FRANCISTOWN: Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) operatives will have themselves to blame if anything goes wrong after Kang next month.
As politicians continue to bicker, it’s the BDP that is destined to suffer as factions come face-to-face in the battle for the soul of the party.There seem to be no love lost as the party is currently torn apart with one section faithful to the incumbent President Mokgweetsi Masisi while the other side is loyal to his challenger, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi of the faction commonly known as New Jerusalem.
Come April 5, 2019 all roads will lead to Kang, the venue of the BDP’s first ever special congress specifically held for party presidential election. The election will duly test the strength of the sitting president as opposed to the automatic succession that has been the norm.
Interestingly, the issue of presidential election has divided the party so bitterly that some people are literally not in talking terms as a result. Venson-Moitoi declared last year that she was interested in challenging Masisi who is the State and party president.
It doesn’t seem her intention as the first politician to challenge the sitting President was well received in the party.
Caution has been thrown to the wind and the party’s code of conduct is seemingly flouted with impunity as both factions push their own agenda.
The dominant Masisi faction, which is in control of both government and party, is using everything at its disposal to sell the incumbent to the party masses.
Worse, the BDP executive leadership and other party established structures that are supposed to be neutral, are apparently competing for space to show President Masisi how much they are behind him.
Venson-Moitoi and her lobby group have been crying foul that the party leadership and other structures treat them like outcasts.
She has since registered her displeasure at the manner in which the party executive leadership and other high structures in the organisation are rallying behind Masisi and not herself. She has since instructed attorneys to push the matter that is likely to be determined by the courts of law.
The pro-Masisi faction enjoys the wider coverage of the State media whilst the New Jerusalem faction is experiencing a ‘blackout’ as both the Daily News and Botswana Television are apparently under instructions not to cover them. Venson-Moitoi recently cried foul that the BDP leadership has been unfair to her campaigns as after a meeting of elders in Serowe recently, some of her loyal supporters were threatened to be charged and possibly suspensions from the party.
The ex-Cabinet minister was worried that even the little opportunity that she has to interact with party diehards, people are threatened with possible expulsion.
In her view, the opportunity to canvass for support is a given as even President Masisi was doing the same across the country without any qualms.
At a Francistown region elective congress held at the Adansonia Hotel where five constituencies making up the region; Francistown South, East, West, Tati-East and Tonota met bitter factionalism was literally walking on its two legs.
Despite that the office bearers had vacated office before the elections, they still ran the proceedings.
Itekeng ward councillor, Lesego Kwambala took over when the congress discussed motions. As if the whole thing was staged, he chose people from the dominant Masisi faction and ignored Venson-Moitoi’s supporters.
His biasness was magnified after the Francistown South parliamentary aspirant, Modiri Lucas had moved a motion seeking the congress to endorse Masisi as a presidential candidate. The first person to comment and seconded the motion and was from the Masisi side.
But there was a woman from the Francistown West constituency whose hand remained up just under the nose of Kwambala and he (Kwambala) chose not to give her a chance. At some stage, Kwambala wanted to allow the motion to pass but his attitude rubbed some people the wrong way when he made a quick count claiming that there was no one who stood against the motion forcing Queen Moatswi, a known Venson-Moitoi factionalist to rise up and vent her frustration that Kwambala was bias as he ignored her from just an arm’s length distance.
Moatswi argued that there was no way the hall could claim that the Francistown region endorsed Masisi when Kwambala favoured the pro-Masisi faction.
One unidentified man who was closer to Moatswi was allowed to comment nearly 10 times, as observed by Mmegi scribe, Chakalisa Dube, whilst other potential speakers were denied the opportunity.
“This was a staged performance by councillor Kwambala. How can he not allow that woman (Moatswi) to speak when she was very close to him and chose people who spoke about endorsing Masisi?” wondered political writer Dube.
Even the newly-elected Francistown region chairperson, Baemedi Medupe acceded that factionalism was a thorn within the BDP ranks. “A while ago I was speaking to the BDP deputy secretary general, Shaw Kgathi that the Francistown region should hold a retreat so that we can forgive each other and work for the bigger party. The atmosphere has been tense,” conceded Medupe, further worried that the regions across the country were experiencing the same.
While in some quarters people are gripped by fear that post Kang, the BDP could experience a serious split, University of Botswana (UB) senior lecturer in politics, Dr. Kebapetse Lotshwao is of the view that whoever wins in Kang, the party will rally behind him/her.
“BDP is a party that has been ruling this country for quite sometime. The party’s priority is to retain power so post the Kang special congress, there will be efforts to heal the rifts and go forward,” Lotshwao analysed.
He sees party diehards burying the hatchet and focussing on the challenges of the general elections, as their priority shall remain retaining power against all odds.
“Efforts will be put into place to heal the rifts,” observed Lotshwao, adding: “The only choice will be to rally behind the winner and since the BDP had passed through tumultuous stages in its 53 years in power any challenges should teach them something.”