Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) stalwart Daniel Kwelagobe has finally decided to bow out of the BDP centre of power, and will not seek any position in the party Central Committee at the upcoming Tonota Congress.
Kwelagobe confirmed to this publication recently that he has decided not to contest after an illustrious and controversy riddled career in the ruling party. “It is up to the party [BDP] to use my wisdom if they need it, but I will not be seeking any position in Tonota,” he said.
DK as he is popularly known in political circles burst into the scene in the late 1960s after being recruited by the founding president of BDP, Sir Seretse Khama. The country’s first president was impressed by the then Radio Botswana journalist’s eloquence and work rate, therefore did not waste any time in luring him to politics on the side of his party.
Kwelagobe, who lost his constituency, Molepolole South, to Dr Tlamelo Mmatli of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) will go down in the history books as a Member of Parliament who served most terms in the Botswana Parliament. Kwelagobe had been the MP for that area since 1969 and had defended the constituency on eight successive occasions. The fall of Kwelagobe also saw the UDC taking Molepolole North from BDP as Botswana National Front (BNF) veteran, Mohammed Khan dethroned former Kwelagobe ally, Gaotlhaaetse Matlhabaphiri.
Kwelagobe has served in the central committee since 1967, first as the Deputy Secretary General, Secretary General and Chairman of the party until 2013 when he voluntarily stepped down from his position and announced that he was not seeking re-election at the Maun Congress.
As the Deputy Secretary General, Kwelagobe was Quett Masire’s understudy and was later propelled to the position of Secretary General in the wake of Seretse Khama’s demise. The unexpected death of Seretse meant that Masire ascended to both the party and country’s presidency, allowing DK to fill the post left vacant by Masire.
It was during his time as the party secretary general that he endeared himself to the country plain folks and along the way became the party’s favourite son. There is a popular belief that in terms of popularity, Kwelagobe is only second to Seretse Khama as the party’s favourite son.
Kwelagobe remains the only MP to have served under all the presidents of Botswana. It is in the 1980s after Seretse’s demise that Kwelagobe emerged as the most powerful man in the party. With Seretse gone, Kwelagobe became synonymous with the name BDP. A hardworking and charismatic individual, Kwelagobe was known to have the impetus to traverse the country in an effort to build party structures and canvass for support.
The father of factions in the BDP
After the arrival of Mompati Merafhe into the political scene in 1989, Kwelagobe had always found himself at loggerheads with the former military man. With President Masire having been expected to retire from office after the 1994 general elections, two factions emerged from the party. The Big Two led by Kwelagobe was rooting for Peter Mmusi, who was then Vice President, while the Big Five consisting of Chapson Butale, Bahiti Temane, Roy Blackbeared and David Magang were pushing for Merafhe. These factional wars led to polarity in the party.
The worst time of party polarity crisis was at the 1993 Kanye Congress, in which the factions tore each other apart for two years. The watershed moment was the Kgabo Commission, a land investigation into the allocation of land in Mogoditshane and other peri-urban areas. Mmusi and Kwelagobe were ensnared by the report findings and the duo was forced to resign from cabinet. The two and their supporters believed the report was a witch hunt by the Merafhe faction. Merafhe who was then Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration supervised the commission.
In his memoir, ‘The General: In Service of My Country’, released soon after his death, Merafhe contended that Kwelagobe’s problem was that he wanted to dictate terms and he was too strong and wayward. “On coming aboard the political bandwagon in 1989, I was amazed at the influence Kwelagobe wielded in the BDP,” he argued. “Exactly how he came to appropriate such disproportionate power was beyond me,” he further questioned. Merafhe said the media also played a role in moulding Kwelagobe into the giant he was by referring to him as a “BDP strongman” something which Merafhe noted had gone to Kwelagobe’s head.
“Kwelagobe was not necessarily a liability to the party; he had quite a palpable rapport with the grassroots. If there is one person who could rally them to the Domkrag banner, it was Kwelagobe,” observed Merafhe. Merafhe viewed Kwelagobe as a man who put more effort on party work than he did in his ministerial remit, “He was implacably intolerant of even constructive views different from his own,” asserted the former Foreign Affairs minister.
Merafhe said hell broke loose when he started challenging the views of Kwelagobe and his cronies regarding what he called ‘one sided’ democracy. Merafhe argued that Kwelagobe seemed to believe that his position on any issue was canonical and therefore had to be tamely embraced by everyone in the party, “Everybody was expected to toe his line- If you did not, if you showed a principled independence of mind, woe betided you.”
Merafhe referred to Kwelagobe, the then Vice President Peter Mmusi and Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri as “troika”. Merafhe said the troika called the shots in the party at his time of arrival in the party. “Clearly, the party was in desperate need of reform. I was convinced of this that I decided to challenge Peter Mmusi for the position of chairman of the party in 1991,” he contended. However Merafhe lost dismally against Mmusi. That feat repeated itself again in 1993 at Kanye Congress, the second most divisive elective congress after the 2009 Kanye Congress in the history of BDP.
Merafhe said BDP factions were not necessarily stemming from philosophical or strategic differences but were based solely on the clash of egos and certain, inexplicable propensities.”To attempt to point out the error of its ways amounted to insubordination,” he wrote. According to Merafhe, “The Big Five” faction was not a faction formed by a deliberate design. It was a group which did not agree with the dominance of Kwelagobe and his allies in the party.
He insisted in the book that the name “The Big Five” which was used to refer to him, David Magang, Roy Blackbeared, Bahiti Temane and Chapson Butale was a creation of the press, and never deliberate, “Sadly, when a lie is repeated often enough, it graduates to the status of truth. The Big Five was a figment of a fertile imagination. It was created to give an impression that just like the other faction we too had a pecking order,” he noted.
Magang also stand on the side of those who fought endless factional battles DK because they believed he was ‘too much revered.’ In his first memoir ‘The Magic of Perseverance’ Magang writes: “The one thing that more than any other put the two of us on a collision course was DK’s inflated sense of self worth, vis-à-vis the BDP. Somehow mysteriously, he and the BDP became synonymous, particularly with the departure of Seretse, and this sent his ego soaring into the supernova;
it literally besotted him. He so choreographed this view that all the party heavyweights, including Quett Masire, were hypnotised in the belief that he was the very pulse of the party, its anchor and cornerstone, even though popular support for BDP was gradually dwindling. Even PHK, whose intellect towered head and shoulders over DK’s, made it a point that he was always on his side. The press dubbed him “BDP Strongman”, and they were right in a way. “
Botswana Police Service (BPS) has indicated concern about the ongoing trend where the general public falls victim to criminals purporting to be police officers.
According to BPS Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, the criminals target individuals at shopping malls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where upon approaching the unsuspecting individual the criminals would pretend to have picked a substantial amount of money and they would make a proposal to the victims that the money is counted and shared in an isolated place.
“On the way, as they stop at the isolated place, they would start to count and sharing of the money, a criminal syndicate claiming to be Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer investigating a case of stolen money will approach them,” said Motube in a statement.
The Commissioner indicated that the fake police officers would instruct the victims to hand over all the cash they have in their possession, including bank cards and Personal Identification Number (PIN), the perpetrators would then proceed to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.
Motube also revealed that they are also investigating a case in which a 69 year old Motswana woman from Molepolole- who is a victim of the scam- lost over P62 000 last week Friday to the said perpetrators.
“The Criminal syndicate introduced themselves as CID officers investigating a case of robbery where a man accompanying the woman was the suspect.’’
They subsequently went to the woman’s place and took cash amounting to over P12 000 and further swindled amount of P50 000 from the woman’s bank account under the pretext of the further investigations.
In addition, Motube said they are currently investigating the matter and therefore warned the public to be vigilant of such characters and further reminds the public that no police officer would ask for bank cards and PINs during the investigations.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership walked out of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this week on account of being targeted by other cooperating partners.
UDC meet for the first time since 2020 after previous futile attempts, but the meeting turned into a circus after other members of the executive pushed for BCP to explain its role in media statements that disparate either UDC and/or contracting parties.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Tymon Katlholo’s spirited fight against the contentious transfers of his management team has forced the Office of the President to rescind the controversial decision. However, some insiders suggest that the reversal of the transfers may have left some interested parties with bruised egos and nursing red wounds.
The transfers were seen by observers as a badly calculated move to emasculate the DCEC which is seen as defiant against certain objectionable objectives by certain law enforcement agencies – who are proven decisionists with very little regard for the law and principle.