If there is a moment the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is facing a test of credibility, it is now in the chairmanship race.
- Masisi’s loss will be leadership rejection
- Other contenders banking on defiant membership
The weekend Mmadinare elective congress will be a moment the ruling party leadership will come face-to-face with the ordinary members since the lukewarm showing in the 2014 general elections.
To ensure credibility, the BDP leadership will want the vice president Mokgweetsi Masisi ascending to the coveted position of party chairperson. His win will ensure a smooth 2018 takeover when President Ian Khama’s statutory two-five-year term comes to an end. In the same vein, his loss will be a show of no confidence on his greatest sponsor, President Ian Khama, and by extension his cabinet and BDP leadership.
The anti-Masisi groups hold the view that Masisi’s win will be an indication that members have succumbed to the wishes of the party leadership.
There is however, no better opportunity for Masisi than the weekend elections to consolidate his power as the VP and future state and BDP president. The weekend elections are more to prove whether he (Masisi) is in charge or not.
In fact, his principal, President Khama declared his support for Masisi, at the party’s meeting in Palapye, to the chagrin of other chairperson position candidates.
Khama’s dilemma is that he cannot be seen to be negating the same man he fought so hard to bring to the bigger stage as his VP.
The President has reportedly been clandestinely canvassing for Masisi, as the notion is that if he (Masisi) ascends to the position it will be a positive sign in his career. If he gets rejected in Mmadinare there may be far reaching consequences.
Amongst others, unconfirmed reports show that Khama has been contacting some of the delegates to the congress soliciting for their support. This is a normal thing in a democracy, but may, at the same time, be a reflection of Khama’s concerns about the Masisi campaigns.
If Masisi loses the race the feeling is that the party masses would have passed a motion of no confidence on the VP, the party leadership and the government.
One of the purported Masisi camp sponsors, controversial Tati East legislator, Samson Moyo Guma who recently declared his exit from partisan politics spoke to Mmegi about the dangers of not voting for Masisi.
“It will be a motion of no confidence on the VP, the BDP and the government if we don’t vote for Masisi,” said Guma. Khama’s support for his deputy is not unprecedented. Back in 2003, before the Gantsi congress, former president Festus Mogae openly declared his support for his then Vice President, Khama.
Mogae took advantage of an official party platform of the Women’s Wing elective congress in Selebi-Phikwe and declared: “I support Khama for the chairmanship.”
Mogae’s voice worked wonders for Khama, who went on to bring down one of the party’s strongmen of the time, Ponatshego Kedikilwe from the BDP chairmanship.
Ordinary party members also have a voice to make and are reportedly saying, ‘We respect the party and its leadership but we have our own way of bringing in someone who does not have a lot in his/her hands’.
Coming from the general elections in 2014 where the BDP lost ground, garnering only 46.50 % of the popular vote, the ruling party is seeing the Mmadinare congress as a test. It could be said to be an acid test for the once mighty BDP, and thus need to emerge with leadership to change its fortunes.
Now the ordinary member’s voice contends that coupling the position of the VP with that of party chairperson has never worked for the party given the enormous responsibility that goes with both offices.
“The position of the VP tends to focus more on national issues than the party side of things,” contends a youthful party activist wishing to have the two offices separated.
The argument from the other side of the BDP story is that no matter how varying the voice of the members could be it should never be misconstrued to resemble defiance to the party leadership.
“If that comes to pass, it will be an attempt of restoring or redeeming the party troubled by a plethora of challenges.”
These will be the two contending scenarios in the BDP this weekend as the party’s elective congress goes into full swing.
Ordinary members will be watched carefully as to whether they will use their power of vote to address the party’s shortcomings in the past general elections and make a decision without the influence of the leadership.
Masisi is however not having it easy. There are other serious contenders, being Tebelelo Seretse, Biggie Butale and Ramadeluka Seretse. Of course there are sideshows - Moemedi Dijeng and Seteng Motalaote.