TONOTA: Attired in red, black and white, the dominant Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi team also known as ‘Team Dubai’ broke into song and dance as they swept all the contested positions.
They hugged, kissed, whistled and ululated in appreciation of their whitewash victory against Minister Nonofo Molefhi’s ‘Team Marakanelo’. Masisi and Molefhi hugged and whispered into each other’s ear. So did Mpho Balopi and Botsalo Ntuane after the former vanquished the latter for the position of secretary general. Thousands who had thronged the party proceedings for the 37th elective congress witnessed the gestures that the victors extended to the losers.
That was done and the photographers took the pictures to tell the story presented by the winners that they embraced the losers. But amid pomp, glory and whitewash, underlies a simmering fight for a comeback by the losers whose repercussions might shake the party again. The untold story that is likely to spoil the party is only a few miles away.
It’s a given that the Molefhi faction returned from the elective congress literally empty-handed. As a team, it’s most unlikely that they will count their losses forever. They are likely to regroup and focus on the next targets that could catapult them to greater heights within the party.
President Ian Khama in his last address of the elective congress whilst at the helm as both party and state leader, reminded his followers about the impending primary elections. He encouraged those interested in standing for the Bulela Ditswe to expect a win or loss and accept the results without a fight. He also expressed a worry about the incessant fall of the party fortunes hoping they will emerge from the congress more united than ever. Their wish was to see the disappearance of bitter factionalism.
But for Khama and his deputy Masisi theirs were just words without action. Unity must have started with their actions by attempting to strike a balance in a party that is faction-ridden. Their body language and actions thereafter betrayed them altogether. Although people have chosen to speak in hushed tones for fear of reprisals, the case is very clear that the journey has started for the Molefhi faction to fight for inclusion in the party leadership.
This fight will not come cheap or clean. Generally, there is a danger in one party faction assuming total control of a party of the BDP magnitude as that could also translate into an exclusive control of government by a faction. The Masisi faction should never attempt to swallow or annihilate their opposition camp as that could in the long term explode and work against them. It therefore, means in an effort to assert itself, the defeated faction is likely to target the party primaries where there is a likelihood of bitter rivalry and divisions.
This is not without precedent as during former president Festus Mogae’s tenure, the then party formation of Barata Phathi fought very hard for inclusion in both party and government until they were paid off although it was not that easy. It was after a series of meetings held at the Oasis Motel in Tlokweng then that Mogae and his lieutenants relented and gave the marginal faction what they wanted.
With only the party primary elections next in line on the BDP calendar of events, all attention will be focused on them and both factions are seemingly set to put their very best. In a nutshell, the BDP weekend congress has assisted in a big way to rekindle factional fights than end them.
One strong message was conveyed through song and dance by some youth from one of the Gaborone constituencies who belted out a song: “ Domi phathi ya rona e feletse gone fa (our party BDP has ended here)”. It’s not going to be easy for supporters of the losing team to simply abandon their leadership more so that the winning faction has not seen their worth by absorbing some of them into the newly elected leadership.
Political commentator Anthony Morima is steadfast that any attempt to completely sideline the losing faction could embolden it (losers) as a faction and may as a result destabilise the party. “We can’t discount the fact that some of the BDP members voted with the opposition in the 2014 general elections especially when there is a tendency to sideline some operatives,” said Morima indicating that the BDP leadership should have extended an olive branch to the losers.
He wondered if it means all the losers were useless not to be considered for any party position as a consolation. However, the downside of it is that may be the BDP leadership was mindful of the reality that their rivals might make it difficult for them to deliver. “Look, a typical example, it was difficult for Masisi to work well with Ntuane,” observes Morima adding that before the elections the BDP leadership spoke compromise, peace and unity amongst other things which are not shown after victory.