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BDP's primary election appeals mishandle could backfire

FRANCISTOWN: The manner in which the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) handled appeals against recent primary elections shows the ruling party is still not eager to practice intra-party democracy in its essence.

This is according to political analyst and University of Botswana (UB) lecturer Dr Kebapetse Lotshwao. President Ian Khama recently endorsed the names of the candidates who will contest the general election. The candidates are made up of those who won the first batch of the primaries early this year.

This is despite the fact that some of those who lost the recent primaries had protested the results and were still awaiting responses from the party in relation to their appeals.  

“The recent development in the BDP confirms that the party applies double standards when it handles primary election appeals. The process of listening to appeals is not democratic.”

“From my observations if primary election candidates preferred by the leadership have lost the primaries their appeals are listened to and fresh primaries are inevitably called,” he said.

He added that if candidates preferred by the party leadership win the primaries’ appeals of those who contested against this could injure the party’s chances. 

Already, speculation is rife that those who won the elections are affiliated to the current party leadership (led by Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi), which is why protests have been ignored.

Lotshwao said that unless the party fully subscribes to the fundamentals of intra-party democracy the aftermath of the BDP party primaries would always be characterised by severe unrest and disharmony among members.

“I also assume that if a party is led by the same faction then a majority of those in the said faction share the same philosophy and ideas.  It is not good to have almost all people who subscribe to the same ideals or school of thought leading the party.  There has to be variety in terms of ideas and opinions,” Lotshwao said.

He added: “If a party does all it can to close people of the other faction (out) then it can be greatly compromised in terms of delivering and articulating its mandate”.

Already, some BDP diehards have reportedly expressed fear that the manner in which the BDP handled the protest might lead to a mass exodus of some members in the party. They also feel that move might deepen divisions in the party, which might impact badly

on the party’s fortunes at the 2019 general election.

Some BDP members recently hinted that the protests would not be handled properly.  They based their reasoning on remarks made by the party secretary general, Mpho Balopi and Khama.  During a tour of the Francistown region, Balopi and Khama are said to have told some BDP members who had attended the gathering that those who are protesting the primaries are “not doing so in good faith”.

Khama and Balopi reportedly implied that those who challenged the primary election results do so because of their lust for power.

At the time, the remarks reportedly did not sit well with some members of the ruling party who recently participated at the primary elections and their backers. They felt that this was a clear indication that the protest will not be effectively dealt with.

Some observers within the BDP this week did not rule out the possibility of some losing primary election candidates going to court in order to have their protests heard.

“There is already a precedent that has been set before that those who may feel that their protests have not been properly handled go to court. Marobela’s case is a good example,” said one insider. 

Late in 2013 Whyte Marobela took the BDP to court because the party ignored his primary election appeal. Marobela had launched a protest after he lost the primaries in Francistown West.

The court then ordered the BDP central committee (CC) to listen to his appeal. Failure by the BDP CC to listen to his appeal in time cost the party as it was barred by court from fielding its preferred candidate, Ignatius Moswaane from participating in the Francistown West by-election.

The court found that the decision of the BDP central committee to dismiss Marobela’s appeal without calling him for oral hearing was unacceptable and that the party did not observe the rules of natural justice.

Efforts to get a comment from the BDP in relation to how the party handled protests from the primaries proved futile at the time of going to press. BDP spokesperson, Fish Pabalinga referred this publication to Balopi whose phone rang unanswered.




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