The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is going for its elective congress in a few weeks and party members are aligning themselves with individuals and lobby groups of their choice. Notable however in the election dynamics of the party, is the traction being gained by independent candidates – headlined this year by Assistant Minister, Fidelis Molao and Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane.
Molao is unequivocal in his decision to stand for additional member as a non-aligned candidate. He was voted in Mmadinare for the same position outside the slates, as they are commonly referred to in political circles. “Experience has taught us that lobby lists entrench factionalism. They perpetuate the notion of winner takes all, hence you leave out people who could possibly more value outside,” observed Molao, who had just returned from canvassing for votes in the Letswapo and Shoshong area.
The Assistant Minister’s stance is seen by some as denting to his political progression path because it is parallel to the efforts of incoming President, Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi who has a lobby list ahead of a congress where he intends to be retained as party chairman. “The people who are not part of these lobby lists may feel excluded and develop an attitude of being aloof,” observes the youthful minister.
Molao’s worry stretches beyond the July 7th-9th congress of the BDP in Tonota. “My conviction is that the 2019 general election is a watershed election. It is going to be a make or break for all the political parties, especially the ruling BDP. We believe the Mmadinare approach of assessing individual candidates as opposed to a collective gave the BDP a chance to elect a cohesive central committee. If the same approach is adopted, 2019 could be dealt with in unison,” says Molao.
At the Mmadinare congress, Ntuane was voted by the most number of people despite not belonging to any of the slates. At this congress, he will continue, just like Molao, to preach unity and contest for the position of secretary general as an independent. He is being challenged by Mpho Balopi, a former secretary general under Masisi lobby list and Jacob Nkate, another former secretary general, this time vying under the Nonofo Molefi ticket. “We are going to Tonota for the party and not for any lobby list. We are of the view that people should be elected on the basis of their strengths and capabilities, and not because they are behind so and so,” adds Molao.
Masisi camp currently has the power and money – power because President Lt Gen Ian Khama has openly endorsed Masisi; secondly the fact that Masisi is Vice President and incoming President gives the camp traction. The people vying for positions of Treasurer and Deputy Treasurer, Satar Dada and Jagdish Shah respectively are assumed to be millionaires and this has cemented the assumption that the Vice President's slate is rich. Molao, though not discounting the strength of money and power is hopeful that those who are outside the lobby lists have every chance of making it in Tonota. Other independents include Louis Benedice Sibanda, Andy Boatile who both want to be elected deputy secretary general.
Molao shares that the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) came as a result of the lobby lists; he further says the current conflict at the opposition party is still borne out of lobby lists. He says there is a power struggle between those who won elections in Gantsi and those that lost.
“It is unfortunate that we are going for a tough election in 2019 but we are busy dividing the party. In the process we are running the risk of denying the party the input of people who are outside these slates. What pains more is that supporters of these lobbies will ensure that they close out those that did not belong to slates and the party will miss out on their contribution. Belonging to a slate does not necessarily mean that that person can win an election or has political capital,” observes Molao.
Molao posits that BDP delegates should assess candidates as individuals. ”That is why I am going to Tonota on my own accord. If elected I am free to work with anyone because I will be unencumbered. Lobby lists do not foster party unity. We hope BDP members will ultimately see the value of not belonging to lobby lists,” says Molao.
The Assistant Minister says Masisi as an incoming President will benefit greatly from an internal election that is free of lobby lists because he will inherit a more unified organization. As things stand Masisi has no choice but to support those who belong to his lobby list. The winning group will have to take BDP to the 2019 general election which will probably be dominated by a youth vote. Masisi hopes the likes of Mpho Balopi, Shaw Kgathi, Satar Dada, Jagdish Shah, Slumber Tsogwane, Guma Moyo, Ronald Shamukuni, Ponatshego Suping, and Ngaka Ngaka will bring back the BDP popular vote.
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.