Botswana Democratic Party's (BDP) President Mokgweetsi Masisi has cracked the whip on errant members by suspending four councillors. They have been set aside for a period of 60 days pending disciplinary hearings. The list is expected to grow soon.
They are alleged to have committed the following offences against the rules and the general code of conduct of the BDP: “Behaving in a grossly disorderly and unruly manner that might put the party name into disrepute contrary to general code of conduct number 5, behaving in a manner calculated to bring the party name into disrepute contrary to the general code of conduct of party number 11, contemptuous behaviour towards party leadership and other members. As a member, you were obliged to abide by the constitution, rules and regulations of the party, and expected to promote its philosophy, policies and programmes as stated, particularly in article 14 subsection one and two thereof.”
The party said in taking the decision, the President was exercising the powers conferred upon him by article 34.1.6 and have determined that this is one of the exceptional circumstances in which he should suspend the councillors with immediate effect for a period of 60 days pending investigations.
According to a letter dated October 11, 2021, signed by Masisi, for the period of 60 days, the four suspended councillors cease to enjoy their rights and privileges as members of the party. The four councillors are supporters of the current secretary-general Mpho Balopi, currently embroiled in a factional fight with Masisi. This could mark the beginning of a long protracted factional war between Masisi and Balopi. The latter, however, told Mmegi in a recent interview that he harboured no plans to challenge Masisi for the party presidency.
The suspensions come after a Monday meeting this week in which the central committee discussed various matters affecting the party and ways to revive it, Mmegi has learnt.
According to a source, central committee members expressed disappointment particularly concerning certain behaviour displayed by some BDP councillors who keep on attacking the ruling party leadership on social media platforms, especially on WhatsApp without raising their concerns through party structures.
“Members believe that it is time action is taken because if the matter is left unattended, then the behaviour will persist and indiscipline will continue growing within the party. They believe that councillors should be the ones guiding members and telling them how they should behave. Councillors are not like ordinary members because they are leaders and therefore, they knew what they were doing and their intentions. They are going to be charged for their behaviour and some might be suspended pending disciplinary hearings,” the source said.
Another source said some ministers are the ones who reported the councillors to the committee because recently, some councillors in a WhatsApp group that ministers are also participants in, openly told them (councillors) that they will ensure they lose primary elections.
“There are serious divisions amongst some Members of Parliament (MP), cabinet ministers and councillors because of failure by MPs to support councillors on their six percent salary increase bid recently. Again, some MPs and other cabinet ministers are not comfortable with councillors who have intentions to challenge them in the coming party primary elections to be held ahead of the 2024 general election. The thing is, in politics, 2023 is not far and some people have started to work the ground to seek support from members,” the source said.
Apart from issues relating to councillors, there are reports of emerging factions with fissures within the cabinet, with ministers allegedly revolting against Masisi's leadership style. It has been resolved that some leaders should preach unity within the party and they should ensure that BDP structures are revived especially those that had collapsed. However, one of the sources said the party should be careful on how it deals with the issues of indiscipline since some members might use these small matters as a reason to defect from the party.
BDP spokesperson, Kagelelo Kentse confirmed the suspension of the four councillors while he refused to comment on the issue.
Meanwhile, on other issues, Kentse said the central committee has asked the political education and elections committee to visit all wards that are going to have by-elections so that they could discuss the model of how they are going to choose aspiring council candidates.