Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) members have asked President Mokgweetsi Masisi to have a coffee meeting with his predecessor, Lt Gen Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama to solve their differences. Party loyalists fear that the perceived animosity “is likely to divide the party going to next year’s party congress and general elections”.
The decision was taken by the party this week in a meeting between President Masisi and BDP key figures who included, cabinet ministers, Members of Parliament, and Central Committee Members. The purpose of the meeting was to deliver a thank you message from the president to his party members after 100 days in office. The idea calling for the two leaders to have a dialogue is said to have been tabled by Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security Patrick Ralotsia, seconded by the party chief whip, Liakat Kablay and Lieutenant General Tebogo Masire.
“The idea is for them to iron out their differences that we see and read about. They must face each other man to man – and the president has agreed with the suggestion. He says he believes in dialogue, he nonetheless said there is no beef between them, but they will talk,” a source who attended the meeting held at the Pavilion said. The party members say the meeting of the two is imperative as it will help the two leaders to find a common ground hence stabilise the party.
“It is for the good of the party. Whether they have beef or not, the meeting will restore confidence to the BDP members, these are leaders and any quarrel between them has potential effect on the general membership,” highlighted a source. Among the issues that have been hinted to have created a standoff between the former confidantes is the refusal to avail a chopper to the former president and reversal of a number of Khama decisions by the incumbent.
KHAMA’S CHAIRMANSHIP BID WILL NOT BE SUPPORTED
The four hour meeting also addressed the party’s next year elective congress. Those who attended the meeting have resolved that they will not support Khama’s rumored bid for the party chairmanship. This, they say, will divide the party few months before the general elections. “It will be suicidal if we can allow that,” highlighted a source. “Not like we are taking a decision for fellow democrats but we have agreed that we will not support his candidature. In fact all in the current NEC should not be voted out, failure in which re taabo re thuba party” an informant told this publication.
Not only that, the party has also agreed that for the interest of the party, there shall be no elections at next year’s elective congress. “This was just our agreement but the decision is for the members to agree or not. In case of voting those who attended the meeting assured Masisi that he and his team will be voted back to Tsholetsa house.”
The motion not to have elections at next year’s congress was suggested by both Masire and Minister of Youth Empowerment Sports and Culture Development, Thapelo Olopeng. The trend has always been that those who lose normally go around tainting the image of the party hence de-campaigning its efforts to win state power; and Masisi who wants to captain the party to its victory is weary of that possibility.
“Nyaa rra after the meeting, the party is united and will definitely win power next year, we have agreed in principle on a number of issues which will benefit the party,” party chief whip, Kablay said. “Of course the party congress and other matters surrounding the leadership were discussed and I’ am happy to say that the members and the President were engaging each other in a professional BDP manner which shows, like H.E said, that if we are united we will be strong next year,” he said.
BUT MASISI HAS WARNED COUP PLOTTERS
The grand plan to weaken president Masisi was also discussed at length at the meeting, with Masisi warning those orchestrating the plan to be careful. “He said he has whistleblowers, especially from the government enclave who have alerted him about the coup which is reportedly anchored on some ministers,” said the meeting attendee in an interview. Masisi who was jolly and welcoming everyone to share their views reportedly asked those who are not comfortable with his leadership to talk to him.
“I believe in dialogue, those who are not happy with my style can come and tell me, there is no problem with that. Even if you are a minister and you feel we don’t share the same vision you can let me know, not here (in this meeting), but at private setting and I will definitely remove you from the cabinet. This will be done primarily for the interest of Batswana who need our services,” Masisi allegedly stated.
Masisi emphasized to the party his desire to win the general elections with a convincing margin saying he will do everything possible for the party to retain power, hence he pleaded for loyalty from cabinet which drives his game-plan. “As you know every leader wants to encircle themselves with those who share the same vision and he was just pleading for support from all the party members lest the BDP suffers. He was reiterating what he has been saying in the past, let’s be loyal to our leaders and respect them,” Kablay said when asked about Masisi’s intention to remove sabotaging ministers.
MASISI TOLD TO ASSES EVM
With the floor open to share with the president any grumbles on the table, the legislators asked him to re-look at the issue of Electronic Voting Machine (EVM). Just like the opposition bloc, it appears the ruling party is also concerned by the introduction of EVMs. “We asked him to look at it holistically and give us feedback; we can’t impose to Batswana something they don’t want. We are told it can be manipulated and we should cancel its procurement.”
Masisi as usual assured the party leaders that he will definitely look at the matter. As it stands the Independent Electoral Committee (IEC) is clueless as to whether they will use EVM or the traditional manual way of voting. “Gontse yaalo rra, we discussed that one and we want the president to talk to us as Members of Parliament so that we also give him our perspective. We expect to meet with him soon,” Kablay said briefly.
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.