The Vice President and Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) chairperson, Slumber Tsogwane is reportedly on a mission to meet party councillors in Serowe to placate grievances, amidst reports of looming mass defections.
Tsogwane’s trip comes as some BDP councillors in the Bangwato capital are said to be holding meetings with their constituents informing them of their impeding intentions to defect to Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF).
Authoritative insiders this week told Mmegi the ruling party chair is also expected to come up with strategies to help BDP remain relevant in an area that has been its traditional stronghold.
Already 12 members from the ruling BDP’s structures have defected to BPF, and analysts say the youngest of the political parties has managed to hold its own on account of its patron Ian Khama’s chieftaincy in the territory.
The BDP has also lost some councillors to the BPF recently.
In the unfolding scenario, Mmegi is reliably informed that four councillors from Serowe are in negotiations with the BPF and talks are at an advanced stage, giving rise to Tsogwane’s impromptu consultations with members of the BDP.
“I have pressure from the residents of my ward because they believe that we are against their chief,” a councillor harbouring thoughts of defecting told Mmegi on condition of anonymity.
“The problem we are having in Serowe is that some wards are close to the chieftainship family [and are] culturally [inclined to support the chieftainship].
“Again the BDP leadership has been failing to come to Serowe in order to address members or motivate them during this hard time that the party is going through.
“There is no communication within the party and it is slowly dying while BPF is becoming stronger in the Central District. It will be difficult for one to win on any other party’s ticket apart [from BPF’s] in the coming elections.”
Another source said the BPF is penetrating the BDP structures in Palapye, Mahalapye and Tswapong areas and the outlook is not good for the ruling party.
The source also said it was timely that the BDP leadership has taken a decision for committee meetings to restart because the ruling party was slowly dying and members would have an opportunity to recruit from other parties too.
“It is a good thing that our party chairperson will be addressing the committees and help us with strategies on how we can counter BPF on its recruitment and also revive collapsed ones,” the source added.
Mmegi has learnt that the BPF is also starting to penetrate BDP in the Southern parts of the country, especially in Kumakwane, Jwaneng /Mabutsane and others.
Responding to Mmegi enquiries, the ruling party appeared to acknowledge the pressure from BPF, particularly in the Central District.
“As the BDP we will continue to engage our members with the aim to retain them,” said party spokesperson, Kagelelo Kentse.
“There is no party that can be happy when it loses its members.
“Central District has been our stronghold and we have been enjoying great support from the area.
“It is not okay to lose members to any opposition party because politics is a numbers game. Having said that, the BDP is a voluntary organisation, we can only try to convince those who want to leave not to, but it is really their democratic right of association.”
He added: “As you will know, we lost three constituencies to the BPF and yes that’s worrying, but we have forgotten [ourselves] and now [we are] working hard to ensure our structures are alive, vibrant and very active to carry out party activities.”
While the BPF does not have much of a presence in Francistown, recent remarks by its patron and former president, Khama, at the funeral of the spouse of Francistown West legislator, Ignatius Moswaane, have raised strong suspicion of a looming defection (to the BPF) by the latter. At the funeral, Khama urged Moswaane to continue his ‘crusade against corruption within the BDP-led government’.
Moswaane has constantly labelled the Masisi regime as corrupt, something that recently earned him a 60-day suspension from the ruling party. He is set to face the BDP disciplinary board in less than two months.
As matters stand, many analysts believe that the dynamics point to Moswaane inevitably ditching the BDP for the BPF before facing the disciplinary board.
Sources believe that given the history of the BDP towards those who speak against the party, Moswaane could be sacked if he does go through a hearing process.
In addition, given the same history, if Moswaane stays in the party and ultimately gets sacked, he might find himself without a seat in Parliament. That is if the proposed Bill that prevents floor crossing is passed into law by Parliament.
The Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Kabo Morwaeng is set to soon table the Bill in Parliament, which has been criticised as being part of attempts by President Mokgweetsi Masisi to consolidate his power amid reports of unrest in his party.
Worried sources within the BDP also anticipate that some ruling party councillors in Mmadinare and North East, particularly in the Tati East constituency might defect from the party in en masse soon.
Some of the councillors and activists in Tati East are said to be aligned to Samson Guma, a former high profile BDP member. The former Tati East MP was sacked by the BDP after winning the primary elections ahead of last year’s general election.
While Guma is believed to be in South Africa, a few weeks ago he applied for BPF membership. Some councillors in Mmadinare are said to sympathise with Khama, who has since fallen out with the ruling party.
BDP Francistown region chairperson, Baemedi Medupi this week told Mmegi that he was not aware that some members wanted to quit the party en masse. He, however, said just like any other party, the BDP needs members to survive and would not like to lose any more members.