IN ATTENDANCE: President Lt Gen Ian Khama and Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi attended Merafhe’s book launch
The late former Vice President Lt Gen Mompati Merafhe has explained in his recently released memoir that factions at the BDP started at the time of Seretse Khama.
In his book entitled “The General: In the service of my country”, Merafhe denied responsibility for the formation of factions within the Botswana Democratic Party. He wrote that although former President Sir Ketumile Masire revealed that factionalism in the BDP was orchestrated by him and the then party Secretary General Daniel Kwelagobe through his memoirs, Very Brave or Very Foolish, the factions in fact started way before them.
Merafhe made reference to the 1977 speech made by Sir Seretse Khama in Gaborone and BDP headquarters when he lambasted certain elements within the party for “wasting precious time engaging in mudslinging, plotting and counter-plotting, while many problems faced our country are unresolved.” Merafhe said in the book that this clearly shows that factions in the party did not begin with him and Kwelagobe. “The only difference is that in the Masire era, it became more voluble, more bellicose and was therefore much more discernible,” he reasoned.
Despite denying that factions were engineered by him, he concedes that he had a troubled relationship with Kwelagobe upon joining politics, “Before I entered politics, I was Kwelagobe’s underling; he headed the Ministry of Public Service and Information, under which BDF fell. When I was a BDF commander Kwelagobe and I got on very well, in politics, our relations took a backflip- we became adversaries, if not near-enemies,” Merafhe wrote.
Merafhe contended that Kwelagobe’s problem was that he wanted to dictate terms and he was too strong and wayward. “On coming aboard the political bandwagon in 1989, I was amazed at the influence Kwelagobe wielded in the BDP,” he argued.
“Exactly how he came to appropriate such disproportionate power was beyond me,” further questioned.
Merafhe said the media also played a role in moulding Kwelagobe into the giant he was by referring to him as a “BDP strongman” something which Merafhe noted had gone to Kwelagobe’s head. “Kwelagobe was not necessarily a liability to the party, he had quite a palpable rapport with the grassroots. If there is one person who could rally them to the Domkrag banner, it was Kwelagobe,” observed Merafhe.
Merafhe viewed Kwelagobe as a man who put more effort on party work than he did in his ministerial remit, “He was implacably intolerant of even constructive views different from his own,” asserted the former Foreign Affair minister. Merafhe said hell broke loose when he started challenging the views of Kwelagobe and his cronies regarding what he called ‘one sided’ democracy. Merafhe argued that Kwelagobe seemed to believe that his position on any issue was canonical and therefore had to be tamely embraced by everyone in the party, “Everybody was expected to toe his line- If you did not, if you showed a principled independence of mind, woe betided you.”
Merafhe referred to Kwelagobe, the then Vice President Peter Mmusi and Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri as “troika”. Merafhe said the troika called the shots in the party at his time of arrival in the party. “Clearly, the party was in desperate need of reform. I was convinced of this that I decided to challenge Peter Mmusi for the position of chairman of the party in 1991,” he contended. However Merafhe lost dismally against Mmusi. That feat repeated itself again in 1993 at Kanye Congress, the second most divisive elective congress after the 2009 Kanye Congress in the history of BDP.
Merafhe said BDP factions were not necessarily stemming from philosophical or strategic differences but were based solely on the clash of egos and certain, inexplicable propensities.”To attempt to point out the error of its ways amounted to insubordination,” he wrote.
According to Merafhe, “The Big Five” faction was not a faction formed by a deliberate design. It was a group which did not agree with the dominance of Kwelagobe and his allies in the party. He insisted in the book that the name “The Big Five” which was used to refer to him, David Magang, Roy Blackbeared, Bahiti Temane and Chapson Butale was a creation of the press, and never deliberate, “Sadly, when a lie is repeated often enough, it graduates to the status of truth. The Big Five was a figment of a fertile imagination. It was created to give an impression that just like the other faction we too had a pecking order,” he noted.
Party faction has been the hallmark of the BDP since the 1990s and Merafhe was of the view that the factions will not go away anytime soon. The factions which later graduated into Barataphathi and A-Team saw the party splitting in 2010, resulting in the formation of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) which is now part of a coalition- the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
Merafhe argued that one reason Masire could not end factions in the 1990s despite is efforts to bring him and Kwelagobe to peace was the fact that they viewed him as a member of Barataphathi, as such he sympathised with Kwelagobe team.” Masire’s mediation could not bear fruit because the perception in our faction was that he had undeclared loyalties with Barataphathi and that they were the ones who prevented from firmly stamping his authority on the party,” he contended.
The Tshesebe-Mosojane-Masunga road estimated costs stand at P500 million, the tender which was awarded to Bash Carriers in 2017 has not taken shape four years after the project was commissioned.
Tshesebe-Mosojane-Masunga road when it was commissioned, was estimated at P500 million in value, this included construction of 22.50km of the two lane carriage way and 28.70km of access roads including associated bridge works, cross drainage works, storm water drainage works and relocation of services.
When it was first tendered the contract was awarded to Bash Couriers but was terminated after it was alleged that the contractor failed to deliver. It was said that Bash Couriers Construction Company was lagging behind schedule.
This publication visited the sites of Tshesebe-Masunga road last year December and it was evident that the project was at a standstill as deserted machinery on site could be seen with the gravel road also in a devastating state.
Information revealed then indicated that there had been issues of mining rights for aggregates, availability of structural engineers and manpower and a criteria for awarding tender to the specific company when the contract was terminated.
In 2016, as part of the ESP projects, government funded the 25 kilometres (Km) road project to link Tshesebe and Masunga.
Construction of the road, which also connects some of the villages within the district, commenced early in 2016 and was scheduled to be completed within 18 months.
The company had done nothing when their contract was terminated with allegations that it never had the capacity to carry out the project in the first place.
The major ESP project had ultimately robbed a lot of people potential employment when it succumbed to termination.
It was then that the government restarted the tendering process.
The project was awarded to Bango Trading Company and Zebra Construction in a joint venture at a value of P319 Million Pula.
However, information reaching this publication from the Ministry of Transport and Communications confirms that indeed there are no current works carried out on the Tshesebe Masunga road.
Responding to a questionnaire sent to them by this publication through their Public Relations Officer Doreen Moapare, the Ministry indicated that the Tshesebe-Masunga road project is before the courts therefore their response is limited by such a pending outcome.
“As a background the project had been awarded to Bash Carriers at a contract sum of P400, 044,365.68 to begin the works in May 2017 and complete the project in January 2019. Scopes of works included 51.2km main road inclusive of seven access roads. Due to non-performance, Bash Carriers contract was terminated on the 25th of September 2018. ”
Further, Moapare indicated that upon termination of Bash Carriers, a process began to ensure that the development project completes.
Five companies went for a selective tendering bid which she listed as; Lobkom Investments (Pty) Ltd, Landmark (Pty) Ltd and Truck Hire (Pty) Ltd Joint venture, ACE /Excavator Hire (Pty) Ltd and Asphalt Botswana (Pty) Ltd Joint venture, Cul De Sac, Bango Trading and Zebra Construction Joint venture.
“Some companies have since queried the results of the tendering adjudication landing the issue in the courts. We are currently awaiting a ruling expected in February/March 2021, and this will determine the course of action thereafter,” concluded Moapare.
At one point last year, reports indicated that Bango Trading Construction Company had faced raiding by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security, Botswana Police and Botswana Unified Revenue Services, with allegations that there was an emerging pattern targeting overscheduled construction companies with powerful political connections.
Bango Trading Managing Director, Moffat James, was reported to have had close links to former DIS Director Isaac Seabelo Kgosi. Bango Trading and Estate Construction Company which has obtained close to P 1, 5 billion government contracts under former President Lt Gen Ian Khama has been the subject of a parliamentary probe due to the many government contracts awarded to them.
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.