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.”
Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.
The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).
Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model. BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.
“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.
Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.
Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board. However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.
He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.
“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).
“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.
“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.
Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.
“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.
“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.
WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs. High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.
Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.
The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.
“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.
As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.
“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.
Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.
“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.
The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.
“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.
BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.
“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.
Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.
In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.
“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.
The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.
“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”