It is truism that all is not well within the leadership of the opposition Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD).
In the last few months, the tension within the party escalated considerably, coming to a head this week when the party leaders took the fight to a mainstream and social media.
At the centre of this internal dispute is the recent readmission of the party’s founding member, Sidney Pilane, to the party. Pilane resigned from the party in 2012 after losing to the late BMD leader, Gomolemo Motswaledi, at the party congress in 2011.
Since Pilane indicated that he wanted to be readmitted back to the party in June this year, BMD has never known peace. While others within the party were happy with the prospect of his return, some members were less impressed. Most of them were not happy at the manner in which he left the party in 2012.
Further the anti-Pilane camp is questioning his motives of rejoining the party.
His backers say all Pilane wants is to be a member of a party he helped to form and contribute toward its success.
The bickering within the party has reached a worrying point that it would not be wrong to suggest that the party is divided into two factions. The pro-Pilane camp led by the party’s secretary general, Gilbert Mangole and chairperson Nehemiah Modubule and the anti-Pilane faction led by the party vice president, Wynter Mmolotsi.
According to media reports, the party is so divided that at a central committee meeting recently the leading figures within the camps nearly exchanged blows over the decision by the party to re-admit Pilane. A significant section of senior party members allegedly walked out of the central committee meeting in protest. Yes, this is the current state of the BMD.
It is not for us to pronounce which camp is right or wrong on the issue of Pilane’s readmission. However it is disquieting that the party has descended into this sad state of chaos over the re-admission of a former member.
When the party was formed five years ago, BMD founders who were disgruntled by President Ian Khama leadership style at the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wanted to form a movement that will be more stable and more democratic than the ruling party.
It is surprising that five years later the same people are now fighting over what looks like a petty issue. Is it worth it?
BMD leadership should find a solution to this current madness lest they lose public confidence and trust.
As a significant player within the Umbrella for Democratic Change, the party’s instability has the potential of destabilising the coalition.
“Your political reputation affects how likely allies are to trust you, and what kind of deals they’ll offer at the negotiating table. There’s also some emotional response in there, so factions do bear grudges. Just like the real thing.”
- Mike Simpson