Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) is faced with a constitutional crisis as the two factions within the party continue to defy one another in readying for next year’s elective congress.
A liberal BMD constitution, which vests more powers on the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) has made it difficult for the party to resolve the impasse within as NEC members remain divided.
The adoption of a liberal constitution by BMD at the 2011 Inaugural Congress was motivated by the manner in which the late party leader, Gomolemo Motswaledi was suspended by President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama Seretse Khama from his position as Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General in 2009, a few weeks after being elected into the position at the party congress.
At the centre of the controversy lies former party spokesperson, Sidney Pilane who has since self declared his return to the party defying an earlier resolution by party president, Ndaba Gaolathe that his membership will only be dealt with at next year’s party congress.
Gaolathe who formed part of the inaugural NEC as National Policy Director became party president following the untimely death of Motswaledi in July 2014. Prior to him assuming the presidency, Gaolathe had served as Motswaledi’s deputy.
Pilane quit the party in 2012, a year after being defeated by Motswaledi for the party leadership at the party’s inaugural congress.
Earlier this year, BMD president, Gaolathe had said that the process which was adopted to grant Pilane membership was unconstitutional since his earlier application at Gaborone North was rejected. Pilane would later be granted membership at Mochudi West branch after being abetted by party secretary general, Gilbert Mangole to do so.
Pilane’s BMD return talks started making rounds in 2015 ahead of the BMD Youth League congress held in Mochudi where it was reported that he had funded the team which emerged victorious.
It was also reported that the BMD founding member was on the verge of return to the party and also eyeing the party presidency. Pilane however ruled out the possibilities of him returning to politics, only to announce his arrival later.
Both BMD’s Youth League and Women’s League that triumphed at Mochudi Congress are said to be pushing for Pilane’s candidacy even though youth league president Phenyo Segokgo broke ranks with the rest of the members of his executive committee to sympathise with the camp supporting Gaolathe.
Impeccable sources indicate that a while ago, the youth league was planning to pass a motion of no confidence on Segokgo, only to baulk when some party leaders intervened.
The battle within the party is now lobbying for support within the party structures, the party branches that form part of delegates who will be voting at the coming elective congress.
At the moment the party has managed to hold its first congress at Gaborone Central which is fully behind the incumbent president of the party.
Last week, the Gaborone North Branch was thrown into chaos as the two camps exchanged blows as they disagreed on the gathering. The camp supporting Gaolathe had contended that the gathering was unlawful while the other camp insisted otherwise.
It is feared that BMD’s instability will tax the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), of which the former is part of. Of the 17 UDC MPs, nine belong to BMD. Implicitly the BMD internal issues are anticipated to delay talks between the UDC and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP).
BMD secretary general, Mangole, could not be drawn into discussing the ongoing struggle between the two factions as he said, the party leadership have agreed that due to upcoming bye-elections in Philip Matante East, in Francistown such matters should not be discussed in the media.
“Because of the nature of the matter you [this reporter] are raising, my hands are tied and I can’t comment on that because it will disturb the party and possibly have a bearing on the outcomes of the upcoming weekend bye-election.”
Mangole, who had planned going for interview in one of the local radios to respond to the ongoing impasse backed down when the party pleaded with him to postpone the interview.
The Mochudi West legislator confirmed that indeed there was a discussion with the party which led to him ditching the interview. “From next week on wards I will be able to discuss what is going on in the party,” he said.
Constitutional crisis arises when there is a situation regarding inability to resolve a disagreement involving the governing constitution of a political body, usually a dispute or an interpretation or violation of a provision in the constitution.
Meanwhile some BCP activists fear that the longer it takes to conclude the talks the higher the risk for BCP. “The bigger BCP agenda is almost suspended to accord talks with UDC space. We do not know how things will end, if the unfortunate happens and things snowball out of focus, we stand to lose big because our party is not active as we would like at the moment,” said a senior BCP executive who preferred anonymity.
The outgoing President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ian Kirby, shares his thoughts with us as he leaves the Bench at the end of this year.
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.
Botswana’s civil society is one of the non-state actors that could save the country’s democracy from sliding into regression, a Germany based think tank has revealed. This is according to a discussion paper by researchers at the German Development Institute who analysed the effects of e-government usage on political attitudes In Botswana.
In the paper titled “E-government and democracy in Botswana: Observational and experimental evidence on the effects of e-government usage on political attitudes,” the researchers offer a strongly worded commentary on Botswana’s ‘flawed democracy.’ The authors noted that with Botswana’s Parliament structurally – and in practice – feeble, the potential for checks and balances on executive power rests with the judiciary.
Bangwato in Serowe — where Bamagwato Paramount Chief and former President Lt. Gen Ian Khama originates – disagree on whether they must send a delegation to dialogue with President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s family in Moshupa. Just last week, a meeting was called by the Regent of Bamagwato, Kgosi Sediegeng Kgamane, at Serowe Kgotla to, among others, update the tribe on the whereabouts of their Kgosi (Khama).
Further, his state of health was also discussed, with Kgamane telling the attendees that all is well with Khama. The main reason for the meeting was to deliberate on the escalating tension between Khama and Masisi — a three-year bloodletting going unabated.