FRANCISTOWN: President Ian Khama is reportedly succeeding in his plans to neutralise the Kedikilwe-Kwelagobe faction in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
Though the faction took control of the party after winning all elective posts at the Kanye congress recently, Khama has been calling the shots ever since. At the first meeting of the new BDP Central Committee on Monday, the President once again asserted himself when all the unilateral decisions and actions he has taken were ratified with little dissent.
To make matters worse, the Central committee rubber-stamped Khama's decision to allocate top officials to man regions without consultation. The President has snubbed the Central Committee members and decisions and appointments that were previously done after consultations with top party officials were made alone. The initial murmurs about the unilateral decisions seems to have died down as the Kedikilwe-Kwelagobe faction realise that Khama is holding all the aces though all his candidates lost in the party polls.
From the Monday meeting, reports from party insiders indicate that members of the Barata-Phathi seems to be faring badly as Khama is not giving them a chance to make decisions.
Khama's first move to frustrate the Barata-Phathi-dominated BDP Central Committee is traceable to his unilateral decision in nominating five members to beef up the committee of 18. As if this was not enough, he nominated 77 members to sit in the party sub-committees without consulting other officials. At the Monday meeting, Khama reportedly allocated members of the Central Committee to be in charge of party regions without consulting either the secretary general Gomolemo Motswaledi or the chairperson, Daniel Kwelagobe. The decision has apparently irked some members of the Central Committee who had already chosen the regions they preferred to serve. For instance, Barata-Phathi preferred Francistown South parliamentary hopeful, Wynter Mmolotsi to be in charge of Francistown region but this has not happened. It is said that Khama has deployed Angelinah Sengalo to be responsible for the region. Mmolotsi has been shunted to the South East region, which is over 400 kilometres from his Francistown base. Sengalo is loyal to the A-Team. She is strategist who is expected to play an active role in neutralising the Barata-Phathi influence in the Francistown region.
It is said that at the Monday meeting the faction vowed to deal with Khama's unilateral decision to extend the contract of Dr Batlang Comma Serema as BDP executive secretary.
Khama and Barata-Phathi are likely to continue battling on the matter. In Serema, Barata-Phathi see another factionalist whose duty is to serve the interests of the A-Team. There is a feeling in the dominant Barata-Phathi faction that Serema will frustrate their two-year term so that in the end they are kicked-out because of failure to deliver.
"Look, he is meeting them one by one so that he does not deal with a large group which could prove problematic to him," said an insider who preferred anonymity.
Khama's recent unilateral appointments of extra hands to the Central Committee have almost rendered Motswaledi and Kwelagobe ineffective at the start of their two-year term. However, reports say the two will be asked for names to be included in the party sub-committees at today's meeting.
There is a fear that under Khama, a majority of leaders from the Barata-Phathi will find themselves in the backbench if his current appointments are anything to go by. Some see the decision to appoint a non-MP, Kenneth Matambo as acting Finance Minister as part of Khama's onslaught against the faction. University of Botswana political science lecturer, Dr. Zibani Maundeni said in a recent interview that Khama should have appointed an MP instead of appointing a non-legislator.
"There are respected and capable economists like Ponatshego Kedikilwe, who is a cabinet minister amongst others who could have been shifted to act for the stipulated four months period," he said. He asserted that Khama's decision indicates that party factional fights are spilling over into government.
Meanwhile, Serema insists that the Monday meeting fostered peace in the party. "The party leadership has agreed to face the task of preparing for the general elections in earnest and as a unit. We have agreed that all our minds and energies will go into the elections," explained Serema yesterday. He said he is not aware of today's meeting between Khama and top party officials. "I don't know of any such meeting and it follows that I would not even know of its agenda to start with," he said.
Motswaledi told Mmegi yesterday that since the party has declared a state of emergency for the 2009 general elections, "the Central Committee will be meeting more often, so the consultations will continue".
"We are the principals of the campaign, we will be meeting for the sake of these preparations for the 2009 general elections," he added.