There is no denying that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is at war with itself as party factions have reached their all time high. Will the BDP president Mokgweetsi Masisi be able to deal with the party’s rising factionalism once it spirals out of control? Mmegi Staffer TSAONE BASIMANEBOTLHE wonders
Usually, factions become common during elective congresses. During Khama’s rule, the factions were revived under new names, the Third Force, led by then Guma Moyo, and the Barataphathi.
Once again, under the Masisi leadership, there are reports of emerging factions with some Cabinet ministers allegedly revolting against his leadership style. There are reports of a fallout between State President Masisi and the Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development and also party secretary-general, Mpho Balopi.
Of recent, some backbenchers were not in support of some decisions taken by Cabinet ministers while on the other hand councillors are up in arms against BDP Members of Parliament (MPs) who did not support or lobby for their six percent salary increase.
The councillors have vowed that they will de-campaign all the MPs who did not support them in their bid for a salary hike. In the past, factions in the BDP led to the formation of a breakaway party in the form of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and recently, the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), which was spearheaded by Khama. The question now is whether Masisi will use his charm to deal with the factions and unite the BDP or whether they will spiral out of control, which might lead to formation of yet another splinter party. The BDP, has however, denied the existence of factions. BDP chief whip, Liakiat Kablay said “we are not sure yet if there are factions or not” when quizzed by Mmegi.“Those things normally happen but I am confident that the President will be able to handle them because he was faced with this kind of behaviour when he was Vice President,” he said. “In political organisations people differ, but there are channels people should follow.”
For his part, BDP spokesperson, Kagelelo Kentse said no party can claim that there are no factions. However, he said what is always important was to understand the interests of those factions and what they seek to achieve.
“We mostly see more of that around congress times and it’s normal, but what is important is to continue to protect the image of the party and its leadership,” Kentse said.
“We cannot afford to erode the party for temporary or selfish gains, we must protect the BDP at all times and strongly believe that this is what President Masisi advocates for. It’s important first to understand why some people are disgruntled if any.”
He added that once that has been established, then the leadership can find ways to address such.
Kentse admitted that they have recently been witnessing some BDP members sending voice notes out to the public attacking the party and its leadership, something he said was unfortunate.
Political analyst, Leonard Sesa said he believes Masisi will be able to handle factions within the ruling party looking at the trend in which he has been doing things.
“He grew up in the BDP and he understands it very well in times of elective congresses. Remember that he has been the party chairperson and he has seen consequences of split. If there is friction between him and Balopi, he will know how to deal with it and at times he becomes calm so that he addresses the problem quietly,” Sesa said.
“He is a person who takes time to act and whatever decision he takes, he does not look back. Those who want to undermine him in the party must be ready to face consequences. I believe he is prepared for some of the moves some may try to play within the party,” he added.
Sesa said he wished political party activists learned to address and resolve problems they have internally without having to fight.
He added campaigns for party positions should not be dirty since they end up tarnishing the party’s image whether ruling or opposition.