For the first time, President Ian Khama has extended the olive branch to the Barata-Phathi faction of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), perhaps to avert an imminent split.
On Saturday he sent emissaries to negotiate with the group, which has announced that it will form a new party. Khama's instructions to Barata-Phathi was that they should list their grievances. The BDP central committee reportedly held an emergency meeting over the weekend to counter the crisis in the party.
Meanwhile, during the Barata-Phathi conference in Mogoditshane, some delegates proposed that they should ignore Khama's appeals because they were leaving 'his party' anyway. Others felt that Khama was only applying his military tactics to buy time and would never heed their pleas. However, it was agreed that out of courtesy, they should hand him their demands. Members of Barata-Phathi made it clear that they are leaving the BDP whether their concerns are addressed or not.
Top on the list of the Pharata-Phathi demands, is that the suspended secretary general Gomolemo Motswaledi should be reinstated to his position. His legal costs against the party should also be written off. Another resolution is that the initial central committee that was elected at the Kanye congress last year, be reinstated unconditionally. The Barata-Phathi called for recent suspensions of legislator Botsalo Ntuane, Sidney Pilane, Kabo Morwaeng and Ndaba Gaolathe to be lifted. During the meeting, it was resolved that the suspended activists should boycott the disciplinary hearings because the committee is seen as a kangaroo court. It was also felt that they have no case to answer.
Barata-Phathi have called for an unconditional amnesty to be extended to all former BDP members who contested last year's general elections as independent candidates.
Another resolution is that the legal opinions sought by Motswaledi regarding Khama's powers, should be discussed and resolved by the central committee. Barata Phathi wants the re-instated central committee to review the appointment of Collins, Newman and Company as BDP attorneys and the extension of the contract of the party executive secretary, Dr Batlang Serema.
The appointment of the five additional members of the central committee and of the sub committees should also be nullified. Barata-Phathi are demanding that the president make new appointments after consulting with the reinstated central committee.
Khama has been called upon to rise above factionalism and to become a force for unity.
Barata-Phathi have called for an end to the application of selective justice within the party. They said the persecution of party members perceived to hold different views with Khama must stop.
They also demand that state institutions especially law enforcement agencies, should not be used for partisan purposes. They want BDP MPs and councillors to be allowed to debate issues freely at their respective fora.
Barata-Phathi have called for a constitutional review and said Ntuane's motion on the matter should be tabled in Parliament. The BDP recently ordered that Ntuane should not present his motion. Barata-Phathi have called for the prosecution of perpetrators of extra-judicial killings as well as compensation for the families of the victims. "There should also be no more killings of civilians by law enforcement officers."
The faction is demanding that the law on declaration of assets by the leadership should be passed and implemented before the end of the year. The group wants good corporate governance and ethical governance to be restored and that democratic institutions of the government must be empowered rather than undermined.
The other concern is that of the arbitrary dismissal of public officers which the Barata-Phathi said should cease forthwith.
Another call is for the restoration and promotion of the undoubted traditions of democracy in the conduct of the affairs of the party and the state.
Barata-Phathi have rejected the implementation of the recommendations of the moral regeneration task force headed by Kgosi Puso Gaborone.
They also want the proposed hike of the alcohol levy to be called off. The BDP group wants the appointment to top posts in the public service and parastatals to be equitable and based on merit. "The considerations of factional interests and partisan politics must have no role in the making of such appointments."
Further they demand that the nomination of candidates for Speaker, Deputy Speaker and Specially Election MPs and councillors must be done even-handedly and not along factional lines. They propose that even members of the opposition should be considered. One of the delegates said the BDP won the elections by 53 percent, while the opposition retained 47 percent. However, he said, this was not reflected in the seats in the National Assembly.
Barata-Phathi said there was a justified fear among a considerable number of BDP members that the nomination of councillors after the 2009 elections was done along factional lines. They feel Barata-Phathi MPs and councillors were targeted for removal during the pre-primary elections and vetting process for 2014 elections. "To ensure that this fear is not realised, the only criteria to be employed in the vetting of proposing primary election candidates must be the requirements of the country's constitution and the electoral laws."
The members of Barata-Phathi are seeking a meeting with Khama before the end of May to raise their concerns. In the meantime, they have indicated they would be going ahead with preparations to form a new party.