The bad blood between President Dr Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi and his predecessor Lt Gen Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama has reached new levels, with the latter now claiming that he is still the president or leader of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
The basis for Khama claim to BDP Presidency is that he says he has never resigned from the position of party president. He states that he only vacated the Office of the Presidency of the Republic of Botswana. Weekend Post gathers that Khama intends to attend and chair the next BDP central committee meeting.
Khama is said to have asked party secretary general, Mpho Balopi to seek legal advice on his tenure as BDP president before he vacates State House on 1st April 2018, but Balopi did not undertake the task. In fact he was dismissive of Khama’s suggestion. Effectively, Khama has shared that President Dr Masisi is not a member of the central committee because he resigned his chairmanship and handed to his Vice President Slumber Tsogwane. According to some insiders, Khama has already consulted his lawyers on the matter and he intends to stake his claim to the presidency of the party.
With this move, Khama is understood to be trying to put in motion a plan to remove Masisi from the Presidency. This will likely see the BDP forced into an early congress that may require the election of a new party who may have to be quickly shipped to State House as well. Weekend Post has gathered that Khama and his supporters already have a candidate to take on Masisi for the presidency of the BDP.
While the BDP constitution provides that the State President is automatically the leader of the BDP, it does not spell out the process of a vacating State President. Khama is of the view that he should have resigned his post of party President but he never did. Khama was re-elected BDP president in 2014 at a special congress just before the general election, he was unopposed.
To aver the situation as penning out from Khama circle some BDP faithful are calling for the removal of Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi from the office, they reason that he is the source of the conflict between the President and his predecessor. But others point out that Morupisi could merely be taking instructions from the current President.
On the other hand others are calling on the two leaders to have a one on one or face to face meeting to discuss their differences and give and take. Masisi and Khama friction has reawakened factions in the BDP and party loyalists are forced to choose between the former and current. Khama is seen as an influential figure especially in his heartland of GaMmagwato where he is the paramount chief. Coincidentally the BDP numbers are predominantly from this area.
President Dr Masisi has visited two regions so far, and he received mixed reviews in the central region after his Serowe kgotla meeting. In the Kweneng region he has the support of the structure albeit there are some who do not agree with the modus operandi meted on the former president. Masisi has been advised not escalate his so called beef with Khama especially before the 2019 general election.
Meanwhile Khama is said to have made it clear that he has reached a point there cannot be any reconciliation because it is likely to be an attempt to keep him calm just for the sake of the 2019 general election and then whole circle rekindles just after elections. He used the words, “I will not be in a position to be used to win elections and be dumped thereafter,” he is reported to have told his close allies.
With Khama going legal about it through Collins Newman Attorneys, some in the BDP fear that he may be at a point of no return as far as his conflict with Masisi is concerned. But for some, there is a ray of home, as they are of the view that Khama could just be throwing the dice to get the Masisi camp worked up.
The BDP has held two central committee meetings since Khama vacated office, and on Monday there will be a crucial central committee meeting that will deal with appeals lodged by primary election candidates. Khama’s lawyers are said to have advised him to attend this meeting as the first step to asserting his authority as a BDP president.
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.