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Merafhe: A factionalist who survived the fury


Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is predominately associated with its founding stalwarts like Sir Seretse Khama, Sir Ketumile Masire and Moutlakgola Nwako to mention but a few – but the party’s history will make little sense without the mention of the name Mompati Merafhe. Although a late entrant into the BDP, his arrival created controversy that lasted for years where upon his arrival he made his ambitions for the presidency clear, a move that would put him at axis with fellow party loyalist polarizing the organisation for years.


In 1989 following another triumph for the BDP at the polls, like it has been the norm, then President Sir Ketumile Masire announced a number of Specially Elected Members of Parliament, but this time around the list comprised of influential men who will change the history of the party forever – Festus Mogae who fate will offer him the second most powerful position on the land three years later, and Mompati Merafhe who would then find himself fighting unending factional wars with stalwarts like Daniel Kwelagobe and Ponatshego Kedikilwe.


Mogae had been plucked from the civil service where he had worked with President Masire for the better part of his civil service career mostly as his Permanent Secretary. On the other hand, Merafhe who was two years shy of nearing his retirement age had been lured from the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) where he served as the army commander since its formation in 1977.


When he arrived in 1989 for the sixth parliament, a tumult time for the ruling BDP, Merafhe found a party readying for something big.  It was expected that President Masire, who was now aging, was about to retire from office. The status quo favoured the then Vice President, Peter Mmusi to become the successor.

With him getting along with the president and having support of the most powerful party stalwarts, Kwelagobe and Kedikilwe, his fate was almost sealed. David Magang had also expressed his desire for the presidency, but his chances ranged from slim to none given his relationship with Masire and Kwelagobe – the Mmusi faction then. Masire never got along with Magang, largely owing to his views about government and the need for reforms within the party.


When Merafhe arrived, the army general swiftly aligned himself with those who were on the opposite side of Kwelagobe-Mmusi axis. This saw the birth of the Big Five faction comprised of David Magang, Mompati Merafhe, Roy Blackbeard, Bahiti Temane and Chapson Butale.

The faction pushed for Merafhe and supported his presidential bid. President Masire had seemed to be sympathetic to the Kwelagobe-Mmusi faction largely because it was made up of people who were members of his Central Committee and most importantly his foot soldiers.

As the Secretary General of the party, Kwelagobe wielded power and was the most influential in the party. Coupled with his workaholic virtue, Kwelagobe used to traverse the country to canvass for support and build party structures something which ensured that the Big Five faction was kept out of the central committee. For many years, party President Masire, its Chairman Peter Mmusi, Secretary General Daniel Kwelagobe and Treasurer Kedikilwe remained invincible.


The watershed moment for Merafhe and the Big Five came in 1992, when Vice President Peter Mmusi and Minister of Agriculture Daniel Kwelagobe were implicated in land allocation scandal which ensnared them as having acted wrongly in allocation of plots in Mogoditshane.

The report which steered unprecedented divisions within the party was instigated by Mmusi himself following uneasy complaints about land corruption in Mogoditshane and other peri-urban areas. Mmusi was also a minister of Local Government and Lands and he had to act – rightly so, he convinced President Masire to set up a commission of inquiry.  The report was chaired by founding party veteran Englishman Kgabo and its findings which were to be known as the Kgabo Report left the BDP vastly polarized.


Merafhe’s faction pushed for the suspension of the duo, and after months of resistance the two bowed out of government, leaving the party in chaos. Mmusi resigned as the country’s Vice President and Minister of Local Government and Lands, the only Vice President to have done so; while Kwelagobe also cleared his table at the Ministry of Agriculture.

These events however left Masire in a vulnerable position without his two trusted men in government and had to act to find the replacement for his number two. Kwelagobe-Mmusi faction preferred Kedikilwe for Vice Presidency while the Big Five wanted Merafhe to be given the nod.


Sensing a perilous situation on the party’s way, Masire bypassed the two and instead opted for Festus Mogae mainly because he was not tainted by factional wars and because he never showed any presidential ambitions. Many, both in Mmusi-Kwelagobe and the Big Five understood Mogae’s appointment as stopgap and they could still launch a comeback for vice presidential bid after the 1994 general elections.


Merafhe had won, but it did not last for a long time. The Mmusi-Kwelagobe faction was convinced that Merafhe has plotted their downfall and as the Minister Presidential Affairs and Public Administration he packed the entire investigating team with people who were loyal to his course. Pondering their next move and imagining life outside government the duo approached the courts to challenge the legality of the commission and its findings.


Subsequently, the duo was suspended from the party for challenging the findings of the Kgabo Commission – a case they ultimately won. The court ruled that the proceedings of the commission should not have been held in camera therefore the findings of the report were set aside.

In the run up to the 1993 Kanye Congress, the Big Five took over the control of the party, and condemned the two forever. The situation now meant that, the once powerful men will be out of both government and the party highest governing structure something they could not imagine happening in their life time.


Merafhe had declared that he will be contesting the party chairmanship, a position which is general associated with the vice presidency in the BDP. However following their victory at the court in regard to their case, lawyers for Mmusi and Kwelagobe told the party that their clients were entitled to contest elections at the congress. In turn, the party sought and was furnished with legal opinion advising that the party and government could not be regarded as one entity. This meant the two won the day, again the Big Five’s hopes were shattered.


In the ensuing elections Mmusi-Kwelagobe retained their positions as chairman and secretary general respectively. Kedikilwe also retained his position as Secretary General. Meanwhile the internal bickering did not stop, even ahead of the crucial 1994 general elections. In the process, Merafhe’s rival Mmusi passed on following an illness associated with depression resulting from his demotion from the Vice Presidency.


The 1994 general elections saw for the first time Botswana National Front (BNF), the only opposition party in parliament registering 13 seats, a development which meant that the BNF needed eight more seats in the next general elections to condemn BDP to the pastures. It was in fact said the party went to the 1994 general elections as two parties in one, with the other faction riving the party apart. Among the victims were four cabinet Ministers.


In the absence of Mmusi, Kwelagobe pushed for Kedikilwe as his replacement. DK as Kwelagobe is popularly known never wanted the presidency for himself but was more influential as a kingmaker through the use of his influence in the party and its structures. He helped recruit PHK from civil service and was convinced the man had what it takes. Their faction was renamed Kwelagobe-Kedikilwe faction and later, Barataphathi.


President Masire had intended to leave office immediately after the 1994 general elections. With discontent also growing over his leadership, he was under pressure to go, but could not leave the house on fire. Kwelagobe and Merafhe were not showing any signs of getting along.

Masire stayed, to remedy the situation. The 1995 congress, saw Merafhe vying for the Chairmanship against newly designated president elect of Barataphathi, Kedikilwe. It was much believed that Kedikilwe was more powerful than Mmusi and Merafhe stood no change again. Just like the previous congress, Kwelagobe’s team whitewashed the Big Five, also winning the chairmanship.


There was only one reason why the two were prepared to go to war over the chairmanship. Both viewed it as a stepping stone to the presidency and it was clear that Masire will go before the next general elections; the other reason being that Mogae had no constitutional protection at that time.

In the event that the president leaves office, parliament will convene within seven days to elect a new president. If Masire steps down as the President of the Republic the post of presidency at the party will also fall vacant, something which Kedikilwe knew that it will months before rising to the highest rank. Merafhe knew very well, he could use his support in parliament to also rise. It was an unending war.


Masire was a worried man, wanting to go, the situation kept nagging him. If he left while the status quo was unchanged, Mogae could fall and the party will split. Mogae could not beat neither Kedikilwe nor Merafhe in the event that the Presidential contest remained open. Masire devised a plan that would ensure that Mogae succeeded him smoothly and proposed for automatic succession in the event the president leaves office before the elections. Both Kwelagobe and Merafhe were against the idea, but it was Masire who won the day.


By the time Masire left office at the end of March in 1998, Merafhe has fallen out of the race, this time for the country’s number two. Mogae has already secured his place through the constitutional amendment provision that guaranteed automatic succession. With the race for number two now on, it was David Magang versus Kedikilwe this time around.

The general mood suggested that Mogae will pick Magang, since the two have been close allies since their school days. However, when the opportunity came, Mogae like Masire did in 1992, bypassed the two and instead convinced army general, Lt Gen Ian Khama to quit the post to take over the country’s number two post.  On the 2nd of April 1998, Mogae announced Khama as the new vice president.


Ten years later, it was now time for Mogae to go. This time around there was no question on who was going to succeed as it was clear since 1998 when Khama took over as Vice President that he will succeed Mogae as the next president. Following his inauguration on the 2nd of April 2008, Khama announced Mompati Merafhe as the Vice President. This time around it was clear and without bickering that Merafhe will get the nod.


Upon Merafhe’s retirement in 2012,  Khama appointed Kedikilwe, who have been Acting in the absence of Merafhe as the new Vice President. Both men, although they did not get the chance to become president, bowed out of politics satisfied.

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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