over as chairman of the UDC,” observed the veteran politician. Molapisi is adamant that he has long completed his race in politics, “remember I long retired but I had to come back at the request of former BPP President, Bernard Balikani who had wanted me to help him at the time.”
Balikani went to retire from politics at a young age because of business commitments and was replaced by White Marobela who was later deposed after suggesting that the BPP should form a pact with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in 2010, Molapisi has been holding the fort since then.
“I could have left in 2014 but the UDC also requested that I continue for the sake of the stability of the coalition since our aim was to go in hard into the 2019 general elections,” Molapisi shared. Although he vacates his political positions, Molapisi says he could be available for advisory roles albeit enjoying his rights as an ordinary citizen.
What is next for BPP?
A few individuals have shown interest in leading the BPP following the 2019 general election in which the party represented the UDC in five constituencies and they won none. Cornelius Gopolang has raised his hand already and intends to become BPP president next month. “Yes I intend to contest for the presidency of the BPP in February. I have touched base with party structures to share my vision and I believe I am on track,” said Gopolang when contacted for comment. He said he has a vision for the BPP as a party which will ultimately help the UDC in future.
Gopolang has served as the Secretary General of the BPP before and like most BPP cadres, he has been to the ruling BDP at some stage and returned to the BPP. “I have experience in both opposition and ruling party politics therefore I come in handy for the opposition,” he declared. Gopolang claimed that he knows the intricacies of the BDP, “how they do things, why they do things, and what to expect from BDP. This is all because I have been with them. I will help the UDC because the entire leadership is only conversant with opposition politics, I will balance things out,” he said.
The current Vice President of the BPP, Mbaakanyi Lenyatso has no interest in contesting the presidency of the BPP, “I am not contesting,” he declared. Lenyatso was UDC parliamentary candidate in Francistown West and polled good numbers (0ver 3200 votes) in the just ended election. He was suspended from the BPP in the run up to the polls but defied the party executive forging ahead with his campaign and UDC MP candidacy.
Other party members are expected to spring up from the floor congress as the prospect of becoming UDC chairman lurks. BPP secretary general, Galetshabiwe Venter said nominations for positions will only be known at the congress because those expressing interest should also be nominated from the floor of congress. He confirmed that preparations are ongoing for congress, but he added a word of caution, “our congress is expected at the end of February if it is not postponed.”
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.