Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) President, Ndaba Gaolathe on Thursday evening told multitudes of BMD supporters at the Maitisong Hall, Maruapula School in Gaborone that they have since decided to leave the BMD impasse in the hands of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), to mediate on.
Multitudes of supporters had thronged the hall clad in party regalia to lend solidarity to their “calm and collected” leader. Gaolathe won the parallel controversial party congress recently at Bobonong Community Junior Secondary School while the other was won by Sidney Pilane at Matshekge Junior Secondary School both at Bobonong village.
The meeting was the first he addressed as BMD president. Evidently, he had the support of party elders who graced the event, including former Speaker of the National Assembly Margaret Nasha, counterparts in the UDC and Botswana National Front (BNF) Vice President Reverend Dr. Prince Dibeela, Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) Vice President Takula Lenyatso and renowned pastors in the likes of Dumi Mmualefhe and Cosmos Moenga.
Other key people who were also present include Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sectors Union (BOFEPUSU) leadership consisting of its leaders Johnson Motshwarakgole, Tobokani Rari and Ketlhalefile Motshegwa among others. When he took to the podium, amid applause and cheering, Ndaba said they respect the UDC as a mother body and will duly allocate them a chance and time to intervene in the matter between his faction and that of Pilane. “We need to wait for the UDC. We need to respect the UDC processes and hope that those charged with responsibility will offer guidance accordingly,” Ndaba pointed out to the audience in the fully packed hall in Maruapula, Gaborone.
Ndaba calls for a re-run of a free and fair congress
According to the charming leader, the party should go for a re-run of the national congress to elect a new leadership through fair and fair elections. “We can’t demand at the national level free and fair elections if we are not able at the party level to demand and conduct free and fair elections,” he told the gathering. He also noted that BMD members who support his cause are not convinced about the faction taking the court route in resolving the impasse. He stated: “they do not believe that the court route is viable. They believe that the time and material and cost entail will take away whatever energy we need to offer to Botswana.”
Ndaba faction weighs options of a new political party
According to Ndaba, forming a new party may be an option, as party devotees suggest, but it should however not be the first option. He highlighted: “I know that there is talk about a new political party, and I have to be honest with you. There is pressure yes, there is pressure mounted from different directions to embark on the option. Proponents of this option advance reasons for its course and amongst them they say perhaps we need a fresh home. We need a dwelling home to this consciousness of change.”
He added that “but this should not be our first option, be patient. We need to give the UDC the opportunity to intervene before we consider all other options.” In terms of the new party, Ndaba also observed that many decisions will be taken and some of these decisions will be painful. “This is a consciousness that was inspired by activists, by ordinary people from across different needs. If this consciousness sits with discomfort, as it seems to do right now, then the current configuration, we need to be decisive about how best to transfigure ourselves so that the consciousness could change and thrive towards the kind of Botswana we all want. We will never be defeated,” he maintained on his address.
I am not returning to the BDP – Ndaba becomes emotional
The non conformist BMD leader continued his address to the multitudes of his supporters and quashed rumours about his alleged move back to BDP. “I have also heard a rumour that I want to decamp to the ruling party. I just want to say to you that I am a servant of the people. I serve at the pleasure of the people. And as long as the people think they need me to assist them in the journey that is theirs I cannot walk away from them,” the clearly emotional young leader set the record straight. He further added, whilst holding back tears: “I don’t walk away from people who prayed for me and made me who I am. And should the people say to me at some point that I have done my part, and that they need a new set of leaders, then I will be happy to bow out.”
The BMD leader takes blame for Bobonong violence
The Gaborone Bonnington South law maker further apologised to the families whose children were injured at Bobonong; and to the students of Matshekge CJSS for contaminating their school’s reputation. “It is not who to blame. The buck always stops with the leader. And this is why I take full responsibility for events leading to and after the BMD congress.” He informed the gathering that in the past week, he travelled to Bobonong to see the Kgosi to apologise to him; and to the school to tender his apology; and also visited the police to thank them for being such gallant protectors.
Ndaba also stated that he is aware of the alarm his party caused to many citizens, especially that the party as part of the UDC carries much hope for them. He conceded that he is embarrassed that the party returned from the elective Congress in Bobonong last month with two parallel sets of leadership committees. “Many of you know that that’s uncalled for, they are embarrassed by this. In fact I am embarrassed myself. Some of you have listened to radio talk shows and witnessed and wondering how this great movement of ours has become the skunk of this nation.”
According to Ndaba, their actions and conduct have represented everything that can go wrong in a democratic experiment. He explained that “the perceptions and circumstances that surround BMD have generated confusion. They have generated the disillusionment. They have generated mistrust, and have generated doubts about whether our nation can achieve the change that we also yearn for and desire.”
Further, the maverick leader pointed out that the unfolding of events, tactics and behaviour of the BMD have revealed that they have in their midst, men and women who do not believe in this change that they all see this country needs; “we have men and women whose lack of belief causes them to work against every little effort to present to this country the type of choice of leaders and political formation that our citizens can choose from on an election day,” he quipped.
“This, alone, is a travesty; it is a tragedy, for this is part of the vision that we have shared with so many of our citizens, that our movement is a movement that should be a meeting of great leaders of men and women that ordinary people can choose from in this nation,” he added. He also mentioned that “the current impasse in the BMD is not a traditional difference of opinion. It is not a contest of ideas or a contest of ideology. It is not a traditional competition among leaders for traditional leadership. The current situation in the BMD is much deeper than what meets the eye.”
He takes a swipe at BDP government for poor governance
Ndaba did not spare the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) for its misdeeds. He started by pointing out that Botswana needs a government because they are tired of a government that buys Fighter Jets and Gripens at Botswana Defence Force (BDF) at the expense of financing projects that could transform the lives of the people. He added that the country needs a new government because the current one cannot account for major public expenditure saying it’s for security reasons.
“We need government because the current government is not able to manage large national potentially transformational projects. We need a new government because the current one doesn’t believe in the talent of their citizens choking their creativity including their own. We need a new government because the current one is suspicious of everybody, its suspicious of investors, and degrades the workers.”
The Gaborone Bonnington South lawmaker said BDP government conceals injustices, and that it is a government which has a secret service that runs the government behind the scenes with fear mongering and intimidation. “We need a government that takes care of all its affairs, and cultivates the minds of people that they too can become anything behind the sun. We are that government. And we will become that government. We have so many competent people to transform the lives of our people.”
“We will fight for what Motswaledi stood for”
According to the son of ex and late Minister of Finance and Development Planning, “some in our midst say we are fighting for some power in the high echelons of the party, they say there is place of dominance in this fighting, they say we are fighting for a high place in a high seat in the government of 2019 should we win election.”
However Ndaba thinks otherwise: “no, this is not our fight or our war. We fight for a new Botswana. We fight for our nation the same vision by our great leader Gomolemo Motswaledi, the great vision of all fair minded citizens of this country.” “It is always good to fight for something, even if you are wrong, and indeed we might be wrong,” he highlighted.
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.