Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) President, Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama has embarked on a mission to restore the party’s attractiveness before he retires from the presidency in 2018.
Khama is worried that his once indomitable party will possibly lose office come 2019. The poor performance in the 2014 general elections and the subsequent by-elections losses have given Khama more reasons to worry about the party.
Since August 2015, according to party Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane, the president has been engaged in a series of mobilisation activities across the country. The activities include meetings with the Central Committee, regional tours, branch visits and other team building functions.
“So far President Khama has chaired over 39 BDP activities in a period of ten months. On Sunday he was part of the Central Committee Retreat and yesterday he chaired Central Committee meeting,” he said.
Speaking during a press conference in Gaborone this week, Ntuane further said that Khama was expected yesterday (Friday) to have led a team building activity in Mahalapye for all BDP Councillors and MPs at which he expected all 41 MPs and 430 councillors of the BDP to be in attendance.
Khama is also expected to address the Gaborone Region today (Saturday), which will mark his 41st event since August last year.
“The BDP means business as evidenced by these activities and many others,” said Ntuane.
Khama took over the reins as party and state president in 2008 from Festus Mogae, with the BDP having garnered a 50.6 percent popular vote and 44 parliamentary seats in the 2004 general elections. Khama then led BDP to an increased 52.3 percent popular vote in the 2009 general elections, taking advantage of the disarray in opposition Botswana National Front (BNF). BDP also increased parliamentary seats to 45.
However, a few months after the general elections, BDP split, resulting in the formation of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) in May 2010. The formation of BMD was subsequent to squabbles in the party central committee, which had resulted in then party Secretary General, the now late Gomolemo Motswaledi being suspended from the party and as party parliamentary candidate for Gaborone Central.
The split, coupled with the 2011 public servant Industrial strike and formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) saw Khama leading BDP to its worst electoral performance since independence, with the party garnering 46.7 percent of the popular vote in the 2014 general elections, and saw then combined opposition increasing its presence to an unprecedented 20 seats in parliament.
“President Khama is on a mission to revitalise and mobilise the party structures at all levels in every single constituency and ward in the country,” Ntuane later told Weekend Post.
“This is a marathon assignment and is set to go on. He is positioning the party well in advance to retain government in 2019.”
By the time BDP meets for the 2017 Elective Congress, it would have already met in two special congresses in between party ordinary congresses. Following the 2015 Mmadinare Congress, where a new central committee was elected, BDP convened a special congress which was held at Limkokwing University in Gaborone. It was at this special congress that President Khama announced the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP).
The 2017 BDP Congress will be President Khama’s last as party leader, therefore he is hastening to use the time between now and then to fix BDP and position it, in a way to preserve his legacy.
This year, BDP will also converge for another special congress where particular attention will be on government business and necessarily intervention by the party. Party delegates will also be updated on the political and electoral reforms by the Public Education and Elections Committee (PEEC). The PEEC, chaired by party stalwart Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri was mandated with exploring the possibility of re-looking at political and electoral reforms by the Central Committee which was one of the resolutions of the Mmadinare Congress .
Some of the initiatives brought by Khama include appointing BDP MPs to look after constituencies which were won by opposition in the last general elections. The idea behind the initiative was to establish party presence in those constituencies so that BDP members and structures remain informed about parliamentary business.
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.