As battle lines solidifies with hardline stances in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) elective congress in July this year, cabinet ministers have taken the lead in Nonofo Molefhi’s quest to become party chairman at the expense of Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi.
Phillip Makgalemele, the deputy minister at the Ministry of Health and Wellness is the chairs all the proceedings of the Nonofo Molefhi campaign while deputy Ministry in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Biggie Butale is one of the coordinators of the campaigns. Because of the positions they have taken, for the first time in their political careers, they will have to go against President Khama openly within the BDP political spectacle.
After demonstrating their presence on the ground by their numbers at the National Council, the Molefhi camp launched Molefhi’s chairmanship bid just after the BDP National Council this past weekend in Mogoditshane. Tebelelo Seretse was introduced as the lead campaigner in the race to topple Masisi from chairmanship.
BDP insiders have described this as rare, for a president designate to be challenged by those who expect him to take over the reins in a not so distant future. Masisi will take over from President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama in April 2018 and he will choose and Vice President and appoint his cabinet. But the usual lining up for lucrative ministerial posts appears not to be in the agenda of a number of the executive who have decided to go with their hearts.
Makgalemele is Member of Parliament for Shoshong and has made it clear that the BDP needs a chairman who will focus solely on building the party and will have no extra duties. He believes Molefhi’s pledge to resign from cabinet should he win is an indication that he is serious about strengthening the BDP towards the 2019 general election.
On the other hand, the Shoshong legislator has more than motivation, because he has Vice Presidential ambitions and the fact that he was unceremoniously pushed out of the Office of the President in the last cabinet reshuffle by President Khama could be a further instigator of faith in Molefhi.
Biggie Butale is a spiritual leader, a pastor and a straight arrow politician. He has not made his support for Molefhi a secret, he went to his facebook account to declare: “How do you expect me to be neutral when my brother in the load in running for chairmanship.” Butale’s wording was an exact replica line used by President Khama at the BDP National Council when he declared that people cannot expect him to be neutral when his Vice President is running for chairmanship. In addition to supporting his brother, Butale is incensed by reports that the Masisi camp has planted a shadow in Simon Mavange to challenge him in the primary elections next year.
MASISI CAMPS GETS WAKE UP CALL
Following the BDP National Council at Travel Lodge this past weekend, some of Masisi camp members admitted that Molefhi’s apparent strength shocked them. “It is not going to be a walk in the park, he has supporters,” admitted a BDP senior figure who wants the Vice President retained as chairman.
To demonstrate that this senior figure’s concerns are shared across the camp, there was an impromptu meeting in Mogoditshane on Wednesday evening to recap the events of that were observed at the National Council. Molefhi’s supporters had T-shirts branded ‘Party e Nonofile’ and they were in song and dance with piercing messages towards the Masisi camp, furthermore, they had the numbers. Masisi camp also has branded T-Shirts and caps under the tagline ‘#GoMasisi’.
At some point, insiders point out, the party members were asked not to put on their branded T-Shirts at the conference, but they defied he order the following day, and they continued in song and dance. Even with a signature President Khama endorsement for his Vice President at the Council, the pro-Molefhi enthusiasts appear undeterred and they have already thrown the endorsement over the window.
The BDP constitution is very clear that every five years the party will elect a President of the party at a Special Congress, and if a constant is adopted, Masisi will be sitting president at the time of that congress. The Masisi camp is worried by what a loss at the chairmanship could do to Masisi’s strength as a Presidential candidate, “he must win by hook or crook,” admits one of his supporters.
While the party constitution vests all powers with the President, who also chairs central committee meetings, party insiders fear two centers of power should Masisi lose the chairmanship because Molefhi will not just be an ordinary chairman, he will be a powerful one. Admittedly, Masisi camp is aware that he could push for Presidency at the Special Congress. Traditionally, it has not happened that a sitting BDP president is challenged at this Special Congress, but apparently the Molefhi supporters are alive to the fact that constitution supersedes tradition, therefore Molefhi must be terminated at this conception stage.
DADA, JAGDISH FACEOFF COOKING
This publication has learnt that the Molefhi camp is likely to surprise Satar Dada and field Jagdish Shah against him for the position of treasurer of the party. Initially there were reports that the veteran businessman mogul will not be running because of old age, but his support for Masisi is said to have urged him to have one more run. But the Molefhi camp is contemplating ditching him and vouching for Shah, another money spinning businessman.
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.