Former President Lt Gen Ian Khama has hinted the likelihood of quitting the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in favour of the anticipated new party following a fallout with his successor President Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi.
In an exclusive interview with WeekendPost last week, Khama confirmed that he is aware of the new party that allegedly being formed by some disgruntled members of the ruling party but he would not divulge much information. “I have heard of a number of things in the offering, but the formation of a new party is not something unusual. I can confirm, it’s been a while rumours of a new party making rounds but we are now at a stage where we have passed rumours but it is something credible now,” said Khama.
The former president said he is not aware of the people behind the formation of the party, but indicated that should they approach him for support, they will have to convince him to join. “If they give me an opportunity, I will have to weigh my options. I am a very loyal person but that is not to say I wouldn’t move but I have to be convinced,” said Khama. He said if he does not agree with the recent BDP policies, he has to reconsider his future. Khama, who is of the view that he is sabotaged by the current regime, said this is not the first time such things happen.
The former BDP leader said allegations of the party leader being challenged next year are very credible. “As a party and country we should always strive to have the best candidates, if a challenger is someone credible, I will support them,” he said. “But from what I have gathered so far, the challenger is someone credible, this is something that has been planned and has been in the pipeline. It has now gained momentum and has also gone beyond a rumour,” Khama said.
Details of the new party in the offing have been making rounds lately but it is not clear who is the mastermind behind the party but fingers are pointing at the disgruntled former BDP leader. It is also alleged that to take cover, Khama will not be the man in the forefront but he has declined any involvement and distanced himself from the developments. By nature a populist and a loved man in the BDP circles Khama has loyal followers and some have come out in the open to declare their support for him despite Masisi being the new boss. However, Khama said he would not agree to the idea of standing for any position in the party in the near future.
ON TSHEKEDI KHAMA’S PRESIDENTIAL AMBITIONS
Khama’s outspoken young brother Tshekedi Khama has been making headlines recently in the local media asserting his ambitions of becoming president. Khama has however said TK has never shared with him his presidential ambitions but indicated that time will tell. The former president said when TK arrived in parliament, he was just an ordinary Member of Parliament but he was appointed a full minister because he worked hard for it and deserved the appointment.
“I do not want to talk about him because he is my brother but the fact that I appointed him is because he is credible and has done exceptionally well for the tourism ministry with passion,” said Khama of his younger brother. “We usually share a lot with TK but even when we are home he never shared with me his ambitions of becoming president. Politics is very funny, suppose next year he will no longer be interested and want to do something else. Time will tell.”
KHAMA QUESTIONS BULELA DITSWE
Khama has come out in open to criticise the party’s primary elections arrangement known as Bulela Ditswe because it has proved to be problematic. He said every time after Bulela Ditswe there are lot of appeals that distabilise the party and resulting in others becoming Mekoko or forming new parties citing irregularities in the manner in which elections were conducted. Khama contends that this calls for a new policy that will ensure that losing candidates are satisfied and accept the outcome of the primary elections.
After Khama stepped down from the presidency and handed the baton to his trusted man on the 31st of March this year, things did not go as planned. The Masisi administration proved to be a hard nut to crack for former president Khama. The general perception was that Masisi is publicly humiliated his former boss while some believe Khama is undermining Masisi by seeking to continue to influence his decisions. As former party leader, Khama is still a worshiped man in the party circles and his loyalists currently feel Masisi is hard on his former boss.
A resolution or an act of appeasement between the two proved futile as party elders tried to convene but they will not bend Khama. Things took a bitter twist when Masisi refused to appoint Khama’s trusted man Isaac Kgosi as his Senior Private Secretary following the departure of Brig George Tlhalerwa who was leaving public service a few months back. Khama told this reporter that he is entitled to a Private Secretary of his choice and this should be someone he has worked with before and someone who understands him better.
This has been the standard practice and Khama submits that the same treatment should be accorded to him. To show that he is indeed in a brawl, Masisi forcefully removed Isaac Kgosi from his post as Directorate on Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) Director General and replaced him with his longtime rival Peter Magosi. This is a man who was unceremoniously relieved off his duties by President Khama.
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.