Parties call off meetings due to COVID-19 surge

BDP members during their National coucil meeting PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
BDP members during their National coucil meeting PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO

The high numbers of COVID-19 related deaths currently overwhelming the country have forced different political parties to postpone their elective congresses and conferences.

Prior to the postponements, the parties were busy planning to hold virtual meetings in order to choose new leaders since the mandate of the current central committee members had long elapsed.

Though the congresses were to be held in a digital format which was going to be more complicated and expensive for political parties, they seemed to be determined to look for money to run internal elections.

However, last week different political parties' tones regarding the matter started to change considering what is happening on the ground in relation to COVID-19 and issues surrounding vaccination rollout.

In case of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) its spokesperson, Kagelelo Kentse said; “we are not going to have our congress due to COVID-19 challenges. The central committee will communicate once the date for the BDP congress is set. Yes, some party structures had proposed virtual congress to the party central committee and the party was deciding on it. However, the situation has since changed due to the rising numbers of COVID-19 infection and deaths.”

Kentse further said they do not want a situation where they seem to be super spreaders of the virus as the ruling party when they are supposed to lead by example adding that the party will discuss the matter when the situation has stabilised.

Still on the matter, this week, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) president Dumelang Saleshando told the media that his central committee convened an emergency virtual meeting to reflect on the surge in COVID-19 cases and assess the status of the planned elective conference for his organisation.

“The party has resolved to postpone the elective conference scheduled for July 31st to August 1, 2021, on account of the rising COVID-19 infections and deaths. The meeting further resolved to review the situation during the month of September 2021. For the BCP the health and life of our members and the general population are of paramount importance. The BCP will continue monitoring the situation closely,” Saleshando had said.

The Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) spokesperson Lawrence Ookeditse said the party cannot ignore COVID-19 challenges especially that positive cases and death rates are high.

“Of course we were busy making some preparations for the congress and trying to find logistics on how we can hold it. We were yet to decide the place and month of the congress. The party had not concluded on the model they are going to use. If the cases keep on growing, we will have no choice but to postpone,” Ookeditse said.

On the other side, the Botswana National Front (BNF) spokesperson Justin Hunyepa said his party had not determined dates and month for its congress therefore, the congress will not be held.

“There is no one who can ignore what is currently happening in the country. With high rates of death and infection, there is no party that will want to risk its members by holding congresses. Congresses can spread the virus easily because, amongst 50 people, one or two may be having the virus. The issue of congress will be looked into again when the situation has stabilised,” Hunyepa said.

He indicated that the reason why the party opted for membership drive was that an internal report that was done by some national organising secretary showed that there was a need to resuscitate some structures because they collapsed because of COVID-19.

In addition, he said there was no need for them to hold a congress when the issue of structures had not been attended to. He continued; “The party also has thousands of inactive members and these are being reawakened and tagged to start supporting the party actively in different positive ways to effect the long-awaited change of government.”

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