FRANCISTOWN: A faction associated with President Mokgweetsi Masisi scooped all six positions on offer at the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Francistown regional committee elections last Saturday.
Masisi and former minister Pelonomi Venson-Motoi are in a contest to control party structures ahead of a crucial party special congress that will be held in Kang, on April when the two will slug it out for the position of party president.
Last Saturday, there were also reports that some BDP regions have thrown their weight behind Masisi. Baemedi Medupi was retained as the region’s chairperson after garnering 51 votes. His closest challenger Ford Moiteela got 33 votes while Francistown mayor Sylvia Muzila and Setshege Tapela were voted by 25 and nine voters respectively. Moiteela is a prominent member of the Venson-Moitoi’s campaign team. Tebogo Duna and Botho Ntirang, who had openly expressed desire to contest the position of chairperson, were not nominated from the floor.
Sean Sebele triumphed against attorney Motshegetsi Masoba in the position of secretary for the region. Sebele was voted by 66 people while Masoba managed 52 votes. Zibanani Benfield (Treasurer), Khumongwana Maoto (vice chairperson), Julius Bolokwe (vice secretary), Gaedupi Motota (vice treasurer) also form part of the newly elected committee.
Tati East, Tonota, Francistown South, West as well as East are five constituencies that make up the Francistown region. The region has been bitterly affected by factionalism and the tension that characterised the election said it all. Moiteela protested the elections saying they were not fair and transparent. There were allegations that members of the Masisi’s team manipulated processes so that they could gain advantage ahead of the Kang special congress. At one point, Francistown West Member of Parliament Ignatius Moswaane who belongs to the Venson-Moitoi’s camp (although he claimed to be in no faction) was nearly banned from voting.
This was after he complained that delegates could not write a candidate of their choice freely on ballot papers as they were closer to each other at the voting booth. Moiteela also shared the same sentiments as Moswaane.
Delegates were later allowed to write candidates of their choice from their seats then throw ballot papers on ballot boxes in a move meant to ensure secrecy.
There were also allegations that some delegates associated with Masisi attended the congress although they were not constitutionally endorsed. Additionally, there were no ordinary delegates from Francistown West at the weekend congress. The reason advanced for their absence was that the factions (belonging to Venson-Motoi and Masisi) differed on the procedure for electing the delegates (for the weekend congress). The two warring factions had initially conducted parallel congresses to elect delegates, but their gatherings were all declared unconstitutional.
Even at the congress it appeared that only people who were pro faction Masisi were given the chance to talk. Sources said the move was meant to sway people into influencing the elections to go in favour of the Masisi faction. After his re-election as the region chairperson, Medupe emphasised that they will have to move faster to talk unity and peace in the region’s five branches. “President Masisi has been talking peace and unity which has been elusive in the region and now it’s upon us to be practical and work in unison and achieve better things,” said Medupe.
One of the issues he has discussed with the BDP deputy secretary general, Shaw Kgathi was to organise a retreat for the region’s leadership and map the way forward. “Our main worry has been that post Bulela Ditswe primaries, factionalism sets us apart to the extent that we fail to achieve some of our targets,” he said indicating that some of the wards including Francistown South constituency which are in opposition hands are going to return to the BDP.