Gaolathe says UDC enjoy support of Batswana abroad
Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) President Ndaba Gaolathe this week Thursday, minutes after touching down on Botswana soil from USA, played down the internal revolt in the party he leads.
Addressing a group of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), hardliners who had descended on Sir Seretse Khama Airport terminal to welcome him, the embattled party leader said that, “even if people can be imposed on us you should just keep calm because we have agreed that we will deal with those things in 2017.”
It is believed Gaolathe was referring to former party presidential candidate and co-founder, Advocate Sydney Pilane’s membership being imposed on the BMD.
Gaolathe wrote a letter to party Secretary General Gilbert Mangole and National Executive Committee (NEC) members and stated that the contentious issue of Pilane’s membership will be resolved by the party congress at its next meeting, in two years.
However, Mangole has also responded in writing, and maintained that Pilane has been constitutionally welcomed into the BMD. Mangole’s defiance was also coupled with unsavoury remarks at the party’s founding national policy director and accused him of taking sides. Mangole, alongside Modubule have emerged as strong supporters of Pilane.
Gaolathe went on to make light of the imploding NEC factional battle, and urged party followers to train their lasers on party vision and not on individuals or the ensuing publicised war of words. He said that he has come to see solid party support from Batswana across the Atlantic, in the US cities of New York and Houston, Texas from where he was arriving, saying that Batswana in that country told him that they want to pay membership fee of P1000.
A BMD member of parliament and party top man who is believed to be on Gaolathe’s side of the fence told this publication that they have seen it fit to organise the party president a reception ceremony on the eleventh hour amid the ensuing factional wrangling.
He continued saying that they are well within their right to be distrustful of Advocate Pilane’s unprofessed ulterior agenda more so that they have got wind of news that the advocate does not only want to challenge Gaolathe for the party presidency but also harbours ambitions of challenging Duma Boko for the leadership of the UDC.
Ahead of party congress in Ghanzi, news was growing thick that Pilane was planning a comeback to the party he left in 2012 amid defections from the newly formed splinter party. Pilane however was on record stating that he had no intentions of returning to BMD to challenge Gaolathe for party presidency.
According to insiders, a group which won at the Ghanzi Congress is predominately supporters of Pilane and are conspiring to have him as a replacement of Gaolathe at the next congress and ultimately Boko for the leadership of UDC.
Gaolathe was a member of the party’s first NEC elected in 2011 at St Josephs College, where the late Gomolemo Motswaledi defeated Pilane for BDM presidency. In 2012 following Ntuane’s resignation from BMD, NEC unanimously agreed to elevate him to the position of vice presidency. At the party congress in July this year, Gaolathe was unchallenged.
However, barely a few months after his comeback plan rumours, Pilane resuscitated his political ambitions and applied at Gaborone North Branch to be admitted into the party, but his application was rejected. He then tried his luck at the next branch in Mochudi West, under Mangole and he was admitted back into the party.
The admission of Pilane into the party has become a debate between the camps. In a letter written by party president and addressed to NEC members, Gaolathe stated that the decision to re-admit Pilane into the party was unconstitutional since those who carried out the exercise did not follow proper procedures relating to membership application.
Gaolathe explained in the letter that membership application in terms of Article 5 of the constitution should be submitted to and considered by a Brand Committee, which may accept or refuse it. He further stated that any such acceptance or refusal is subject to review by the next higher organ of the party, which in this case is the Regional Committee not another branch like Mochudi West Branch did.
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.