The former Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) nominee for Gaborone Central constituency, Gape Motswaledi has addressed new twists in the power struggle roiling the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD).
BMD, the newest political formation in the country, is on the brink of an ill-timed split which imperils the integrity of the opposition coalition, on the last mile to the 2019 general election. BMD has two presidents and factions which are claiming legitimacy, one led by Advocate Sidney Pilane and the other by Ndaba Gaolathe. Gape is the younger brother to the late BMD president Gomolemo Motswaledi, who died in a freak auto accident in 2014. His name was put forward as a possible candidate of UDC after the passing of his brother, alongside trade unionist Andrew Motsamai, cleric Thuso Tiego, lawyer Uyapo Ndadi and the now area parliamentarian, Phenyo Butale.
Motswaledi told this publication in an exclusive interview this week that it is his opinion that both factions should part ways before relations take any further sharp twist and also for the interest of time: “I think quite expeditiously that UDC and the two camps should ascertain whether they can continue with the marriage. Can they mix together? They should ask themselves one question. Do you stay together when you have forsaken each other? (Do you stay together) when you are emotionally detached? Or do you separate while you still have mutual respect and you can work together as separate entities.”
He further said that even in matrimony, there comes a time when a couple has to ruminate over fact that it has become emotionally detached. “You rather not share space and care about each other that not caring about each other and sharing space. It doesn’t safeguard the expectations of Batswana that their destiny is delayed. You don’t expect your aspirations to be realised during the lifetime of your great grandchildren.” He also said that while he is not in the BMD, he has observed that it has come to a point where the levels of mutual trust have tanked to lowermost depths; a prospect which will undermine genuine reconciliation.
Motswaledi, who is also a firm believer of scripture, expressed hope that regime change might still be possible in the 2019 general election, stating that, God willing, a lot of things can still take place in the interim. To buttress a point that working relations have become irretrievable between the two camps, he said it is impossible to imagine former sworn archenemies working together under a single roof.
“As a Motswana, I was observing when Mr Pilane wanted to be readmitted into the party and others were circumspect. If he leads, will he forget that at some point he was looked upon with distrust? If Mr Ndaba (Gaolathe) leads, will he forget that these people at some point didn’t want me? That thing delays the journey. The two camps will spend their time closely eyeballing each other with distrust. I think one of the workable options is when others say, let’s secede and we will work together in a different arrangement. Other suggestions are but ordinary human yearnings that will not be feasible.”
Motswaledi further voiced his disagreement with the prolonged silence of UDC with regards to informing the nation on the progress of the report compiled on the death of his elder brother. He further said that his family never solicited any report or further investigation because it was resigned to the fact that it would not bring back their loved one. He also revealed that the Motswaledi family would have allowed any other political formation or organized body to execute a deeper investigation for national closure if it came in sincerity.
“What worries me is that when you take a long time without apprising the public, they develop their own perceptions and their perceptions become their truth. If an individual believes that the funds were pooled for other reasons than the report; that is their truth. One thing that neutralizes such speculation is when you bring forward facts on your progress, even if the job is not complete.”
He also appeared to take a swipe at Adv Pilane: “The other day I read in a newspaper that someone promised to produce the report. But you see, that individual in a way is peddling a perception that the report is neither nigh nor is there. That it is in someone’s pocket and at his behest it can be produced. It’s a perception that this person is creating and it is very dangerous. It tarnishes the credibility of a movement that came to us in sincerity. That kind of character, that person gets the power to do that because he is filling in the space that is left by those who were supposed to report duly to the nation,” he said.
Motswaledi also said that his father is not interested when it comes to the frivolity of politics “He is not concerned. He can only worry if someone claims that they can produce the report, as if he goes around carrying it in their pocket.” Furthermore he revealed that UDC has also not submitted the report to the family noting that they will receive it like other Batswana when it is finalised. “We are fine with it, but if they take their power and forfeit it to people who might tarnish their name by peddling a perception that this report is something you just pull out of a drawer, it will be a lapse of judgement on their side.”
Motswaledi who is also a chorister and educator, also told this publication that in the period preceding his death, Gomolemo had done something he had never done before in his political life. “I said at the funeral that he invited all the relatives to the launch of his candidature in Gaborone Central. He requested that I mobilise all the relatives. This was the first time that he had wanted his close relatives involved in his political expeditions because normally he kept them at bay from such.”
He continued to state that in retrospect his elder brother might have had witnessed a grand familial gathering in his sub-consciousness which he might have not wholly discerned. “In the spirit, he must have noticed relatives and friends converging at the launch of his candidacy, but he didn't know that it was a spiritual launch into heaven.” He also shed light for the first time why he turned down contesting with the UDC ticket in Gaborone Central noting that he wanted to independently make his own mark and realise his own individual potential, without a slight assistance from his sibling.
“I resisted inheriting anything from him for so long. I resisted at KTM (Choir) which he had founded and where I was based for some time, before I proceeded to join BTU (Botswana Teachers Union) choir because I was also into trade unionism.” He also said that besides seeking to chart his own paths, he nevertheless had to acquaint himself with the especially broken political terrain of 2014 before making his leap. “I couldn't just step in because of him. I had to ask myself, do I know the needs of residents of that constituency?”
But above all, Motswaledi said that Gomolemo had already groomed Young Turks who were at the time equally refined to take up the assignment. He further noted that had he been one of them, he would have been happy to step up to the test. “He was a destiny bearer, but he didn't finish his mandate. He had to hand over the baton but it was only appropriate to do that to his mentees. If I was one of them, I would have accepted. Stepping up to the political challenge is not just assuming a position of power, there is much more to it,” he explained.
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.