The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) race for positions in the party’s governing structures has led to endorsement of candidates by party elders and there are fears that this may revive factionalism and bring divisions.
As the race for the chairmanship heats up, a number of candidates have lately enjoyed endorsement from party elders the latest being of former President Sir Ketumile Masire and long-time party ‘strongman’ Daniel Kwelagobe.
Masire’s statement was read by some mean a declaration of support for Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi to ascend to the position of the chairman at the upcoming party congress billed for Mmadinare in July. The former leader has since clarified his statement, distancing it from any form of endorsement.
President Masire had rubbed party stalwarts the wrong way when he made remarks to the effect that his support for Masisi was based on his origin as a “Southerner”. The remarks have been seen as divisive and peeling off the old wounds of factionalism.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s during the emergence of party factions, the dictum of “Southerner” and “Northerner” became a hot potato in defining party factions. The Mmusi-Kwelagobe faction was predominately made up of those who came from the southern part of Botswana while ‘The Big Five’ comprising (Mompati Merafhe, Bahiti Temane, Roy Blackbeard, Chapson Butale and David Magang) was dominated by ‘northerners.’
Although BDP has made it clear that factionalism should never be the basis of campaign for central committee, the endorsement by party elders may see factions manifesting slowly within the party.
Following the suspected endorsement of Masisi by Masire, another chairmanship candidate Ramadeluka Seretse has criticised the gesture and said it was regrettable – especially for such endorsement to have been carried out in the presence of other candidates.
The former cabinet minister however downplayed suggestions that Masire’s endorsement was based merely on the origin of Masisi as a ‘southerner’. “I never understood the tone of the letter to say the Chairman of the BDP for 2015-2017 period must come from the south as opposed to the north,” he said in a statement.
“Yes, any form of endorsement of one candidate by whoever at such gathering, in the presence of other candidates would be unfortunate and a mistake never to be repeated.”
Ramadeluka Seretse was in pole position for the Vice Presidency in the run up to the 2014 general elections but went out of favour after losing to Kgotla Autlwetse in the primary elections. The party chairmanship has been traditionally associated with the vice presidency.
Meanwhile Cabinet member and Specially Elected Member of Parliament Kitso Mokaila also confirmed to this publication that he has a preferred candidate whom he refused to mention citing that he was confident the aspirant will triumph.
Mokaila said this at the backdrop of strong speculations from highly placed sources in the party that he supports former Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Ramadeluka Seretse for Chairmanship. Ramadeluka enters the race bruised from the party primary elections after being defeated twice by Kgotla Autlwetse.
Wedging in on the ongoing debate, former Vice President and outgoing BDP Chairman Ponatshego Kedikilwe expressed discontentment with those publicly endorsing candidates for BDP chairmanship. Kedikilwe told WeekendPost in an interview that behavior (of public endorsements) is utterly uncalled for and denounced it with the strongest terms possible.
The BDP heavyweight stated boldly that logic would not allow him to endorse any aspiring candidate for any position, including chairmanship, in the party Central Committee. “I disagree that there should be public endorsements, it is not the right thing to do. Consequently, as an outgoing Chairman and former Vice president – I would not endorse any candidate,” he stressed to this publication.
However, the BDP strongman Daniel Kwelagobe has publicly declared his perpetual support for Tebelelo Seretse. The former chairman maintained to WeekendPost that, “every party member has freedom of choice and so there is nothing wrong with public endorsements,” while refusing to accede that it was disadvantaging the other candidates.
Ironically, the long-time party secretary is now endorsing his former nemesis. Tebelelo Seretse battled with Kwelagobe for chairmanship in a bloody skirmish that left the party divided after the 2009 Kanye congress – out of which followed the formation of the splinter party, the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD).
Nonetheless, it seems like Kwelagobe and Seretse have since buried that hatchet and Kwelagobe is now rooting for the only woman contender in the race.
Kwelagobe also supports his political prodigal son, Botsalo Ntuane for the position of the Secretary General, a position which Kwelagobe himself managed to hold for 27 consecutive years. This support comes at the expense of his former Barataphathi ally Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri, who is seen as Khama’s favourite for the position.
The upcoming BDP congress will be followed by two elective congresses before the next general elections. BDP will meet again for the biennial event in 2017 and 2019. While Masisi maybe steps ahead of his colleagues in the bid for presidency, he will need congress support in 2019 to be retained as party president. Traditionally, a seating president has never been challenged in the BDP, despite the constitution allowing it.
Masisi became a surprise package in November last year when President Lt Gen Ian Khama announced him as the Republic’s Vice President. Initially viewed as a stopgap, it seems like the Moshupa-Manyana Member of Parliament has everything under his control and will do everything to consolidate his power.
Meanwhile University of Botswana lecturer in Public Administration, and renowned Political Analyst, Daniel Molaodi told this publication that the endorsements may just spark further divisions in the party.
“The endorsements are going to further create room for vacillations among members of the BDP as they will begin to look more into why each elder is endorsing a particular candidate over the other and that might just spark further divisions,” he stated.
He added that it might even regenerate the factions that were supposedly killed, “the question though would be how the elders themselves justify their choices and whether their reasoning resonates well with BDP members as a collective or in their old or new formations/factions,” Molaodi pointed out.
According to the UB lecturer, that the former president Sir Ketumile Masire is apparently endorsing Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi for chairmanship on account and consideration of him being Southerner is deplorable and raises more questions.
“The question would be: is Masire saying that there is need to balance regional representation (specifically the south vs north) in leadership positions of the BDP and by implication that of Botswana? If so what does this say about our democracy, issues of quality and traits of leaders we want,” he asserted.
“I am wondering if this is a concern within the BDP itself, if it is then how pervasive is it such that you will still have a southerner in the form of Daniel Kwelagobe endorsing a northerner Tebelelo Seretse?” Molaodi rhetorically asked.
The political analyst conceded that the reasons for Kwelagobe’s endorsement of Tebelelo were based more on current trends of the party torn between the emerging ‘tenderpreneurs’ and the traditional BDP stalwarts who fear an erosion of the party culture and principles, although at the same time one would have expected President Masire to be with the traditional BDP thinking.
According to Molaodi, “it’s simply a question of which issue each of the elders view as more crucial in this particular contest and therefore not necessarily their permanent view.”
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.