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BDP evolution: for better or for worse?

Since the beginning of the 1990s, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has been synonymous with one thing — factionalism. The unrelenting factions have seen the party suffering two major splits in the last decade. As the party heads for its first elective congress under the guidance of President Mokgweetsi Masisi, staff writer ALFRED MASOKOLA studies the evolution of the ruling party.

Between 1962 when BDP was formed until 2007, a period of 45 years, BDP had two Secretary Generals; Sir Ketumile Masire and Daniel Kwelagobe. However, ever since Kwelagobe left the position, the party changed Secretary Generals six times in just under a decade. The evolution does not end there; it has many facets key among them the elections of party Members of Parliament, a development which has seen the party’s MPs re-election rate falling dramatically in the last three general elections.  

There are many schools of thought explaining the party evolution. Some believe that the evolution was inevitable, but an ardent debate remains on whether the change has been for better or for worse. BDP started experiencing factions beginning of the 1990s, primarily because of an investigation carried out by government through a commission of inquiry— and its resultant findings. The findings led to the resignation of then Vice President Peter Mmusi from his position, a development that polarised the party forever.

At the centre of the factional wars in the 1990s and early 2000s was the battle between Kwelagobe and Mompati Merafhe, mainly over the control of the party and succession plans. Despite Lt Gen Ian Khama being brought to the party in 1998, specifically for the purpose of uniting the party, BDP split for the first time barely two years after he became party leader. The first split resulted in the formation of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) under the leadership of the late Gomolemo Motswaledi.

Motswaledi fell-out with Khama in the build to the 2009 Kanye Congress, where his faction, Barataphathi, supported among others Kwelagobe defeated A-Team, which enjoyed the backing of Khama. Owing to the fragile relationship between the two factions, Motswaledi was suspended from the party, barely two months after his faction won all but one Central Committee (CC) positions in Kanye.

The suspension of Motswaledi set in motion the events that led to BDP’s first split since formation, an occurrence which in the past was synonymous with opposition parties. BMD became an important founding member of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), which has been threatening BDP’s hold on power since then. A year after Khama left the leadership, the party also suffered a second split, and again Khama was at the centre of the debacle.

A fallout between Khama and his successor, President Mokgweetsi Masisi over the ‘gentleman’ agreement that they had, saw Khama and a legion of supporters, including the disgruntled primary elections losers leaving the party. A splinter party, Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) was formed, a development which saw BDP for the first time losing its traditional base in the Central District, its long-time stranglehold.

Ever since the 1990s, BDP never recovered, and it has become a party associated with factionalism. The problems however now go beyond factions, as there are new problems threatening the future of the party. BDP had to go through reforms since 1990s, the major ones being the 1997 constitutional review which resulted in the introduction of 10 year limit for presidential term; reducing voting age from 21 to 18; and establishment of Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

At party level, the 1995 constitutional review made it explicit that party President shall be elected at party congress every election year. This provision however was never exercised, both during President Festus Mogae and Ian Khama’s terms but chickens came home to roost after Masisi became President. In a historic moment, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, a Cabinet Minister in Masisi’s administration announced her intention to challenge the latter for the throne. The battle for leadership was tense, and played a key role in the formation of BPF, after Venson-Moitoi pulled-out of the race at the eleventh hour.

But one of the problems facing one of the longest governing parties in world, is the inevitable evolution that brought among other things reforms and money. Money is today the most important tool in the fight for BDP control, a trend which is tearing the party asunder, perhaps in the manner that is bellicose than just factionalism. In 2003, BDP replaced its old system of selecting MPs and council representative through a Committee of 18, with a new system of Bulela Ditswe, where the party members were enfranchised to participate in the process.

Popular hardworking and loyal activists were always assured of a berth in Parliament or Council if they participated. Central Committee position was the preserve of thoroughbred members who understood the party and its tradition. The new developments have left many frustrated. No matter how popular they are, they know without the financial muscle they will remain in the periphery as the monied buy their way into power. These developments remain an errant bode, and to most, it is an irreversible trend.

“How can money politics be a positive development? It rules out vast majority of dedicated hard working activists from occupying certain political offices,” said a former BDP Central Committee member. “It starts at primaries. When you look at many people who won primary elections, they are new in the party but won because of money. If they had presented other credentials than money they would have been outcompeted by long servers who know the party better.”

In the 12th Parliament, there were less than 10 returning MPs, majority of them being a new crop of MPs. In the past the party had a high re-election rate but since the advent of Bulela Ditswe the re-election rate has been on a drastic decline. Ever since 2007, when Kwelagobe retired from the Secretary General position which he held for 27 years, the party has been chopping and changing Secretary Generals. The trend has been affecting other Central Committee positions.

The Central Committee is currently made up of fairly new entrants, the only veteran being party treasurer, Satar Dada, who has held the position since 1995. Masisi, the party leader became part of the Central Committee in 2015, a year after being appointed Vice President, meanwhile his understudy, Slumber Tsogwane only tasted Central Committee in 2017 despite being the longest serving party MP.

Since 2007, BDP has had six Secretary Generals; Jacob Nkate, Gomolemo Motswaledi, Thato Kwerepe, Kentse Rammidi, Mpho Balopi and Botsalo Ntuane. “But it is an irreversible trend. Money now buys office. Those without money are being reduced to voting fodder for the monied. They are second class members who will never compete for big positions until they also have money to buy votes and build networks,” said the former Central Committee member who also served as MP at some point.

“Bulela Ditswe also placed lots of demands on candidates by voters who ordinarily would not participate in party activities. They had to be fed, transported and it is becoming common for them to be paid in exchange for their vote. It is also common for opposition supporters to be recruited to vote in bulela ditswe with full knowledge of both transacting parties.”

BDP is preparing for its first elective congress under the leadership of Masisi. The party, for the first time since formation, postponed its elective congress in order to nurse its fragile state while preparing for its most crucial elections in its history. Already there are indications that party members have grown disgruntled with the party Secretary General and his position is the most sought after as the party heads to July’s elections.

Unlike previous elections there are little fears that the party may split, but the party is charting into new territory. As new blood takes centre stage, most of the party’s traditions will be surrendered, and largely unconsciously. When Khama announced his departure from the party in 2019, it also presented a new chapter in the party’s history. It was the end of the Khama dynasty, a family which has been part of the party fabric since formation.

The 2019 general elections also provided new dynamics: BDP is no longer a party of Central District. In fact, it is charting new territory. BDP survived 2019 general elections, largely on account of urban and peri-urban vote in the southern part of Botswana.  Whether that will sustain the party in power remains to be seen.

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Mascom, Letshego partner to deliver the MyZaka instant loan

31st March 2023

Letshego Botswana has recently partnered with Mascom to launch the Mascom MyZaka Instant Loan, a customer focused mobile money microloan service designed to provide customers with swift and convenient access to funds, driven by the underlying theme of “Ithuse” meaning “help yourself”

The loan is said to have been developed through a partnership driven by a deep customer focus with the key objectives of access, convenience and flexible financial support to customers of Letshego Botswana and Mascom through instantly disbursed short-term loans from P50 to P1 500 over the period of one month.

Letshego’s head of transformation, Molebogeng Malomo highlighted that working through agile methodologies, the partnership was able to develop and be released as what they call a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) or solution. “In keeping up with the spirit of design thinking and agile methodologies, the experiences and viewpoints of both Letshego Botswana and Mascom’s customers will be valuable to inform further enhancements to the Mascom MyZaka solution,” he said.

He further noted that the partnership and the development of the MyZaka instant loan will provide both the organizations to diversify their offering and customer base, while also offering the customer more choices and flexibility to initiate and be in control of their loan requests through the self-service mobile based application.

Mascom’s Chief Executive Officer, Dzene Makhwade-Seboni also alluded that their origins, priorities and initiatives are firmly rooted in Botswana and in the success of all Batswana, and that their strategy and intent is supported by embracing innovative problem-solving.

“The speed with which Letshego has grown over the years gives us confidence that we have partnered with the right service provider. Their expertise and most of all, innovation, a value we both share, will be beneficial to MyZaka Mobile Money for growth and for the convenience of our subscribers,” she concluded.

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DCEC granted warrant to arrest Khama twins

29th March 2023

The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) has been granted permission to apprehend the former Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, and his twin brother Anthony Khama.

Information gathered by this publication suggests that the DCEC is actively searching for the Khama brothers, this is in connection with events that transpired whilst Tshekedi was Minister of Environment. The duo is currently in exile in South Africa together with their elder brother, and former President Lt Gen Ian Khama.

Approximately two weeks ago, the corruption-busting agency discreetly filed for an arrest warrant that was approved by the Broadhurst Magistrate Court for the two to be taken into custody, according to a highly placed source within the government enclave.

DCEC is also said to have filed an affidavit signed by a high-ranking officer known to this publication. Reports indicate that after being presented with details of the case, the Broadhurst magistrate issued the agency an arrest warrant.

It is also believed that the agency has been conducting extensive investigations into the supposed suspects for quite some time. Furthermore, Weekend Post has it on good word that the DCEC has been looking for methods to summon the two for questioning but has been unsuccessful.

According to unconfirmed reports, DCEC met with attorney Victor Ramalepa, who refused to accept the summons, saying that he is not their attorney. Furthermore, it is believed that DCEC has enlisted the assistance of the Botswana Police Service (BPS) in flagging the suspects’ names in the International Criminal Police Organisation INTERPOL.

Responding to WeekendPost enquiries, DCEC spokesperson Lentswe Motshoganetsi said, “I am not in good position to confirm or deny the allegation,” adding that such allegations may fall within the operational purview of the DCEC.

When contacted for comment, Ramalepa briefly stated that he is unaware of the purported arrest warrant. “I know nothing about the warrant and I haven’t been served with anything,” he said.

Meanwhile, former president Lt Gen Ian Khama recently issued a statement stating that DIS is intensifying the harassment and intimidation of him, family, friends and office employees.

“It is reprehensible for state officials and agencies to abuse government resources to terrorise their own citizens for personal gain,” said the former president in a statement.

He also stated that his brother TK’s staff and security were ordered to falsely implicate him. “Their desperate tactics will never work, it only serves to motivate me more to pursue regime change and free Botswana from tyranny,” he said

This comes after the corruption busting agency wants to interview the alleged suspects as they are still hiding in South Africa since last year.

Despite the hostility between government and Khama family going unabated, last month, Masisi extended an olive branch to Khama in political rally, indicating that he hopes the two of them settle their differences, of which the former responded by welcoming the gesture.

Khama further said his brother, Tshekedi, will facilitate the reconciliation of his behalf. Many have indicated that Masisi did not say what he said in good faith, and was only scoring political brownies since he was in Khama’s territory in Shoshong.

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DCEC’s Tshepo Pilane still has his mojo

29th March 2023

Tshepo Pilane silenced his critics after being named the head of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) in May of last year and served his opponents humble pie. Many believed he would only last for a month, but almost a year later, he is still standing.

Pilane, a trained soldier whose appointment surprised both the general public and some officers within the DCEC walls, has never glanced back in his duty to steer the DCEC ship forward.

It is alleged that immediately after his appointment the man embarked on a nation-wide trip touring the DCEC offices across the country in order to confirm and reaffirm the DCEC’s mandate. Sources from inside the DCEC claim that Pilane won the hearts of many DCEC employees due to his humility and plain message; “people at the top of the DCEC will come and go but the mandate of the DCEC remains relevant and unchanged.”

Pilane was appointed the Acting DCEC Director General at a time when the organisation was undergoing turbulence through court proceedings in which the suspended Director General Tymon Katlholo had interdicted the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) from accessing the DCEC premises. At the time, the DIS had raided the DCEC offices in the absence of Katlholo claiming to be looking for high profile corruption cases allegedly held by Katlholo.

At the time Pilane was Head of the DCEC Intelligence Division holding the position of Senior Assistant Director General reporting directly to the Deputy Director General Operations Ms Priscilla Israel. Contrary to his detractors, Pilane who is a reserved and humble person by nature won the support and backing of many DCEC officers due to his unassuming nature.

In a recent questionnaire sent to the DCEC regarding Pilane’s term in office, the DCEC was resolute on its commitment towards the fight against corruption. When quizzed on allegations of rife corruption since he took over, Pilane through his Public Relations (PR) office stated that the corruption landscape in Botswana remains unchanged as the DCEC continues to receive reports on allegations of corruption with sectors such as procurement (tenders and supplies), Transport (licensing and certificates), and land (dubious allocation and collusion) still leading issues reported. This trend has been consistence in the DCEC database for more than 10 years.

When further quizzed on accusations that suggest that due to the infighting at the agency, particularly at the top management, Investigations of cases has dropped significantly the DCEC claimed ignorance to the matter, stating that they are not aware of any “infights” at the DCEC “at the top management”, further stating that, investigations of cases has increased significantly, contrary to the allegations raised. “The DCEC is currently seeking new ways of expediting the investigations in order to fast track its enforcement role,” said the DCEC Head of Public Relations Lentswe Motshoganetsi. He further stated that the DCEC is in pursuit of high profile cases involving money and assets valued over P900 million. Three companies are involved in the scandal and two cases have already been committed to court while on one, investigations are about to be completed.

When WeekendPost inquired about Pilane’s roadmap, the DCEC stated that in the past, anti-corruption interventions were reactive, particularly in dealing with national projects that involve large sums of money. It was further started that in most instances investigating such matters takes a long time and in most instances, the money looted form Government in never recovered. As a result, the DCEC has taken a deliberate stance to attach its officers from the Corruption Prevention Division to be part of the implementation of these projects before, during, and after implementation.

The DCEC cited the Economic Stimulus Programme which, although meant to grow the economy and uplift Batswana from poverty, yielded incidents of corruption and poor workmanship. To date, the DCEC is still grappling with cases as some projects were not done, or were completed with defects beyond repair. Currently the DCEC is involved at the Ministry of Education conducting project risk management in the Multiple Path Ways Program at Moeng College and Maun Senior School. This intervention will spread to other sectors of the economy as part of the DCEC’s corruption prevention strategy.

Of recent, the DCEC has been in the media for all the wrong reasons following leakage of high profile cases and allegations claiming that the executive management is at war with each other more particularly with some within the agency harbouring ambitions to dethrone Pilane from the Directorship.

Although the infighting was denied by Pilane’s Office, he acknowledged that leakage of information is a problem across Government and stated that it is a pain at the DCEC. He however stated that Staff has been cautioned against leakage of investigation information and that they have roped in the Botswana Police to assist in investigating incidents of leakage. He further stated that they have increased continuous vetting and lifestyle audits for DCEC employees in order to enforce discipline.

Pilane’s term comes to an end in May 2023 after serving the DCEC for a year on acting basis. It will be in the public interest to see who will be given the baton to continue the anti-corruption journey if Pilane’s contract is not renewed. The DCEC has seen arrival and departure of Director Generals having alternated the top seat five times in less than seven years.


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