FRANCISTOWN: The Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) has described the scathing attacks it endured in the wake of sexual misconduct levelled against its president, Biggie Butale, as baseless and nonsensical.
In the aftermath of the sexual misconduct allegation, which has not been formally reported to Botswana Police Service for investigations till today, Butale’s woes spiked after he allegedly referred to the national executive committee (NEC) of the BPF as a kangaroo court.
In addition, Butale is also accused of convening a meeting at a farm near Mahalapye aimed at paralysing the BPF and which had the potential to bring the name of the party into disrepute.
Butale saga has and is still dividing the leadership of the BPF although the party has denied this in the past.
A member of the BPF’s central committee (CC) this week told Mmegi that although the party portrays a semblance of unity before the public, with time fissures will start to emerge because of how the BPF handled the Butale issue from the beginning up to now.
When Mmegi contacted Butale for comment after the BPF suspended him this week, he curtly said he would not share his views with the media.
Mmegi had asked Butale to give his views following his suspension, that if push comes to the shove, will he challenge his suspension in the country’s courts of law and that since there are rumors to the effect that some people in the top leadership of the BPF don’t want him to lead it any more, will he quit it or not.
The publication had also asked Butale that in the event he quits the BPF in future because of the current allegations he is facing, and if he is still interested in politics, will he rejoin the Botswana Democratic Party or join any other political formations.
When quizzed for comment regarding Butale’s suspension, the spokesperson of the BPF Lawrence Ookeditse said the bottom line in this matter is that the Butale issue was referred to the disciplinary committee (DC), which is the appropriate and autonomous structure within the party to address it.
“The DC can suspend or take any decision or mete out any other sanction it deems appropriate against any member of the party. This can happen either through a hearing or any other means,” said Ookeditse.
Ookeditse then clarified that assumptions on whether it was constitutional or unconstitutional for the DC to suspend Butale do therefore not arise adding that it is factual mistake to say so.
“The other thing is that this is not a verdict. The matter has not been heard and completed. And because the matter has not been heard, we cannot talk about the powers to suspend and the likes,” said Ookeditse.
“The DC has decided that as a part of its processes and procedures, and for the DC to be able to proceed to listen to matters that are brought before it and if it has found it fit or think it is best to have a look into the matter, with president not serving at that time, we as the NEC are not interested in controlling the processes and procedures of the DC. We had left it to function independently,” he added.
Ookeditse then explained that it would be an affront to the independence of the DC for the NEC to be seen to be meddling in its affairs.
“If the DC found it fit to suspend Butale and think it is best way for them to do their work, then we ought to facilitate the way they found otherwise we will be interfering in their processes and procedures,” Ookeditse emphasised.
The spokesperson added that there need to be clarity about the processes or procedures that are taken before one is suspended.
“You can be suspended as a sanction or punishment. On the other hand, you can be suspended (but this does not necessarily refer to Butale only but any other person in our organisation) as part of a process that leads to a hearing and this does not mean that you are guilty. It is not a punitive but an administrative process intended to help any organisation to deal with the matter at hand,” he said.
Ookeditse also denounced the narrative that Butale’s suspension will fuel perceptions that since the inception of the BPF, Butale was never meant to be the substantive president of the party (pending the inaugural elective congress of the BPF) but was just used as a ruse to hold fort for someone favoured by the patron, former president Ian Khama.
He said: “... I don’t know where this whole thing comes from. None of this has anything to do with us. None of this has anything to do with history. Everything here has to do with the matter that has been widely reported in the media and it is only about that. It’s a matter of the party getting a report and seeking to do the right thing. And the right thing here is to call whoever (it can be any member of the party including myself) is accused of any wrong doing to account. If the accused is not found guilty or culpable, then life goes on.”
He added: “They resume their duties...This applies to any organisation including political parties. Whenever there are allegations of a serious nature, and people are called to respond to those allegations, you can come and show that whatever you are accused of does not apply to you.”
“I don’t know why there should be some sort of media play where people go to the media play and say this and that. It’s the duty of the DC to call all parties involved in the matter and then take decisions basing on the representations of all the concerned parties. The DC should be given the time and opportunity to impartially listen to all representations,” Ookeditse reiterated.
The BPF mouthpiece said it is absolute nonsense to say that Butale was or not wanted to lead the BPF.
In the past, after the BPF levelled an accusation of sexual misconduct against Butale, a political analyst and lecturer in the Department of Politics and Administrative Studies at the University of Botswana, Adam Mfundisi differed with the position that was taken by the leadership to call Butale for a hearing.
“It has never been about that. The NEC actions and decisions were hastily carried out to embarrass the president of the party for self-aggrandisement of the NEC. The principle of natural justice was ignored with impunity. Constitutionalism is premised on the Rule of Law and not of men and women enamoured with political power,” said Mfundisi then.
Mfundisi added: “These developments give credence to the narrative that Butale was not the substantive favourite of the darlings of the BPF. The founders of the BPF wanted to give the impression that it was a national party not a tribal one dominated by the Bangwato or the Khama family. If the constitution is clear that the processes that must be followed for sanctioning the party president have been violated, Butale is right to refuse to relinquish political office... Flagrant disregard for the constitution sends a wrong signal to the mere mortals of the party that some leaders are above the law.”