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Only a fresh congress can resolve BMD mess

The BMD has been split since violence in Bobonong recently
The stalemate between the factions of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) will not be resolved by any form of external intervention, except when such is a prescription of another elective congress supervised by an independent organisation agreed to by both factions, Staff Writer BAME PIET argues

Unlike sport, in politics, your supporter can become your challenger in a blink of an eye. While in sport one is assured of no competition from the man or woman who hugs and hoists him in celebrating a victory, in politics it is not always obvious.

Politics is also a game of high risk as it involves money and power, and they all come at a huge price. Once in power, an individual wields a lot of influence on decision-making and presides over many people, some with better intellect and qualification than the boss.

But how can this unprecedented stalemate in the BMD be resolved without the party splitting into two?


Cameron paid for bravery

One of the youngest British Prime Ministers in history, David Cameron took the biggest gamble with his political career when he called for Brexit Referendum that was finally held in 2016. Cameron had promised to hold the referendum in the 2015 elections that he won with a huge majority.

He was bringing to finality a matter that had been simmering for many years and he paid a huge price with his political career. In May 2016, 52% of Britons voted to leave the European Union.  His wish was for Britain to remain in the EU, and he resigned a few days after the referendum results were announced.

“I thought it right to hold the referendum because this issue had been poisoning British politics for years. The referendum had been promised and not held,” the former British prime minister said during a visit to Ukraine sometime early this year. “We held the referendum and, of course, the result is not the result that I sought.

“But it was a decisive result and that’s why today Theresa May quite rightly is taking the next step to ensuring the people’s will is followed through.”

“Obviously I regret the personal consequences for me. I loved being Prime Minister. I thought I was doing a reasonable job. But I think it was the right thing. The lack of a referendum was poisoning British politics and so I put that right,” Cameron would later say.

A few months later, Theresa May who succeeded Cameron as Prime Minister, also took a big gamble with her political career. She called snap elections in June 2017, seeking a mandate to push forward the Brexit agenda. Surprisingly, the voters had other preferences and the outcome was even more shocking – a hung Parliament.

That is the nature of politics that your supporter today is not necessarily going to be your biggest fan the following day.


Mbete risked ANC loss

Closer to home, the Speaker of the South Africa National Assembly Baleka Mbete took the biggest gamble in the Parliament’s history endorsing a constitutional judgement for a secret ballot for the eighth attempt to remove President Jacob Zuma. The opposition Democratic Alliance leader, Mmusi Maimane tabled a motion of ‘No Confidence’ early this year and came before Parliament on Tuesday August 8, 2017. The issue of Zuma’s removal has polarised South Africans, and the ruling African National Congress as a result of many allegations of state capture and corruption. Some prominent members of the ANC, Veterans, MPs and civil society have mobilised society to call for Zuma’s removal.

Even stakeholders in the tripartite – COSATU and South African Communist Party had taken a position not to invite Zuma to their events.

Mbete announced the secret ballot on Monday evening, a day before the motion was debated in Parliament.  Mbete said the MPs should vote with their conscience. 

The emotional ANC Chief Whip Doris Dlakude dismissed the motion saying “The opposition are using the constitution so as to collapse government, deter service delivery and sow the seeds of chaos in society so as to ultimately grab power … Shame on you!”

The result showed that 177 MPs voted for the motion against 198 who opposed it. Of that number, an estimated 33 ANC MPs voted with opposition to remove Zuma.

The consequences were huge for the ANC had the motion succeeded. Such include possible dissolution of Parliament and fresh elections, loss of public confidence in the ANC, and gains for the opposition.


Rammidi still paying

Right here at home, former assistant minister of Local Government, Kentse Rammidi resigned from the ruling party to join opposition parties because he

believed the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) did not stand for his principles. He stated that the ruling party did not fulfil the promises it made. His resignation meant that he had to forfeit a lot of benefits that come with the position of assistant minister. In 2014, under the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) ticket, of which he is its secretary general, Rammidi lost his Kanye North constituency to Patrick Ralotsia of the BDP. In fact, he came distant third, even loosing to the Umbrella for Democratic Change’s (UDC) Kwenantle Gaseitsiwe.

But wherever he is, Rammidi must be living with a clean conscience that he did not take part in or endorse activities that he did not subscribe to.


The Gaolathe, Pilane fracas

The scenarios above show that political positions and battles do not always favour the conscience. But they will always be there, and while there has been push locally for the UDC leadership to decide on the BMD fracas, it may not be a solution.

What remains bitter political battle between the BMD factions cannot be resolved if the current clash of egos is not addressed for the benefit of the party and the bigger project that is the UDC. The feelings had hardened, before and after the violent-ridden Bobonong elective congress. The factions are nowhere near reaching a compromise and they are convinced that theirs are legitimate arguments against the opposing faction.

Ka Setswana, ke mo go katweng ke go itaana ka noga e utlwa mo jaanong le yone e ngongoregang.

The BMD was formed in April 2010, a few months after the 2009 general elections that followed the BDP Kanye congress where President Ian Khama’s faction was beaten hard by the one led by the late Gomolemo Motswaledi’s. Although he did not make any announcement to that effect, Khama did not accept the outcome of the results and also refused to work with elected members of the other faction.

Within months, he slapped Motswaledi, an elected secretary general, and the party’s Gaborone Central general elections candidate, with a five-year suspension from the BDP. This did not resonate well with many BDP members, going by the name Barata-Phathi, who left the party to form the BMD in Mogoditshane. The remarks we heard from the four MPs – Guma Moyo, Botsalo Ntuane, Wynter Mmolotsi and Tawana Moremi – and other leaders, who left the BDP to form the BMD was that the ruling party had lost direction, was an undemocratic one-man party, and that Khama was often making decisions that were in breach of the party constitution and of the country.

Now the Pilane faction is accusing Gaolathe and his faction of undermining the constitution, which places power on the national executive committee. On the other hand the Gaolathe faction accuses the NEC of trying to take over the party.

A breach of the constitution by any leader should not be condoned.


What is the solution?

The solution lies in the scenarios stated above, with serious gambles that other politicians elsewhere undertook. If both factions indeed care about the future of their movement, they should agree to hold a congress and allow the UDC and other stakeholders such as University of Botswana Centre for Democracy to supervise the process. The congress should be held in Mogoditshane, where the BMD was born – at the crossroads. This will bring to rest the issue of who is wrong or right.  

The BMD cannot afford to fail this character test and it has to rise to the occasion and learn to resolve internal issues if it is serious about being elected into power. 

The ordinary people do not worry much about technicalities that may come from either side, they just want a transparent congress for which outcome should be accepted by all and for the movement to grow and move forward. In addition, the public will not elect people who will start fighting from Day One in office, running away from their differences and collapsing our currency, markets and diplomatic ties with the rest of the world.

If the factions cannot compromise on internal matters then they do not deserve national votes.

In the meantime, the UDC should also establish a reconciliation body that will ensure that the factions are brought under one roof and reunited.

Opinion & Analysis



Ye of little faith...There is enough petrol!

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