Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) President Ndaba Gaolathe has held talks with fellow Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) leaders, Duma Boko of Botswana National Front (BNF) and Motlatsi Molapisi of Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) following the violent elective congress last weekend in Bobonong.
The congress saw the party holding two parallel congresses, with factions, one led by Ndaba Gaolathe and the other by former party spokesperson Sidney Pilane, claiming legitimacy. This publication has been informed by reliable sources close to Gaolathe camp that following the congress, Gaolathe met with Boko and Molapisi to map a way forward. Boko is the President of the UDC while Molapisi is the party chairman.
Although the details of what was discussed at the meeting remain sketchy, Weekend Post has established that the Gaolathe camp has informed the UDC leadership in Boko and Molapisi that in the interest of progress, the UDC should intervene and provide leadership. Boko has been reluctant to intervene in BMD infightings due to “legal and constitutional” constraints on his part. There was hope that last weekend’s congress will resolve the BMD impasse which has been dragging on for the past two years. However the congress descended into violence and several people were injured in the process.
According to impeccable sources, Gaolathe camp has suggested that the UDC leadership help resolve the impasse. The faction is also amiable to a congress re-run supervised by the UDC or an independent body. Dr Phenyo Butale, who is the secretary general of the Gaolathe-led BMD confirmed to this publication that they have submitted a report to the UDC leadership detailing the outcomes of the congress and also made a proposal to the mother party. “Although we believe we have done everything according to the constitution, we have proposed that they preside over a congress re-run, right from the branches to the national congress,” he said.
Butale mention this as a way of ensuring that peace is restored to the party but through a credible elections process. The secretary general of BMD led by Pilane, Gilbert Mangole has told this publication that on their side they are still studying the available options with regard to bring peace in the interest of opposition unity. “I can however confirm that we have written a letter addressed to UDC President [Duma Boko] informing them about the newly elected BMD National Executive Committee (NEC),” he said.
Mangole also revealed that their camp have not yet met with UDC leadership since Bobonong Congress because he the congress has just ended, therefore too soon to for such expectation. Boko and Molapisi will be tasked with presiding over a delicate situation, because there is no guarantee that the Pilane camp will buy the proposal brought forward by the Gaolathe-led camp.
Gaolathe is said to have grip on party structures with all regions and 47 constituencies having pledged support for him. Gaolathe also enjoys support of the Women’s League as well as the Youth League. The mood in the opposition ranks is becoming tense every moment, with members turning against each other. The suggestion is that others have been sent to undermine opposition unity and efforts of bring to an end to BDP’s over 50 years rule.
Boko’s views on the BMD saga
Speaking at the BNF conference in Kang during the President’s holidays, this were Boko’s words in view of conflicts or differences within contracting partners of the UDC: “The Constitution of the UDC is also very clear on the autonomy of its constituent members. It emphasizes that these constituent members are governed by their own constitutions. It does not impose any strictures on the powers each constituent party enjoys under its Constitution and does not vest in the President any powers of regulating the affairs of each constituent party.
This Constitution further makes the President the political head of the organization. Read in its totality, it is clear that the Constitution does not give the President any powers to act either unilaterally or to assume jurisdiction over matters falling within the scope of the Constitution of a particular Constituent party. In the same manner as indicated earlier, any Constituent party that takes the view that its internal challenges merit the intervention of the UDC may move to request such intervention. Absent any such request, the UDC would be overstepping its legal powers to do so.
In the current situation regarding the BMD there has not been any request for intervention directed at either the UDC or any of the other Constituent member parties. It must also be stated that consistently with the UDC Constitution, the leaders of the UDC have maintained that the BMD situation was to be resolved by the BMD members themselves.
Any calls for the President of the BNF and UDC to impose a solution on the BMD are misplaced and ill advised. I must point out that certain of our members have taken entrenched positions in regard to the BMD problems. They have aligned themselves with certain individuals and interests within BMD. This is most unfortunate, especially where such individuals, compromised as they are by the fact of their openly identifying themselves with certain individuals, then become the ones clamoring that the BNF President, in his capacity as UDC President, ignore the Constitution of the UDC and address internal matters of the BMD.
To the extent that I, as President of the BNF and the UDC have not nailed my colors to any particular mast regarding BMD internal matters, I remain available, ready and competent, should I be called upon, to broker a settlement of the BMD issues. It remains for the BMD if it is so minded, to make that call. I would be able, in good conscience, to assist because I am not compromised and tarnished by any premature statements of loyalty or affection. I remain objective and dispassionate.
It must also be recalled that the UDC was brokered by the Trade Union movement. They were able to mediate and pursue each party and bring them to the negotiating table although they could not impose their own views. They were fortunate to deal with each party without the torsion of warring interests or groupings. To mediate in a situation where a single organization is facing divisions in its leadership is an extremely delicate exercise that must be approached with caution lest we worsen the situation.”
The Tshesebe-Mosojane-Masunga road estimated costs stand at P500 million, the tender which was awarded to Bash Carriers in 2017 has not taken shape four years after the project was commissioned.
Tshesebe-Mosojane-Masunga road when it was commissioned, was estimated at P500 million in value, this included construction of 22.50km of the two lane carriage way and 28.70km of access roads including associated bridge works, cross drainage works, storm water drainage works and relocation of services.
When it was first tendered the contract was awarded to Bash Couriers but was terminated after it was alleged that the contractor failed to deliver. It was said that Bash Couriers Construction Company was lagging behind schedule.
This publication visited the sites of Tshesebe-Masunga road last year December and it was evident that the project was at a standstill as deserted machinery on site could be seen with the gravel road also in a devastating state.
Information revealed then indicated that there had been issues of mining rights for aggregates, availability of structural engineers and manpower and a criteria for awarding tender to the specific company when the contract was terminated.
In 2016, as part of the ESP projects, government funded the 25 kilometres (Km) road project to link Tshesebe and Masunga.
Construction of the road, which also connects some of the villages within the district, commenced early in 2016 and was scheduled to be completed within 18 months.
The company had done nothing when their contract was terminated with allegations that it never had the capacity to carry out the project in the first place.
The major ESP project had ultimately robbed a lot of people potential employment when it succumbed to termination.
It was then that the government restarted the tendering process.
The project was awarded to Bango Trading Company and Zebra Construction in a joint venture at a value of P319 Million Pula.
However, information reaching this publication from the Ministry of Transport and Communications confirms that indeed there are no current works carried out on the Tshesebe Masunga road.
Responding to a questionnaire sent to them by this publication through their Public Relations Officer Doreen Moapare, the Ministry indicated that the Tshesebe-Masunga road project is before the courts therefore their response is limited by such a pending outcome.
“As a background the project had been awarded to Bash Carriers at a contract sum of P400, 044,365.68 to begin the works in May 2017 and complete the project in January 2019. Scopes of works included 51.2km main road inclusive of seven access roads. Due to non-performance, Bash Carriers contract was terminated on the 25th of September 2018. ”
Further, Moapare indicated that upon termination of Bash Carriers, a process began to ensure that the development project completes.
Five companies went for a selective tendering bid which she listed as; Lobkom Investments (Pty) Ltd, Landmark (Pty) Ltd and Truck Hire (Pty) Ltd Joint venture, ACE /Excavator Hire (Pty) Ltd and Asphalt Botswana (Pty) Ltd Joint venture, Cul De Sac, Bango Trading and Zebra Construction Joint venture.
“Some companies have since queried the results of the tendering adjudication landing the issue in the courts. We are currently awaiting a ruling expected in February/March 2021, and this will determine the course of action thereafter,” concluded Moapare.
At one point last year, reports indicated that Bango Trading Construction Company had faced raiding by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security, Botswana Police and Botswana Unified Revenue Services, with allegations that there was an emerging pattern targeting overscheduled construction companies with powerful political connections.
Bango Trading Managing Director, Moffat James, was reported to have had close links to former DIS Director Isaac Seabelo Kgosi. Bango Trading and Estate Construction Company which has obtained close to P 1, 5 billion government contracts under former President Lt Gen Ian Khama has been the subject of a parliamentary probe due to the many government contracts awarded to them.
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.