When the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) embarked on the pre-election ‘Moving Botswana forward’ campaign, it had no illusions it would spend a lot of money. It could not, however, have expected a P21 million Pula deficit at the end of it all.
When addressing the party’s national council in Gaborone last weekend, the BDP treasurer Satar Dada said 2014 had been one of the most difficult financial periods for the party. The campaign, he said, was also the BDP’s most expensive.
Dada’s report to the meeting, leaked to Mmegi, shows that to secure its majority in Parliament, the party had to spend nearly P36-million. Despite that, the party’s popular support dropped from 53.26 % in 2009 to 46.455% in the 2014 general election. Moreover, it lost eight seats in Parliament.
The figure, however, may not be a true reflection of the BDP spending as the expenditure presented does not itemise entries on which the money was spent. For example, ‘vehicle expenses’ may mean fuel, repairs etc; ‘Other expenses’ could mean security, event management, performers etc, but such things are not shown in the expenditure list presented by Dada.
“I can confirm that we spent millions, but I cannot disclose the amount as our finances are a confidential matter,” the party’s communication sub-committee chairman Shaw Kgathi said when asked about the party’s splurge.
In the report Dada urges BDP members to “please support the party” as it is desperate for funds, indicating the party was in much deeper financial trouble.
The financial trouble was due to a number of difficult issues that the party had to deal with before and during elections.
“We entered an election when there were many issues which affected budget and had to [spend] to overcome these issues.” These included the need to bring about unity within the party, high cost of vehicles and equipment, the cost of winning some marginal seats, which eventually directly and indirectly affected the party’s finances
“We had to deal with an angry workforce, a daring opposition, perceptions of corruption and talks of a totalitarian and murderous government perpetuated by the media, and you could expect us to spend that much,” said a top BDP official who preferred anonymity
The formation of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and its cooperation with the Botswana National Front and Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) to form the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) also gave the BDP enough nightmares to keep spending.
“Here we had some of our best foot-soldiers turned enemy. They knew our campaign tactics and were on an all-out war against us. We had no alternative but to spend,” he said.
Altogether the BDP spent P 35, 690,559 against a total income of P13, 930,938 resulting in a P21, 759,621 deficit. Dada’s report however does not say how the party plugged the huge deficit.
“This raises the same old issue of political party funding and placing a cap on political party spending. Political parties know the IEC lists caps only for individual candidates and not the party, so you never know who funded the party and what that funder wants in return. If a party uses a disproportionate amount of money in comparison to other parties, you may not know what pledges it made. The whole thing also affect fairness in an election,” said political analyst Anthony Morima.
He said the BDP had to put an aggressive campaign, as it was aware it would otherwise lose the election.
A BDP member said the party was not in the habit of publicly discussing its finances, even at its congresses and therefore would probably never say how the deficit was bridged. However the deficit could have been closed by way of a loan, a gift or other means.
Of all the money the BDP spent in the 2014 elections, nearly a third (28%) went towards elections alone. The party spent just under a fifth (19%) in legal and consultancy services. It is not clear if the amount includes ‘millions’ of Pula that the BDP was reported to have paid to an Israeli consultancy, that it reportedly hired to help it win the election.
Dada’s report discusses the BDP’s failure to collect subscriptions, with the result the party ‘short-collected’ P2, 666,841. While not stating the figure Kgathi gave indication it was money collectable from Members of Parliament and Councillors.
Dada also decries a recurring ‘careless’ attitude by some members when using party property.
“As usual we also observed that some vehicles were not looked after [properly] and were brought back in bad condition.
In order to reduce expenditure the BDP will, going forward, have the Women’s and Youth Wings do their own fundraising.
“I know you wont be pleased with that, but this is a central committee decision,” he said.
“We want the Wings to be independent. They will now pay for their meetings and congresses while the Central Committee will fund party congresses and elections,” said communications boss Kgathi.