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Ndaba wins support for BMD Special Congress

BMD President Ndaba Gaolathe

Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) could be headed for another rift, with President Ndaba Gaolathe’s faction receiving overwhelming support compelling the National Executive Committee (NEC) to call for a Special Congress.

This publication has been informed that by Friday last week, letters from the branches addressed to party Secretary General Gilbert Mangole and copied to Gaolathe, requesting the NEC to convene a Special Congress owing to the polarity in the party.

According to the party constitution, the NEC shall convene a Special Congress in the event that one third of the branches request for it, and when sanctioned, special congress shall be convened within a month’s period.

BMD has never found inner peace since returning from last years’ Gantsi Congress, with the arrival of Sidney Pilane under controversial circumstances being the bone of contention.

The acrimonious relationship in the NEC has led to emergence of two warring factions, one loyal to Gaolathe and party Vice President Wynter Mmolotsi, and the other loyal to party Chairman, Nehemiah Modubule and Mangole.   

Following an impasse in the party, Gaolathe and Mmolotsi embarked on presidential tours to brief party members about the crisis and solicited for support in a bid to call for special congress.

Although NEC is also empowered by the constitution to call for the Special Congress, such a route was not feasible since the Modubule/Mangole faction did not want the party to go for Special Congress.

Modubule/Mangole faction has since stated that the Special Congress will not resolve the impasse in the party, while maintaining that “Pilane is a member of BMD in good standing”.

However, the Gaolathe/Mmolotsi faction has challenged the admission of Pilane into the party as “unconstitutional, done in a divisive manner, and not in the interest of the party”. Meanwhile Modubule/Mangole faction, which currently has majority in NEC has endorsed Pilane’s name as one of opposition cooperation negotiators.
Party to review its constitution

Top of the priorities of the special congress will be to review the party constitution. Currently the BMD constitution vests powers in the NEC, with the presidency being a ceremonial post without powers.

The crafting of BMD constitution was influenced by the events in the BDP which led to the formation of the party. BMD was established by the disgruntled Barataphathi members, a faction within the BDP, following the suspension of then party secretary general, Gomolemo Motswaledi.

Motswaledi was suspended for 60 days, (later five years) and barred from contesting the Gaborone Central constituency in the 2009 general elections.

The BMD constitution, ironically, was crafted by Pilane, the man who has stirred factional fighting in the party.   

BMD members have been frustrated by the situation in the party, after Gaolathe was subjected to ridicule by other members of the NEC, with radio stations being used as a platform for the factions to fight each other.

Gaolathe has since expressed that the BMD is not a party run by the elite, but by the mass of ordinary people. He expects other party structures such as the regions to have some powers in guiding the party.

Gaolathe/Mmolotsi faction is of the view that the power is currently ‘too NEC centric’ and want the tyranny of NEC to be broken and diluted with other centres of power such as branches, regions, congresses and even the presidency in conjunction with other structures.

In an earlier interview, Gaolathe told this publication that BMD should have the culture and spirit that guarantees that no one, no matter how high up in the ladders of the hierarchy, will ever be able to hold the party at ransom.

Mmolotsi has also stated that, in the event that the party is in crisis, the president should be empowered to suspend or even expel members who throw the party into disrepute.

Mmolotsi’s proposition has however been received with mixed feelings, with Gaolathe himself also admitting that he does not believe the president should have the power to expel anyone.
Election of new National Executive Committee likely

There is high possibility that the Special Congress will recall the existing National executive Committee (NEC) by dissolving it and calling for new elections. The Gaolathe/Mmolotsi sympathisers have called for removal of Modubule and Mangole from their positions.

In the event that such would happen, this publication has been informed that a number of key figures belonging to Gaolathe/Mmolotsi faction are readying for the positions, with Pius Mokgware and Dr Phenyo Butale being early favourites to contest against Modubule and Mangole for the position of chairman and secretary general respectively.

Former National Organising Secretary and Motswaledi’s 2014 campaign manager, Gabbie Masie may also return to the fold. However his former position is currently occupied by Jacob Mahupe, who is believed to be a sympathiser to the Gaolathe/Mmolotsi faction.
Opposition to Special Congress

Addressing a press conference three weeks ago, Modubule said the problem facing the party currently will not be resolved by the party convening a special congress, but by dialogue between the warring factions to find a common ground. The party chairman believes the special congress will widen the rift.  He said the special congress will likely cause a situation where the other group is dismissed or sidelined. He disagreed with the convening of a special congress as a solution for the troubles bedevilling BMD.

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