FRANCISTOWN: With over two months to go, the battle for the control of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is intensifying. The BDP holds its 44th congress and elections in July and already, the party faithful are reportedly travelling the length and breath of the country in search of support. The race for party positions seems to have brought factional allies even closer.
The BDP secretariat has of late been inundated with inquiries from members across the country seeking pertinent information related to the congress and elections. This will be President Festus Mogae's last congress as leader of the party and state president.
As it has become the norm, nobody has challenged Vice President Ian Khama for the party chairmanship. There is generally concern why Khama is not stepping down to allow other people to run for the chairmanship when it is a given that he will be ascending to the presidency. Some people hope that Khama might announce from the floor of the congress that he is stepping down from the party chairmanship. It is said the biggest battle in the BDP this year will be between Education Minister and current BDP deputy secretary general, Jacob Nkate and former BDP youth leader and Gaborone regional committee chairman, Gomolemo Motswaledi. The two are seeking to succeed the long-serving Daniel Kwelagobe as secretary general.
The duo continue to represent the party at different fora and in the process they gain the necessary mileage before the BDP masses.
Within the BDP circles and the general political front, the two are known strategists for their respective factions. Nkate was a leader in the Nkate-Merafhe faction while Motswaledi was listed as a major player in the Kedikilwe-Kwelagobe axis.
Another equally fierce battle is expected between BDP activist, Kabo Morwaeng and Southern District Council chairman, Kentse Rammidi for deputy secretary general.
Although Specially Elected MP, Botsalo Ntuane had earlier declared his interest in the seat, he has since informed Mmegi that he is out of the race. "I want to concentrate on other challenges that I feel would need a lot of my attention," he said. This announcement could have spurred Morwaeng into action after his notable absence from the political scene since the BDP 2004 primaries.
Motor magnate Satar Dada does not seem to have any challenger for the position of treasurer. Up to yesterday, the BDP secretariat confirmed that there was no one who has declared interest in runnig for the position. It does not seem as if there is anyone brave enough to take Dada head-on. Perhaps, BDP members are afraid to challenge him for fear that they would be expected to splash hefty sums in support of the party activities. He has often been listed as one of the party financiers.
For deputy treasurer, cabinet minister Charles Tibone has indicated that he wants to oust Paul Paledi.
The battle here might go either way depending on whose preparations yields better results. But with Tibone falling within the circle of party financiers, Paledi might have a mountain to climb.
After announcing that he would not be defending his position as secretary general, reports within the BDP show that Kwelagobe will prefer a lower responsibility as an additional member. 'DK' was brought into Mogae's cabinet to balance the party's traditional factions. There is speculation in BDP circles that Kwelagobe could be eyeing the chairmanship when Khama takes over from Mogae as party president next year. However, DK has denied eyeing the party chairmanship. But he has not hidden the fact that if need be, he would take the challenge. A million dollar question though, is whether the BDP central committee headed by Khama could co-opt 'DK'.
This is because of reports that Khama was opposed to the appointment of the trio of DK, Ponatshego Kedikilwe and GUS Matlhabaphiri to the cabinet. But, who knows what promises DK has been given to risk his safe position.
Interestingly, there is a pool of BDP bigwigs vying for inclusion as additional members. Factions are said to have been disbanded but the race for party positions show that so far, those previously associated with the Kedikilwe-Kwelagobe faction are the ones that have publicly entered the ring. They include cabinet minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, Kwelagobe and Tonota South MP Pono Moatlhodi. On the other hand, those who were previously associated with the Nkate-Merafhe faction have declared interest in becoming additional members. The party secretariat has confirmed that cabinet ministers Mompati Merafhe, Neo Moroka, Lesego Motsumi and Maxwell Motowane want to become additional members. It is apparent that the traditional BDP factions are refusing to die.
Except for Dada who is unopposed at treasurer's position, all the other posts in the party are being contested on the basis of factionalism. BDP executive secretary, Dr Comma Serema confirmed this week that all is going according to plan and the congress billed for Molepolole will be held as scheduled.
With the outgoing BDP Women's Wing chairperson, Botlogile Tshireletso having declared that she would not defend her position, the candidate to watch is former cabinet minister, Tebelelo Seretse. So far the party secretariat has confirmed the following stat of affairs:
Chairman - Ian Khama (Unopposed)
Secretary general - Nkate and Motswaledi.
Deputy secretary general - Rammidi and Morwaeng.
Treasurer - Dada (unopposed)
Deputy treasurer - Tibone and Paledi
Additional members - Merafhe, Motsumi, Moroka, Motowane, Mooka, Venson-Moitoi, Moatlhodi and Kwelagobe.
Serema stressed that the list could not be limited to these candidates only as some are likely to declare their interest at the congress.