Gus Matlhapbaphiri certainly left without saying goodbye. It has been a dreadful week for the man in-charge of ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s election machinery. With the much anticipated Bulela Ditswe in the vicinity, Matlhabaphiri’s schedule could not have been busier. Staff Writer ALFRED MASOKOLA traces the last moments of the BDP stalwart.
The Political Educations and Elections Committee (PEEC) is definitely one of the ruling party’s most important sub-committees. It handles the thin-skinned duty of running the party primary elections, known commonly as Bulela Ditswe. Due assiduousness is prerequisite in every stage, lest things go wrong and the party is thrown into turmoil.
Since 2015, subsequent to Mmadinare Congress, Matlhabaphiri had been mandated with leading the PEEC sub-committee by the party decision making organ, the Central Committee. Matlhabaphiri was a befitting candidate, having been part and parcel of the BDP furniture for over five decades; his presence in the committee was immeasurable.
Not only did Gus know the BDP machinery, he also knew the culture and the values of the party. Gus had been retained as PEEC chairperson, following the 2017 Tonota Congress. His schedule had been busy. Almost every morning and afternoon, Gus commuted to Gaborone from his village of Molepolole for committee meetings and elections preparations.
Gus could have easily stayed in Gaborone for convenience, but he was also running for a parliamentary seat back home, hence he had to divide his time to serve the party and as well as his constituents. Having lost the constituency to Mohammed Khan of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) in 2014, keeping in touch with constituents was of paramount importance.
Ever his people’s servant, the week he met his untimely demise, a family belonging to the constituency he was eyeing had been befallen by tragedy. In a shocking incident, three of the family members, the father, mother and youngest son were killed by unknown assailants. Gus ran helter-skelter to organise resources for the family; from food hampers to anything that would be of help.
Thursday 28 June was an ordinary day. There was no reason to suspect that it was notâ€•, Gus, as routine, left Molepolole for Gaborone the same way he always did. But this time, he was not to return home to Molepolole alive. This was probably one of his busiest days of the week. His first stop was the African Mall, where he was going for a business meeting, in preparation for an application of Botswana Qualification Authority (BQA) accreditation process for one of burgeoning schools, where he happened to be a shareholder.
Next, he would be at a PEEC meeting scheduled for 11:00 am at Tsholetsa House. This would be followed by collection of donations from different charitable individuals who had pledged. His last stop at Gaborone would be at the party Treasurer, Satar Dada’s office at Fairgrounds Mall. Later at 15:00, he was to meet the Molepolole family, together with party secretary general, Mpho Balopi, who was to stand in for President Mokgweetsi Masisi.
All the above followed the script to the letter, except the Molepolole setting. A few minutes after parting ways with Dada, Gus’s health condition changed, all within the blink of an eye. As they prepared to leave Fairgrounds Mall to depart for Molepolole, GUS orders his aide, Joseph Kgarebe, known mostly as ‘Satara’ to democrats, to refuel their vehicle.
He further orders ‘Satara’ to purchase mineral water as well as tissue paper; since the previous day, Gus had been complaining of flu. He had visited a pharmacy at African Mall the previous day to try arrest the problem but it seemed the medication had not been effective. This time around, Gus’ opted for different medication in hopes that it would do better. As ‘Satara’ leaves for Choppies, to purchase water, Matlhabaphiri headed to the pharmacy in the Fairgorunds Mall. The two men had agreed to meet at the pharmacy after ‘Satara’ had completed all errands.
‘Satara’ has been Gus’ aide for some time now. He accompanied him almost everywhere and helps Gus in discharging his duties as chair of the PEEC. ‘Satara’ was essentially, GUS’ new protégé. On his return from Choppies, to meet Gus at the Pharmacy, ‘Satara’ finds his mentor not yet done. GUS sends him back to Choppies, this time around to buy a lemon, which he initially forgot to include on the earlier list.
As ‘Satara’ approaches the pharmacy from Choppies, this time around he is met by a desperate plea from the pharmacy assistant, who had just veered off the door, urging him to hurry, as Gus was not well. From a distance, ‘Satara’ sees a picture of his mentor, heavily leaning against the counter. He rushed and calls with desperation … “MP…MP… MP…what’s wrong?” Gus explains in low voice the pain he is going through. He guides him to a seat, but Gus is experiencing extreme pain.
Immediately, Satara calls 997, informing them that ‘a former minister has just collapsed’. ‘Satara’ who has experience working with medics, tried to apply the little knowledge he had to try save his mentor, but nothing he tried worked. Within a short period of time, Gus’ voice began to fade, so did his breath. Within a short period of time, he was quiet, unable to explain what he was experiencing any longer.
By the time the ambulance arrived, only some minutes after ‘Satara’ had called, it was too late. The medics tried to resuscitate him hoping their last ditch would work. As the ambulance left the Fairground Mall, ‘Satara’ exercised another option, calling Gus’ doctor based at Marina, informing him to rush to the emergency section, and to be the one assessing him.
This particular doctor had known Gus’ medical history, a heart problem to be precise. Shortly after the doctor had assessed Gus, the doctor delivered the worst news. Gus did not make it. Receiving the bad news was ‘Satara’ in the presence of of Balopi as well as Dada, who had been called in during the commotion. Gus had left without warning, not even a goodbye!
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.