Mmadinare congress was dominated by election campaign
Hardly three months after meeting at Mmadinare to painstakingly discuss issues affecting the party and ultimately government, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) will yet again converge in Gaborone on the 9th-10th October this year for a special congress.
Newly elected Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane had revealed at the Mmadinare congress in July that party delegates did not have sufficient time to discuss critical issues affecting the party and government owing to the tiff over central committee positions. “We decided to call a gathering outside elections to focus on important issues and discuss them in detail,” said Ntuane.
The former Gaborone West South (now Gaborone Bonnington South) legislator said the Mmadinare Congress has however managed to pass 22 resolutions, which he said was an unprecedented number in the history of the party. “The Central Committee has instructed that the resolutions be implemented at various party structures,” he stated.
Ntuane revealed to the media this week at a press briefing that the party has decided to retain the troublesome BDP primary elections model popularly known as Bulela Ditswe. It is believed that the party’s 2014 general elections dismal performance was partly due to how the elections were conducted.
The party had tasked party veteran and former cabinet minister Peter Siele to lead a commission that would investigate the niggling primary elections and offer recommendations to the party. The report was completed and delivered to the party central committee. “The Central Committee has made a decision to retain Bulela Ditswe and it will be used again ahead of the next general elections,” said Ntuane.
It is unusual for the ruling party to convene a special congress immediately after ordinary congress, save for when the party in facing some sort of crisis that it needs to overcome. BDP had its worst elections since independence, for the first time it won elections with a less than 50 percent popular vote.
The last time BDP convened a special congress was in 1995 following the Mogoditshane congress. The special congress met amid factional skirmishing and to prepare for life without President Quett Masire who had indicated at that time that he was planning to leave office before the next elections. It was at that congress that a resolution was reached to change the constitution and introduce the presidential term limit to an aggregated 10 years. The special congress also agreed on the automatic succession of vice president to power in the event that the office of presidency becomes vacant.
This year however, BDP does not have much bone to contend on as far as factional wars are concerned but key reforms need to be discussed in order to resuscitate the party.
Ntuane himself had suggested key reforms for party to adopt during his campaign. Among them are electoral systems reform and introduction of party funding. Ntuane is of the view that reforms will revitalise BDP again, presenting it as progressive if the reforms and adopted since the opposition will also embrace them.
The special congress will also discuss some of the contents of the secretary general report of Mpho Balopi, Ntuane’s immediate predecessor, which was presented at the Mmadinare congress. Ntuane said the delegates did not have adequate time to look at it hence the need to revisit it at the special congress.
The former BDP Executive Secretary also expressed his reservations about denying or confirming reports that he is in charge of the recruitment process that would see opposition members joining the party en masse. It is reported that BDP has paid some members of opposition parties to join the party and use them to recruit more opposition activists.
Ntuane however agreed that he had met with several opposition activists, but stated that it was a norm in local politics as opposition also recruits from the ruling party. “People are not changing parties because they are bought,” he said. “Some initiate it while some are recruited.”
A leaked audio of the meeting between suspended and resigned Botswana Congress Party (BCP) activists Lotty Manyepetsa, Thato Osupile, Virginia Masole and Oganne Mazwigwila and Ntuane reveals the discussion of the secret meeting. In the audio, the quartet gives a report to Ntuane on their efforts to recruit more BCP members to BDP.
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.