FRANCISTOWN: At the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) congress in July, President Ian Khama issued a stern warning to party members to desist from making statements that tarnish the name of the party.
He was also opposed to those who openly attack their BDP colleagues. Khama told the Mmadinare congress that he would not hesitate to discipline any member who criticises the party in public. Then, speculation was that Khama was referring to Francistown Member of Parliament (MP) Ignatius Moswaane. Prior to the congress, Moswaane was never shy to attack the party in public.
Khama said that where members differed they should not do so in public and the media lest the party lose respect from the right-thinking members of the society. However, nearly five months after Khama warned members, it appears that the trend of attacking the party in public continues unabated.
Last week Tati East legislator Samson Moyo Guma voiced out his criticism of the Khama-led government in the National Assembly chambers in his response to the State of the Nation Address (SONA). Guma, who was widely quoted in the local media accused, his party colleagues saying in seeking political gain, they were sabotaging him in the process.
Guma went to an extent of accusing President Khama’s younger brother Tshekedi Khama of sabotage, claiming that the latter failed to turn up for a scheduled kgotla meeting and did not apologise. Tshekedi has since refuted Guma’s accusations in the media. In addition, Guma made a startling revelation that he regrets being in the ruling party. He even accused his colleagues of splashing their money on alcohol while he was busy accumulating wealth.
Although it is still unclear why Guma would have chosen to make such statements after the President’s earlier warning, some see Guma’s outburst as an indication that Khama is losing grip of the party. Anarchy is beginning to rule in the BDP, as the party does not seemingly take action even after some of the heated exchanges. The statement that BDP may be turning into a state of anarchy is not far-fetched. Khama’s personality appears to be no longer that of the past when he was feared within the party and government circles.
Another school of thought is that the President has entered the lame duck era of his presidency, which is why some members can easily defy him. Well put, the members who defy Khama are preparing for life without him. It is now clear that Khama is on his way out after speculation that he may seek a third term. Quizzed about the latest developments in the BDP, party secretary general Botsalo Ntuane said: “I think this is making a mountain out of a mole hill. Our party allows freedom of thought and expression and members can speak freely. But of course we expect them to do so within limits that protect the party integrity. In caucuses, MPs are allowed to express their opinion but at the end of the day what counts is the collective decision”.
Regarding Guma, Ntuane was not sure if recent newspaper reports reflect what he actually said. “So I am restrained from commenting. The vote by show of hands is a distant memory and there is nothing like defiance of the party leader,” he noted.
He added: “What we have is just an engagement between colleagues and I must tell you President Khama relishes these sort of engagements and has no problems with democrats airing their views and differing with him”.
Political analyst Professor Zibani Maundeni suspects that some BDP members might be criticising the party and government openly because they realise that the opposition is slowly becoming stronger and may want to defect (to the opposition) at some point.
The University of Botswana (UB) political science lecturer told Mmegi that Khama could not apply the same disciplinary methods he applied a few years ago, which involved among others, expelling and suspending members. “If he becomes firmer against those who criticises the party in public, it may be suicidal because they may defect to the opposition. He should apply caution when dealing with those who criticise the party openly,” said Maundeni.
Maundeni further said that if Khama allows the party to be criticised in public, it would help foster democracy within the ruling party though it can also bring an element of instability. Political analyst Ndulamo Morima said that people started showing signs of defying Khama last year.
“You will have to realise that the President wanted the nomination of the Vice President and the Speaker of Parliament to be voted openly which was rejected in court. It was clear that some people were beginning to defy the President,” he said. “It is only that Guma’s remarks were more amplified but BDP members particularly MPs have long been showing signs of defying the President,” said Morima. He noted that the BDP MPs might be defying Khama because they realise that he is closer to leaving politics. “Members, particularly MPs, defy the President because they now know that he will not determine their future as he is on his way out,” he said. He added that prior to the last general elections, MPs appeared loyal to the President because they knew that they stood better chances of being elected into top positions particularly those of Vice President.
The political commentator added that reports that some members were last week against nominating Eric Molale as a specially elected MP is a clear indication that some MPs are now defying the President. Morima also said that Khama should admit that he has entered the lame duck era of his presidency and brace himself for more acts of defiance from party members.
He also argued that Khama has limited options to deal with members who continue to defy orders. Just like Maundeni, he believed that firmer action may be catastrophic as some members may defect to the opposition bloc. “The party stability will even be threatened further if the Vice President (VP) does not entrench himself well within the party and by extension government. We are likely to see jostling for top positions in future if Masisi does not entrench himself well in the party.” offin-pushing ghost, to the suckling frog in Bulawayo, triggers of mass hysteria are not going away anytime soon.
Old Naledi residents are simply joining communities all over the world wrestling with belief systems, neurons and the question of what is real and what is not.