FRANCISTOWN: President Ian Khama this week surprised his ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) comrades when he appointed five loyalists to a central committee consisting of people from different walks of life.
The five politicians nominated by Khama include past immediate secretary general, Mpho Balopi and another former secretary general and legislator, Thato Kwerepe.
The others are former Selebi-Phikwe councillor, Mmapula Phuduhudu who served in the BDP CC before, Dimpho Moncho from Ghanzi area and the president’s brother, Tshekedi Khama.
The BDP’s 36th elective congress in Mmadinare over the weekend elected 10 members to the central committee including vice president Mokgweetsi Masisi as the chairperson.
The congress also witnessed the remarkable return of veteran politician Daniel Kwelagobe to the party leadership as an additional member.
Botsalo Ntuane was elected secretary general with Shaw Kgathi as his deputy.
Motor magnate Satar Dada retained the national treasurer with newcomer and businessman-cum-politician Jagdish Shah as deputy treasurer.
Additional members are cabinet ministers Nonofo Molefhi, and Unity Dow, Assistant Ministers Fidelis Molao and Botlogile Tshireletso and Kwelagobe.
Khama’s nomination has sparked both positive and negative comments. Some say he wanted to have a diverse committee consisting of people from different walks of life, whilst others feel he has been influenced by factional considerations.
Balopi, Kwerepe, Phuduhudu are known members of the A-Team faction. Even Moncho to some extent is associated with the A-Team faction.
It is not clear where Tshekedi’s sympathies lie. What is clear is that for a long time, President Khama and the A-Team axis have been in cahoots.
For instance, Balopi was reluctant to defend his position on the basis that there was a groundswell of complaints that he performed badly as the head of the party secretariat.
Towards the congress, he (Balopi) chose to fire the executive employees of the party and only to hire new ones just on the verge of the just ended congress.
This has equally raised eyebrows as no one from the past immediate central committee has queried the actions taken by Balopi, something that shows that the leadership was in one accord in its action.
Balopi has proven to be Khama’s errand boy and now he is seemingly being rewarded for his loyalty to his master, Khama.
He may also have done some good for the party so much that Khama wants him to continue where he had left.
Phuduhudu was recently engaged in the BDP secretariat restructuring exercise.
Her appointment at best is nothing but a reward for her loyalty to Khama’s administration.
She is a retired educationist, a motivational speaker and an author.
Equally, Kwerepe is a Khama loyalist who rose to political limelight after the BDP Kanye congress that culminated with some members of the BDP’s Barata-Phathi faction forming Botswana Movement for Democracy
He was co-opted into the BDP leadership in 2010 as the secretary general.
Tshekedi’s coming into the central committee might reignite his ambition to rise through the ranks.
His nomination might offer an opportunity to prove his mettle as a politician. He is definitely taking his way to the top gradually.
Through nomination of the five politicians Khama has chiefly achieved his plan to bring his loyalists on board and guard any efforts by Kwelagobe and company to destabilise his party.
People previously associated with Barata-Phathi in the newly elected committee include Kwelagobe, Ntuane and Molao.
Tshireletso previously co-habited with Barata-Phathi but soon crossed the floor to the A-Team.
The main threats to the Khama-led committee could mainly be Ntuane who polled 724 votes at the party congress whilst his challenger garnered a distant 180.
Ntuane’s reform agenda seems to have also ruffled feathers in the BDP.
In his nominations, it’s possible that Khama considered a balance between the party’s traditional factions of Barat-Phathi and A-Team.
He can’t ignore some of this reality more so that Kwelagobe just emerged from nowhere to become an additional member.
His (Kwelagobe) motives are not known and it makes sense for Khama to contain Kwelagobe and company.
“Look, Kwelagobe was recently quoted by the newspapers saying that the BDP was dying.
“Such pronouncements cannot be taken lightly and that’s what might have propelled the President to bring people who could neutralise Kwelagobe’s voice,” said a BDP insider who preferred anonymity.
Political analyst Anthony Morima explained that it was inevitable Khama would choose his loyalists.
“Every leader will align himself/herself with people who will support him/her and protect his/her interest. Khama is no exception,” he said.
“However,” he added, “This is one factor that may also fuel disharmony within the CC”.
Another political analyst, Lawrence Ookeditse shared Morima’s sentiments although he admitted not being familiar with Phuduhudu and Moncho.
But he believed Balopi and Kwerepe might have been chosen based on their strengths.
“Balopi might have been chosen based on his strength as a brand expert.
You will recall that the President spoke glowingly about how Balopi has helped to brand the BDP.
“For this reason, it was not surprising that he nominated Balopi.
“As for Kwerepe he has served as the party secretary general before so his leadership credentials or knowledge of the party cannot be questioned.
“I believe he got nomination based on his leadership credentials,” he explained.
As for Tshekedi he said that he might have been chosen based on his experience as a politician and his general knowledge of the party.