New BDP central committee diverse

Jah Dish Shah
Jah Dish Shah

FRANCISTOWN: The 36th Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) elective congress held in Mmadinare last weekend has produced a diverse leadership expected to restore the party’s elusive glory.

Two words simply describe the newly elected BDP central committee: Very diverse.

With the exception of Education Minister Unity Dow and businessman-cum-politician, Jagdish Shah, who are political greenhorns, the elected lot is a mixture of veteran politicians, former party administrators, strong campaigners, cabinet members, businessmen-cum-politicians, reformists and renowned BDP operatives.

The agenda for the new committee is to restore the BDP to its glory days and the reform agenda, as articulated by the newly elected secretary general, Botsalo Ntuane. The committee boasts of both political experience and leadership prowess in terms of the calibre of the elected men and women.

Although President Ian Khama, who is also party president, previously held a strong belief that cabinet members cannot deliver to his expected levels once they dabble as central committee members, he has since had a change of heart.

The only worrying factor about the elected leadership team is that 60 percent of them are also from cabinet, which could affect performance given their commitment to their national assignment against party duties.

Electing cabinet members to the party central committee may not be new but given Khama’s desire to turn around the rather dwindling fortunes of the party, it may prove difficult for them to get the desired results at the pace they need them.

Mokgweetsi Masisi, Shaw Kgathi, Nonofo Molefhi, Dow, Fidelis Molao and Botlogile Tshireletso are cabinet members.

The Mmadinare elective congress inspanned both the youthful and the old politicians to lead the party forward at a time it is under pressure to redeem itself.

It is clear Khama wants to leave an impressive legacy and can only be satisfied by a hard working central committee before his term ends in 2018. 

The BDP elected the vice president, Masisi, its party chairman and Ntuane its secretary general whilst Shaw Kgathi is the deputy secretary general.

Satar Dada retained his position as the treasurer with Shah roped in as his deputy.

Additional members include Molefhi, Daniel Kwelagobe, Dow, Molao and Tshireletso. The election of the vice president as the chairman is mission accomplished for the BDP top brass, as Khama reportedly campaigned for Masisi.

The position of chairperson is viewed as a golden opportunity for Masisi to appreciate the goings on from inside the party.

Masisi’s election has given Khama the confidence he is still in control and that Masisi is equally popular as a politician, who is destined to ascend to the highest office in the land come 2018.

As reputable motor dealer Dada, who has been consistently elected unopposed as the treasurer, it speaks volumes about his importance to the BDP. He is reputed as one of the party’s important financiers and fundraisers. 

Kwelagobe, a former cabinet minister, is one of the longest serving secretary generals of the BDP and has also served as the party chairperson.

His election into the leadership brings a wealth of experience to the party that performed badly in the last general elections as it won with a doubtful popular vote of 46.70 percent.

Humbled by the general elections, Kwelagobe popularly known as DK has no option but to serve the party diligently as an elder who knows well of the party agenda. 

Without a constituency, he is expected to provide wise counsel and groom the young generation of politicians.

His remarkable return to the party leadership is viewed mostly in positive light as a man who came at the right time to guide the party.

Tshireletso, who holds a record of being one of the longest serving chairpersons of the BDP Women’s Wing, is not new to the central committee by virtue of the previous position (Women’s Wing) she held. She is currently Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development.

She is also experienced as a politician given her track record as one of the longest serving chairpersons of the vast Central District Council. This makes her a strong campaigner.

Dow is fairly new to BDP politics and was brought into Parliament on the Specially Elected card.  She has since been brought into cabinet as the Minister of Education and Skills Development. She formerly served as a High Court judge and brings a wealth of legal experience into the committee.

As for Ntuane and Molao, the duo previously served the BDP secretariat as executive secretary and deputy executive secretary respectively.

Their knowledge of the day-to-day running of the BDP has a potential to help them make meaningful contributions during party central committee meetings.

Ntuane is a former Member of Parliament, whilst Molao is a serving legislator and an assistant minister of Agriculture.  Ntuane is expected to assume a leading role as the face of the party more so that he will be working closely with the party secretariat.

Political analyst Ndulamo Morima says that the BDP may suffer vast consequences as a result of having many cabinet members in the central committee.

“They will not have enough time to deal with party issues as a result of having many cabinet ministers in the central committee. Should they avail much time to the committee it would be at the expense of the government, which directly affects the taxpayer,” he says. He added that the BDP is currently under siege from the opposition so the central committee needs enough time to take the opposition head on.

“I also doubt they will have enough time to tackle the opposition given the demands of ministerial duties. Again if they are to spend much time devising strategies to fight the opposition it might impact badly on their government duties,” he explains.

Morima adds that most of the ministers are not independent thinkers and are closer to Khama. In this case, he says some ideas that can help the party grow may not be endorsed by the ministers in a bid to protect the interests of the President should he hold a contrasting view.

He also says that it will be difficult for ministers to judge their performance in government while they also sit in the central committee. “They central committee should be the one that is used as an oversight body to judge the performance of government and by extension ministers,” he says.

On a positive note Morima says that the central committee boasts of characters such as Ntuane.

He, however, noted that should Ntuane be denied much independence to implement his reforms it may prove problematic to the party.

“Unity Dow is also one character who has the ability to engage herself on issues and can contribute to the party effectively. However, her contribution can only be effective if her participation in the party is not restricted,” analyses Morima.

He adds that Kwelagobe holds an institutional memory, but should he align himself to his close ally, Ntuane, some central committee members may consider his actions as an act of rekindling old factions within the party.

This he says may render the central committee less effective and by extension affecting the party.

Another political analyst Lawrence Ookeditse says that the newly elected BDP central committee has some notable strengths compared to weaknesses.

He said one faction does not dominate the elected central committee. This he explains may help the central committee function effectively and demonstrate that the party is determined to break factions and improve its fortunes.

“We have someone like Masisi as chairman. I believe he is ideal for the position because he is articulate and possesses the ability to debate effectively,” Ookeditse says.

He also says that Masisi’s undoing is that he is not an inexperienced politician. He, however, says that the presence of Ntuane and Kwelagobe who hold institutional memory may help Masisi settle well in his position.  In addition he said the presence of characters us as Shah may help the BDP improve its financial vibrancy. 

He said having ministers as central committee members is an opportunity for government to improve on both itself and the party relations.

“I do not think ministers will be over-burdened by their duties because they only attend a meeting per month and the party is mostly run by the secretary general and the party secretariat,” he says.

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