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.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.