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'Broke' BDP trims the fat

TSAONE BASIMANEBOTLHE
Democrats at a rally PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has closed its regional offices and is planning staff retrenchments, as its finances have taken a turn for the worse in recent months, Mmegi can reveal.

The ruling party raises funds through member subscriptions, rentals from two properties in Kanye and Gaborone, as well as fundraising activities such as dinners.

This week, highly placed sources, however, told Mmegi that the coronavirus (COVID-19) has adversely impacted on the ruling party’s books, weighing on all the revenue channels and forcing it to close its three regional offices, which reportedly had four employees each.

 The move means the party now remains with just Tsholetsa House in Gaborone as its operational centre.

The dreaded axe, meanwhile, is hanging over other jobs in the party, echoing a 2015 decision to cut jobs after a P21.8 million loss due to costs incurred during the 2014 general elections. Insiders told Mmegi the party’s wage bill had ballooned from P150,000 a month several years ago, while revenues had not grown significantly.

“It is very expensive to run these offices, especially when the value we are getting from them is quite questionable,” the source told Mmegi.

“The people who will be mainly affected by any job cuts will be those from the regions, but even at Tsholetsa House, the cuts may come, although later.

“MPs and councillors who are supposed to pay monthly subscriptions are defaulting because there is nothing binding them to pay.”

Party members reportedly fear that the decision to close regional offices will drastically impact on the BDP’s membership drive, at a

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time when its rivals are poaching its membership pool.

“Communication with the constituencies will also suffer because it is done through the regional offices,” a senior party member said.

“Constituency management will also become more of a challenge because the regional offices were being used as a meeting point for these. “The regional committees were using these offices to hold meetings and keep structures alive and operational. “Even disciplinary meetings were held in these offices.” Contacted for comment, BDP spokesperson, Kagelelo Kentse declined to speak on the matter, saying the affair was an “administrative issue”.

He referred Mmegi’s questionnaire to the party’s secretary-general, Mpho Balopi who said the allegations that the BDP is broke were false.

Analysts who spoke to Mmegi said a pattern was ‘emerging’ of the BDP going broke after a general election.  The analysts said the party appeared to overspend on its campaigns, while those members who won were prone to not honouring their commitment in terms of subscriptions.

Other analysts pointed to more sinister reasons behind the drop in finances.

“Every time the party is headed for central committee elections, it finds ways to retrench so that there is easier manipulation of the voters’ roll,” one of the sources said.

The BDP goes for crunch central committee elections next year where jostling for key positions, such as that of secretary general, is intensifying.



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