Elective congress threatens stability

The year 2015 is going to be a busy year for the main political parties in the country.

While the Botswana National Front is planning conferences and gatherings to celebrate the 50th anniversary, the three other parties are headed for elective congresses.

The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) are all scheduled to hold elective congresses later this year.

The BDP will elect leaders to the central committee, the Youth and Women’s wings. Likewise, the BMD will go for elections for the mother body, the Youth, and Women leagues. The BCP will host the Youth League and the central committee elective congresses.

Of late, leadership elections have proven divisive in our local politics; some parties were formed after elective congresses.

In 1998, the Botswana National Front (BNF) led by the charismatic Dr Kenneth Koma, went to Palapye to elect a new central committee in what turned out to be violent encounter.

Not only insults were exchanged but comrades also physically attacked each other. The windows of the school hall where the meeting was held were shattered as comrades threw chairs at each other.

The encounter resulted with the formation of the BCP led by former South African struggle stalwart and Robben Island prisoner, Michael Dingake. This shocked the nation, as the BNF, which had for the first time, pulled big numbers, 13 out of 40 seats in Parliament and a plus 39% popular vote in the 1994 elections, seemed poised to assume power in 1999 general elections. But it suffered it worst ever break-up, on the eve of elections, and 11 out of the 13 MPs followed Dingake. While later some, such as the late Paul Rantao and Isaac Mabiletsa, returned to the BNF, the whole lot except Joseph Kavindama, lost their parliamentary seats.

The ruling party also had its first ever major split since its formation in 1962 when in 2010, after the highly contested and controversial Kanye congress, some senior members of the central committee left to form the BMD.

Among those who belonged to the Barata Phathi faction led by the then suspended secretary general, the late Gomolemo Motswaledi, caused a major crack when they formed a splinter party.

History is likely to repeat itself for the BCP, whose decision not to join the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) – a formation of the BMD, the BNF and the moribund Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) - seems to have left the party in dire straits.

There are those in the BCP who think the UDC is the future, while the majority of the class of ‘98 feel otherwise.

How the party resolves the matter will be a test of its maturity and this is one issue that is likely to divide the otherwise peaceful BCP. It is our hope that all the parties going to elective congresses will come back more united than ever before. This country cannot afford disjointed political parties.

Today's thought

" Elections matter, but how much they matter depends entirely on how free, open and fair they are."

-Elliot Abrams

Editor's Comment
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