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Ndaba will be retained as President – Modubule

BMD President, Ndaba Gaolathe

“Even if we go for an election tomorrow we are still going to retain Ndaba as President of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD)”, declared the chairman of the BMD, Nehemiah Modubule who is embroiled in a bitter war of words with his Vice President Wynter Mmolotsi and his President, Ndaba Gaolathe.

In a tell all interview Modubule said as the NEC they are very clear that Ndaba Gaolathe should remain President especially during this phase of negotiation talks within the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).

“We have never thought of removing Ndaba, what I am aware of is that at the last congress Wynter Mmolotsi had wanted to challenge the president and we shot his ambition down. It is surprising that today he claims to be Ndaba Gaolathe’s saviour,” reasons Modubule.  

The BMD chairman said they are very clear on the issue of the Special Congress – we do not support the idea but it is up to the party members to decide willingly without any coercing from the leadership.

SPECIAL CONGRESS OR NOT?

“You see when you start pushing for a special congress because you are angry at someone, it does not help. This kind of a special congress has the potential to divide the party. We are calling for reconciliation because in our view a special congress will not solve BMD problems, it can only worsen them,” he said.

Modubule continued:  Why not engage an arbitrator to help us reconcile? We have seen what the approach of special congresses does to political parties – we know of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) debacle of 1998; we know about the Kathleen Letshabo and Otsweletse Moupo developments after the Molepolole Botswana National Front (BNF) congress; We are alive to the Kenneth Koma and Woto splits. We should not act blind to obvious facts – said Modubule.  

“But if the members of the BMD want a special congress, we will give it to them. If anyone wants to challenge Gaolathe for the position of President of the BMD we will not stop them from doing so, we are a democratic party.”

Modubule explained that the party meets ordinarily every two years but a one third of existing constituencies can request for a special congress. He emphasised that it is important to follow the process when demanding a special congress. He said he is against the idea of leaders touring the country urging people to demand a special congress.

The BMD NEC also has the powers to summon a special congress.

“No one has convinced me personally as to why the party needs a special congress. At one of the meetings, the vice president, Mmolotsi was complaining that decisions were being taken by the majority rule and consensus. I do not know how he wants decisions to be taken on a democratic set up,” said Modubule.  

THE HOT POTATO OF PILANE MEMBERSHIP

Modubule agrees that Sidney Pilane’s application for BMD membership was the genesis of the current hullaballoo and he is still surprised that it is the case. But he explained that the NEC has the power to revoke membership of any member if there are valid reasons to do so. He said as things stand nothing formal has come to the BMD office to nullify Pilane’s membership.

After Pilane pursuit for the position at the High Court bench as a Judge collapsed, he returned to the BMD and approached Gaborone North branch to apply for BMD membership and he was accepted after paying P1000 for his old membership number, explained Modubule. But after the application was accepted, Sennye Kono, the deputy secretary general returned the application demanding minutes of the meeting that accepted Pilane’s membership.

“Before the minutes were availed the branch members received a text message from the area Member of Parliament, Haskins Nkaigwa instructing them not to accept Pilane’s membership and he told them that he was instructed by secretary general, Wynter Mmolotsi,” Modubule said. The branch heeded the instruction and rejection Pilane on a second attempt, but when Pilane asked for minutes of the meeting that rejected him or the reasons advanced against him, they failed to avail them. According to Modubule, Pilane proceeded to apply for membership in Mochudi West where he was accepted.

There was a spring of sporadic protests against his membership and a three man team was dispatched to investigate the circumstances surrounding Pilane’s return to the BMD, they produced a preliminary report which was rejected on the basis that it was not endorsed by all the three, the NEC asked for a fully endorsed report but it has failed to come.  

In exploring the mysteries around Pilane’s membership application, Modubule recalls that some had argued that he should not have applied for membership in Mochudi West and that he should have waited for Gaborone North; others questioned his loyalty to the BMD because he had left it, but Modubule points out that this is not an issue because the BMD constitution allows members to take a break if they so wish.

The BMD chairperson said he is aware that there are those who poke at Pilane’s decision to represent Isaac Kgosi on one of the allegations that were levelled against the latter. He said he finds nothing wrong with Pilane – an advocate – offering his professional services to a client. “What kind of a democracy are we going to run if we will not allow people to make choices. If that is what we intend to do – then Batswana will have made a mistake of voting for us,” said Modubule.

On a separate matter, Modubule explained that Pilane is not representing Samson Guma Moyo in his suit against Haskins Nkaigwa. He said the lawyers engaged by Moyo had wanted to instruct Pilane as an advocate and he declined the offer.  He said he could not be pitted against his political colleague.  

According to Modubule, Pilane’s problems started when he challenged the late Gomolemo Motswaledi for the presidency of the BMD. He insisted that the party was democratic and there was nothing wrong with contesting for leadership.

“After he lost the presidency he continued to be close to Motswaledi and the latter had no problem with him because he continued to seek advice from him even after Pilane left the party to pursue the position of a judge,” said Modubule.

Modubule is of the view that some people are not comfortable with Pilane’s return because they think he wants to challenge Ndaba Gaolathe because he once challenged Motswaledi.  

ON WYNTER MMOLOTSI BEING FIRED

There was a meeting on Monday which was convened by people who were angry at reports that there are plans to expel some members of the Executive Committee from the party. They wanted to know if such reports were true and what we were doing about the situation. The party members said Mmolotsi should be fired from the party and they blame him for all the troubles in the BMD. They further instructed us to go on a countrywide tour to meet up with members and lobby for support.

WHY MODUBULE JOINED BMD

The BMD chairman said he joined the party because of its pragmatic approach to issues – it was not aligned to any existing ideologies, he said. “The BMD professed that all ideas will be taken on board and they came up with a very liberal constitution which gave power to the collective and not an individual.” Modubule indicated that the BMD’s late leader, Gomolemo Motswaledi was one of the main reasons he joined the party because he was a loving and intelligent person. He has been courting me from my BNF days, he engaged me as if I was one of their own, that is when he was still at the ruling BDP.

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Free at last: Ian Kirby Speaks Out

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WeekendPost: Why did you move between the Attorney General and the Bench?

Ian Kirby: I was a member of the Attorney General’s Chambers three times- first in 1969 as Assistant State Counsel, then in 1990 as Deputy Attorney General (Civil), and finally in 2004 as Attorney General. I was invited in 2000 by the late Chief Justice Julian Nganunu to join the Bench. I was persuaded by former President Festus Mogae to be his Attorney General in 2004 as, he said, it was my duty to do so to serve the nation. I returned to the Judiciary as soon as I could – in May 2006, when there was a vacancy on the High Court Bench.

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Civil society could rescue Botswana’s flawed democracy’ 

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