BDP power play: SG vs executive secretaries


FRANCISTOWN: The executive secretary position at Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is widely referred to as the brain and heart of the party.

In context, his/ her role is to provide support to the secretary general (SG) so that he/she can effectively help grow the party and make it relevant. The position has often been allocated to a person who has good grasp of the party tradition and culture.Since Dr Batlang Comma Serema left in 2011, BDP has not had a stable executive secretary.

His successors left under controversial and unceremonious circumstances. Immediately following the departure of Serema the party roped in Thabo Masalila, but he was sacked before the end of his term. The youthful Masalila was seen as someone who was sympathetic to the then Barataphathi faction.

Although the BDP said he was booted for acting unethically in office, the majority of the party die-hards differed. Those closer to the events strongly believe that he was sent packing as he did not share ideological preferences with the then SG, Mpho Balopi and some in the Central Committee. Following his sacking, the BDP moved swiftly and appointed former scribe Sechele Sechele. The former newspaper editor was viewed as an articulate and principled figure that could help revive the fortunes of the ruling party.

Sechele’s reign at the BDP ended in a nearly similar fashion such as that of Masalila. He was shown the door in 2015 through a retrenchment process that raised eyebrows.  Balopi was again fingered as the man who orchestrated the retrenchments, two months before the lapse of his tenure in the central committee.

There is perception that Balopi wanted to appoint an executive secretary who he would control from outside at the time.

Botsalo Ntuane replaced Balopi in 2015 and it is alleged that the latter controlled the BDP from outside with the aid of President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who was at the time the country’s vice president and the chairperson of the BDP.

Ntuane looked isolated during his term as the party SG as those perceived to be closer to Masisi were running the show. Balopi returned to his position as SG in 2017 at the Tonota elective congress.

Just last week, Merapelo Moloise quit her job as the executive secretary. In her own words, she said she left as she had failed to prepare for a central committee meeting. However, sources have said that did not warrant her to resign. There are those who believe that Moloise might have been pushed out because she reportedly did not see eye to eye with Balopi. In a previous interview with Mmegi, Balopi had shunned the idea that Moloise was forced to step down. Balopi and the BDP have also in the past shrugged off suggestions that past executive secretaries were forced to resign.

Owing to emerging trends in the BDP, many are beginning to doubt the effectiveness and relevance of the position to the ruling party. They are of the view that the party central committee only appoints stooges at the expense of highly competent people who can help take the party out of the woods.  Some have even averred that the source of the party instability might be a result of constant changes of the executive secretary, which is contrary to the tradition of the party.

 However, political analyst Anthony Morima said the constant change of party SGs was something that cannot be avoided.

“We may not necessarily know why there have been constant changes of the executive secretaries in the BDP but the truth of the matter is that the executive secretary is an extension of the party secretary general. The executive secretary should act in accordance with the prevailing views (whether right or wrong) of the secretary general or central committee of the day. If he or she does not then chances of remaining in the position are slim,” he said.

He suspects the past three executive secretaries might not have been fully serving the  interest of their respective political leaders, which is why they did not survive.

“Taking any politically supervised position is very risky because what you do is not premised on prowess. Your expertise is thrown out of the window and you do what the political leadership want you to do,” said. 

Morima assumes that all the members of the central committee were in agreement with the changes of past executive secretaries.

“One would think that they could have objected to changes if at all they were not in agreement.” 

Morima does agree that the departure of Moloise might solidify the perception that Balopi is the one pushing out executive secretaries because they do not do his bidding.

“Some may think that it is much of a coincidence that the past three executives have all quit under one secretary general.” 

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