President Lt Gen Ian Khama used his powers to save former party secretary general Botsalo Ntuane from sliding into political obscurity when he brought him back to the Central Committee as one of the five members nominated by the party president.
Ntuane lost his position to Mpho Balopi of the invincible Mokgweetsi Masisi faction. With Ntuane having already declared that he will not contest the upcoming 2019 general elections, there were fears that his defeat would effectively throw him into the political wilderness. However, Khama stepped in and practically saved his political career, effectively keeping Ntuane in the 2017-2019 BDP Central Committee, but much to the dismay of Masisi supporters.
“A lot of Masisi campaigners are shocked and disappointed because they were hoping to be rewarded with additional member posts,” revealed an insider. By deciding to stay out of lobby lists ahead of the Tonota Congress and ending his parliamentary ambitions, Ntuane could have impressed Khama as someone who genuinely serves party interest and cared not much about himself.
In the run-up to Tonota, Ntuane tried to coax Nonofho Molefhi to drop out of the chairman race and instead take over the secretary general position. Ntuane offered to sacrifice himself to pave way for Molefhi, but his proposal had no buyers in both factions. This publication has established that Khama has finally warmed-up to the idea of trusting Ntuane after a relationship characterised by mistrust since the latter returned from Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), a Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) splinter which Ntuane co-founded in 2010. Ntuane, then Leader of Opposition in parliament rejoined BDP in 2012.
At the funeral of former President, Sir Ketumile Masire, Khama revealed what looked like confidential information that the two met to discuss the nitty-gritty of honouring the departed founding father. Ordinarily, such discussion would occur in the orbit of cabinet but on that day, it appeared Khama had extended an olive branch to the then secretary general.
The 46 year old former legislator has spent nearly 30 years of his career as part and parcel of BDP machinery. After a promising career in Journalism as a student at the University of Botswana (UB) in the 1990s, Ntuane joined the burgeoning GS26, a BDP cell structure in the university campus and later became part of the Student Representative Council (SRC).
Ntuane rose to political prominence following the 1995 BDP Congress in Mogoditshane in which he was nominated as one of the five additional members to the party central committee by President Masire. Ntuane would later resign his position to take up a paid post in the party’s secretariat as a political officer. In 1997, he ascended to the position of Executive Secretary, a post he held until he was nominated as Special Elected Member of Parliament after the 2004 General Elections.
Today, with the departure of Daniel Kwelagobe from the party central committee after a 40 year reign, only party Treasurer Satar Dada boasts the same party experience as Botsalo Ntuane. Although still in his 40s, Ntuane has virtually seen all the careers of the current crop of BDP politicians burgeoning. He was BDP secretariat chief when Khama was introduced to the BDP and facilitated his membership; and he was already at Tsholetsa House when the longest serving Member of Parliament currently, Slumber Tsogwane first entered parliament in 1999, he also served in the BDP at the same time with Edison Masisi, the father to the incumbent Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi.
“I have seen many political careers beginning and ending. I have been witness to transitions and in my generation; I know BDP more intimately than anyone so much so that I am actively thinking of writing a book on my experiences,” Ntuane told this publication a few months ago.
The evolution of Khama/Ntuane relations
It was during his first term as an MP that he found himself at odds with Khama, who was then party chairman and vice president. Ntuane, a protégé of Daniel Kwelagobe, then belonged to the Barataphathi faction while Khama was associated with the A-Team faction. One of the most common clashes between Ntuane and Khama was in 2008 when Khama, new in his presidency introduced the new liquor regulations which brought among others, the alcohol levy and limited time for liquor outlets to operate. Ntuane vehemently opposed the development and irked Khama in the process. Ntuane had to restore peace by apologising to Khama.
The expression that there are no permanent enemies and allies in politics manifest accordingly in the Khama-Ntuane political relationship. Nothing describes their enmity best than the build up to the 2009 Kanye Congress in which the two found themselves in opposite sides in one of the fiercely fought political battles in the history of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). Ntuane was rooting for Gomolemo Motswaledi and Khama supported all-women A-Team faction.
Ntuane and his team won, but barely a month after victory, his ally, Motswaledi was suspended for 60 days from the party and barred from contesting the Gaborone Central parliamentary constituency. Ntuane, who was Motswaledi’s sympathizer in chief, visibly hurt by Khama’s actions coaxed Motswaledi to take the matter to court. The matter ended in losses both at the High Court and Court of Appeal.
Following the court case loss, Motswaledi was slapped with a new 5 year suspension. The suspension set in motion a series of events which led to the formation of BMD. Ntuane, led the process of BMD formation as the chairperson of what was known then as EXCO, which oversaw the formation of the new party.
With him as Leader of Opposition in parliament later, Khama consistently pursued a policy of avoidance. The norm is that the head of state should consult leader of opposition occasionally on issues of national interest. Ntuane then decried that he was being sidelined from meeting head of states during their visits to Botswana. His only courtesy visit was of the Zambian President Michel Sata, a few weeks before resigning from BMD.
One of the defining moments of his relations with Khama was Ntuane’s response to the 2011 State of the Nation Address (SONA) in which Ntuane called for reconciliation between the workers and government. Ntuane’s posture did not impress his colleagues in the opposition and since then, he started inclining towards BDP again. In February 2012, against his party wish, Ntuane attended the BDP’s 50th Anniversary celebrations. He said he did so on his personal capacity and as the party’s longest serving Executive Secretary.
Although Ntuane returned to BDP a few months later, his arrival did not immediately ease relations between him and Khama. Last year Khama ignored a passionate plea to include Ntuane among the two names of individuals to be nominated Specially Elected MPs following a constitutional amendment which introduced two more posts for SEMPs in the National Assembly.
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.