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. “
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.