As the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) splits for good with the Ndaba Gaolathe-led faction finally morphing into a new political party recently, it leaves behind the Advocate Sidney Pilane-led BMD faction clinging hard to the name BMD. Mmegi Staff Writer RYDER GABATHUSE & Correspondent SIKI MOTSHWARI JOHANNESS recall how the BMD, a splinter party from the ruling BDP, was formed
It takes two to tango. Gaolathe is as much guilty as Pilane is for the disintergration of the BMD. Pilane‘s controversial and unexpected return to the BMD fold helped to expose the movement’s constitutional defects, its vulnerablity and as well as the inablity to rise to the challenges.
It is well documented that the BMD woes began with Pilane’s bid to return to BMD, after his voluntary exit in 2012. Sensing that the BMD was a sinking titanic, Pilane, a co- captain of the BMD, elected to jump ship leaving the crew stranded. He was not pushed but left of his own volition to concentrate on his legal practice.
At a time of his departure it seems Pilane had little or no regard for the welfare and health of the organisation he had helped to found, at least this stands as a view of the uninitiated. It would appear the venerable legal practitioner-cum-politician allowed his own personal interests and comfort to assume precedence over the interests of the BMD. His stepping aside meant the goal of ending the BDP uninterrupted 50-year rule was no longer appealing to him as it was before.
Many of the BMD apartchicks could be excused for interpreting Pilane’s premature resignation from the BMD and politics in general as an act of sabotage and betrayal. It would therefore, not be difficult to fathom the reason why his rejoining would be treated with suspicion three years later.
While the BMD felt in a big way Pilane’s non involvement in its affairs, the comrades whom Pilane dumped carried on as if it was business as usual. Under the tutelage of Gaolathe the BMD grew into a formidable force to reckon with. It continued to be a source of hope and inspiration for all sections of people who have grown sick and weary of the BDP rule. There was every hope that one day a change of government would be possible. The readmission of Pilane proved to be a game changer, completely shattering the BMD’s future and chances of electoral victory for the opposition movement.
Why did Pilane return at a time when the Movement needed his services less? Why did he worm his way into the movement when it was clear that his former comrades no longer needed his services? Was he motivated by greed, hunger for power or love for BMD?
Although Pilane once declared that his second appearence in the life of the BMD had nothing to do with power and that he was prepared to settle as an ordinary member of the party, this would not be the case as it came to show.
It is clearly evident this declaration was devoid of the truth. The fact of the matter is that Pilane rejoined the BMD for selfish reasons and not necessarily to further the goals and aspirations of the movement. That he later wrestled the presidential position from Gaolathe under questionable circumstances, at the ill-fated Matshekge Congress, is enough justification for one to conclude that his controversial renewal of the BMD membership was purely predicated upon a desire to fulfill his presidential ambitions. The Bobonong congress was characterised by chaos, arnachy, intimidation, hatred and no credible election could possibly have taken place under such circumstances.
Democracy can only thrive and flourish where there is order, peace and political tolerance. The Matshekge election for both the Pilane-led and Gaolathe-led factions failed the democratic test. The outcome of such an election cannot be credible. Pilane knew too well that his national executive committee (NEC) would suffer from a legitimacy crisis and that it would take a miracle for the commitee to enjoy general acceptance. But it seems all Pilane wanted was to hang onto the presidency at all costs, even at the risk of endangering the very survival of the BMD which he professes to love. If he genuinely loved the BMD, sought peace and order and legitimacy to his presidency, Pilane could have accepted the request for a re-run. But he realised that a re-run would be tantamount to facilitating the handing over of power to the rival camp.
He felt that this was a risk not worth taking. He was not prepared to settle for anything less than the presidency. The result was the split, which gave birth to the Alliance for Progresives (AP) leaving the Pilane-led BMD fatally wounded.
The extent of politcal intolerance in the opposition ranks is worrisome. The BDP has had its fair share of trouble and internal bickerings but to its credit managed to deal with its issues without violence. If there is anything that the opposition movement must learn from the ruling party is peaceful resolution
This behaviour must be condemed in the strongest anotomy of words by all peace loving people regadless of political affiliation. Opposition parties have always claimed to be a governmnet in waiting and are expected to handle their differences with high degree of maturity.
The BMD saga was partly caused by a culture of political intolerance in the opposition ranks. Gaolathe who had now become the undisputed king of the BMD saw Pilane as a serious threat. This can only explain why he rejected ouright Pilane’s readmission into the BMD. The situation at the BMD could be different if Gaolathecould have been tolerant of potential adversaries. Gaolathe’s cold reception towards Pilane pushed him and his supporters into a tight corner. Pilane cannot entirely be blamed for the crisis in the BMD because he had every right to fight to belong to a movement of his choice.
In a political environment where poeople treat others with suspicion even over the minutest of issues, a BMD insider who spoke strictly on condition of anonymity explained Pilane’s stance this week: “From my perspective, Pilane cannot be accused of contributing to the BMD split. The man was one of the founders of the party, drafted its constitution and made huge contributions to the growth of the party.”
Pilane’s generosity was exercised at its highest level when he even paid the late Gomolemo Motswaledi’s legal fees for the court cases.
“After losing to Motswaledi at the St. Josephs congress he indicated that he had not contested to win because he understood Motswaledi was the people’s favourite. Rather he wanted to test the democratic mettle of the new party lest it entrenches a cult of leadership personality at inception; the very cult which had led to him leaving the BDP,” a BMD insider revealed this week.
Instead, Pilane maintained a warm relationship with Motswaledi even after he had resigned his membership to pursue non political pursuits.
Unfortunately, when Pilane decided to resume his membership of BMD, all kinds of obstacles were placed in his path including denying him membership and even suggesting the matter should go to the congress.
To those closer to the BMD developments, this was a demonstration of highest contempt for a founder member at the hands of some people who were not even there at the formation of the BMD.
All fingers are pointed at Gaolathe, “as the chief architect who was fearful of Pilane challenging for the presidency”. A school of thought in some section of the BMD is that the cabal that sought to prevent Pilane’s return bear sole responsibility for the split of the BMD.
“Some have said Pilane should ought to have pulled back for the sake of preserving the BMD unity. The man is very principled. To do that on his part would have amounted to reinforcing the personality cult building around Gaolathe.”
Pilane left the BDP because he was opposed to what he considered to be personality driven leadership. He contested against Motswaledi because he did not want a personality cult created around the man. So, in a way, he decided to take Ndaba on because he saw a personality cult in the making.
Fingers are also pointed at some characters within the BMD for the party split especially those branded as the ‘social media brigade’, by some BMD young turks, mainly cheer leaders who are new in politics and seemingly driving the split agenda out of naivety.
Major General Pius Mokgware, another BMD MP, our source stressed, reportedly wields influence because of his claim to be an expert in security matters.
Some view him as responsible for instilling a culture of conspiracy theories and scare mongering in the movement. “But, without Wynter Mmolotsi’s, (another political rabble rouser) support, there was no way Ndaba could have embarked on this risky experiment which will result in the end of careers of BMD MPs and councillors who may join Alliance for Progressives (AP),” noted a frustrated Gaolathe follower this week in an interview.
The BMD troubles are viewed by some as simply the outcome of inept leadership, immaturity, arrogance, egos and a sense of false belief. Our intelligence source even joked that: “Neither the BDP, state intelligence, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) or anyone played a role in the BMD split. Everything can be pointed to the BMD itself and its leadership failures to resolve a minor disagreement which mushroomed into an implosion”.