Before the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) could even celebrate its triumphant 2019 general election victory, the party faithful is already hunting for the next secretary general of the party as the future preoccupies their 2020 agenda – they want an agent of renewal to breathe life into President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi’s promise to renew the ruling party.
Cocktail conversations marked by uncertainty are dominating BDP circles, and from various sources, it is evident that the party wants to continue of the path of ‘renewal’ as promised by its leader President, Dr Masisi. What is also emerging though, is that this is likely to be a completely different BDP where leadership positions are likely to be contested for ‘genuinely’ with very little magic of influence from the leadership.
BDP members are hopeful that the behind the scenes systematic handpicking of office bearers may just be over. This President may just allow a natural selection that will be punctuated by the ‘winner takes all’ principle.“Most of those in the current central committee are of the view that Democrats should allowed to throw in their names for leadership positions and elected accordingly. The probability of the leadership giving direction as to who should be elected is at a minimal,” opined a BDP insider who preferred not to be named.
At the heartbeat of the ensuing leadership contestation is the position of secretary general, by historic analysis, the most powerful after the President in the BDP hierarchy. Reverberations and echoes of ‘Who?’ Why?’ ‘Really’ dominate muted lobbying currently besieging the party that was founded in 1962 to push Botswana’s eminent Independence from the Queen of England.
This publication has it in good authority that Kanye North Member of Parliament, THAPELO LETSHOLO is one of the fashionable names in the lobby cabins. Whilst some see him as a party intern and still wet behind the ears politically speaking, those who are pushing for his candidacy for the position of secretary general are convinced that he represents ‘renewal’.
Letsholo is one of BDP’s freshmen who were expected to make the cut to cabinet only to fall short at the declaration of the President. Although talk is that he was disappointed, the youthful Member of parliament whose physical features satisfy the general public scale of good aesthetics has found a voice in Parliament, slowly but slowly molding himself to become ‘The voice of reason’ in the BDP backbench.
Not only is his name being touted to be synonymous with cleanliness, hope, renewal, and unifier – his would be sponsors are likening him to the maverick former BDP Executive Secretary, and later Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane. They point out that when he stepped into the secretary general’s office, Ntuane was untainted hence his reign saw very little upheaval and muted factions.
As for his inexperience, Letsholo is expected to make up for it with his intelligence and market place experience he got in the corporate world – he has worked for Kgalagadi Breweries and Debswana among other companies. Letsholo is also a self made entrepreneur. There is competition for the Kanye legislator, former MP for the same constituency, KENTSE RAMMIDI is also mentioned along as a possible candidate. Rammidi is an experienced politician. He has been a cabinet minister and is known to command the ground very well. Interestingly he has served (briefly) as party secretary general before quitting unceremoniously at the height of Khama’s intolerance to dissent within the party.
Rammidi main blemish could be his sojourn to opposition politics after being frustrated by former President Dr Lt Gen Ian Khama back in 2011. Rammidi resigned his cabinet post and quit the ruling party in protestation after Government shoved teachers in to the essential; service category. To some, Rammidi does not fit the renewal template, he has a baggage of dumping the party and speaking ill of it. However, some understand the circumstances around his opposition sojourn, they have welcomed him back to the BDP.
Rammidi campaigned for the BDP in the 2019 general elections. Those who are antagonizing Rammidi’s candidacy throw around a theory that he is acting on the ricochet because he is unhappy with his failed mission to be posted to Ethiopia on Ambassadorial assignment. “We learn that he was blocked by some senior party officials who felt that he is still new because he recently returned from opposition politics,” theorized a fervent supporter of the former Kanye North legislator.
BOYCE SEBETLELA, who traversed the Central District during the 2019 election campaign trail to help the BDP neutralize former President Khama’s vitriolic propaganda against the BDP and President Masisi, is also a man on a mission. He seeks to return to mainstream politics as the secretary general of the ruling party. Sebetlela is also a former legislator and those close to developments believe that his ambitious are bigger that the secretary general position.
Their diagnosis is that the former Palapye MP wants to stage a political comeback right from Tsholetsa House, he wants to stand for Palapye constituency in the 2024 elections. They speculate that his horizon could as well be beyond Tsholetsa House and Cabinet. But as Democrats toss innumerable names, the fact of the matter is that there is no vacancy yet.
The office of the secretary general is currently occupied by MPHO BALOPI, the Member of Parliament for Gaborone North who is also the Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity & Skills Development. Following his resounding general election victory, there is no doubt that Balopi commands sizeable political currency compared to some of those who want to subtract him from the BDP governing structure.
At a recent press conference the secretary general made statements to the effect that he is yet to decide on whether he should defend the position or not. He also threw in a word of caution to aspirants, that party members should not breach party rules and regulations by campaigning before season. He holds the office that implements and advises the President.
From this statement, by way of deductive reasoning, one could decipher that Balopi, who is credited with the BDP’s powerful branding during the 2019 campaign, still needs time to decide his next move and would not be in favour of any party member who would bend the rules to get a head start. The position of secretary general is very powerful and it is right at the BDP verdict making pot, decisions are made and breached at the very same office. Taking into account his experience, Balopi’s incumbency should come in handy should he decides to run.
There is a long queue at Tsholetsa House, of late, LESANG MAGANG is reported to be interested in the position. This is a second cameo for Magang who is likely to paint himself as a victim of the intolerance of the past BDP regime. He may argue fresh and new ideas to warp his agenda around President Masisi’s renewal message.
Lesang Magang has a history pf being linked to positions only for the report on intention to die down prematurely. The influence that his father, David Magang wields in today’s administration may just be what the doctor ordered to finally give Lesang Magang the impetus to push for the long haul, it remains to be seen.
Meanwhile KAGELELO BANKS KENTSE may not run for the position of secretary general. He is currently the Head of Communications subcommittee. By the admission of those close to him, Kentse acknowledges his shortcomings at the moment, “he is still inexperienced and new in the party because he was recruited from Botswana Movement for Democracy. But he could take a shot at the position of deputy secretary general,” notes an insider who also posits that SHAW KGATHI will not be available to defend this position because he may take up an offer of Ambassador in Asia.
ALFRED MADIGELE has been named by some BDP members as another name that could represent renewal which punctuates most of the President’s political speeches. Grapevine suggestion is that there is a team that is coercing the medical doctor who has stuck his foot at the practice to consider a political assignment.
From all the potential candidates, “it is evident that party members are thinking of the future, they want deal with the question of uncertainty – what does tomorrow hold for the party.” Two people, President Masisi and his Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane are guaranteed a return to the party’s governing structure later this year.
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.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.