Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General, Mpho Balopi has warned against aggrieved party members against dragging the party to courts of law. He described the actions as wayward behaviour and said it should stop in the best interest of the party.
Balopi said this at the backdrop of swelling number of party members running to the courts for remedy when they feel aggrieved by decisions made by the party. Recently, Kamal Jacobs went to seek relief at court following his controversial defeat by Thapelo Matsheka in the Lobatse constituency parliamentary primary election which he insisted was marred by irregularities and therefore outcome unacceptable.
In his court case Jacobs is challenging the legitimacy of President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi in appointing any party structure including that which falls under the Central Committee, especially the appeals’ committee. His contention is that in terms of the BDP constitution, Masisi is not yet BDP president but that former president Lt. Gen. Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama still is, as there was no vacancy created.
In another case Member of Parliament for Tati West has also taken the BDP to court on the bases that there were also irregularities in the primary elections which he lost and therefore requested for a re-run but was turned down. Another BDP activist who took the party to court was none other than the son of the founding father of the party, Sir Seretse Khama, Serowe North West legislator, Tshekedi Khama who challenged the inclusion of Moemedi Dijeng as a contender in the primary elections arguing that he campaigned before the party ordered so therefore flouting the party rules and regulations.
In light of the mounting cases pitting members against their party, the BDP Secretary General told Weekend Post this week that the trend is disturbing and putting the party in bad light; adding that the matter is spiralling out of hand hence members maybe forced to tore the line. “The trend is not going to help the party or those that have conflicts with the party. The solution is not putting the party at risk. This is not good for the party. First members should be concerned about the party, how they will hurt it, before they can consider themselves,” Balopi fumed to such party colleagues in an interview with this publication.
He stressed that “it might be a trend that some party members enjoy but it will stop at some point.” According to Balopi, once you bring parties that are fighting in a court matter and bring those issues with third parties (court) you automatically bring the party into disrepute. Balopi’s main concern is that, as a member you don’t give up on the institution without having explored all internal processes you have to go through in the institution which he said the members failed to do in that regard. “You know we have conflict resolution processes in the party but they failed to utilise them,” he emphasised.
He however acknowledged that of course every Motswana has a right to ask for a remedy at court within the confinements of law. But if you belong to an institution like the BDP which has values, rules and processes, then a member has to fully comply with such, he added. He gave an example about a recent prominent case when the party was taken to court to challenge the legitimacy of Masisi as president which he said was ill advised.
“People should always remind and familiarise themselves about party constitution, rules and regulations, before embarrassing themselves,” the BDP SG pointed out. He continued: “there is one thing that I always say, if somehow one wants to challenge the constitution saying President Masisi is not a legitimate BDP leader to appoint a BDP committee – then it is done in bad faith.”
According to Balopi, in terms of the constitution, when the BDP is in power, the Vice President automatically becomes president of Botswana. The BDP constitution further says VP takes over as president of the party, he said. Balopi emphasised that although Jacobs was free to go court route but he failed to engage the party on the matter. “That one is malicious,” Balopi told Weekend Post point blank.
Balopi further explained that “my argument is that there is a way to sought interpretation from the party without going to court to avoid putting party into disrepute. Like I always say, BDP is bigger than all of us.” He said however that the party will not be in a hurry to take action against the individuals who have been dragging the party to court because as a party they “should understand the motives of those members first. We shouldn’t hurry to take action. We won’t act impulsively from the media or other people.”
On whether Tshekedi has not set a bad precedence by being a key figure to take the party to court and action not taken against him like in the same manner in which it was exerted on the late Gomolemo Motswaledi who took the then president Khama to court, but was punished, Balopi could not be drawn into the discussion. “I am not privy to such information. I don’t understand it. So I would not want to respond to it,” he said.
Information reaching this publication suggests that the failure by the party to discipline Tshekedi Khama after he dragged the party which was founded by his father, to court has given some party members a nerve to do likewise going forward with the intention to see if double standards will be applied to party none entities, unknown faithfuls and novices.
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.