Parties might not hold congresses

All political parties’ Central Committees’ mandates have expired and the members have to go and renew the mandates at the congresses and conferences
All political parties’ Central Committees’ mandates have expired and the members have to go and renew the mandates at the congresses and conferences

The suspension and rescheduling of party activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the local political landscape. Mmegi has learnt that different political parties will be forced to postpone their congresses and conferences again this year as they assess the current situation.

Recently, the country has been recording high COVID-19 death tolls. This forced political parties to make changes to their calendars since their political events attract more than 50 people contrary to COVID-19 protocols. After postponing congresses and conferences due to the general election in 2019, last year political parties were planning to finally hold such events but that never materialised as the pandemic hit Botswana in March. All political parties' central committees' mandates have expired and the members have to go and renew the mandates at the congresses and conferences. The political campaigns for party positions have been stopped and some party structures have collapsed as members cannot meet. Despite all these, some parties were already finding ways of reviving structures.

They were also ensuring that lower committees meet to hold meetings through WhatsApp calls or Zoom for the committees to be active. Other parties were also planning to hold virtual congresses and conferences. The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) spokesperson Kagelelo Kentse said; “I doubt, preparing for a BDP congress takes a lot more. Between October and December, there might not be enough time but we will be guided by the Central Committee.” He said the other challenge for political parties is that virtual congresses are very expensive and need more resources.

Kentse added that the party Central Committee will take a resolution on what could be done since things will never be conducted the same way they used to be. He continued: “Even if the State of Emergency (SoE) ends, COVID-19 is still there and therefore political party members are also forced to adhere to health protocols just like other organisations.” Botswana Congress Party (BCP) acting secretary-general, Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang said: “The Central Committee resolution still stands. That the COVID-19 situation will be reviewed during the month of September 2021 with the aim of setting a new date for the elective conference.” Dr Gobotswang said it is still to be determined by the next Central Committee meeting at a date still to be decided upon. “I will not want to preempt a Central Committee decision”.


Botswana National Front (BNF) spokesperson, Justin Hunyepa said the leadership is meeting soon and the congress is likely to be discussed, especially now that the SoE is coming to an end this month. “We will hear what the health authorities say after the SoE and we will take it from there. The BNF wants the congress so that it can meet its constitutional obligations and further assess the state of the party,” he highlighted. He said the party cannot organise and hold the congress within three months since congresses need more resources and funds. Hunyepa said the party will have to make sure that all party structures are represented. He continued: “The party congress is the final decision-making body of the party.

Therefore, it should be well organised as stated in the Constitution and all structures must be represented.” The Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) secretary-general, Tseleng Botlhole said: “We are still in the process of resuscitating our branch structures. Progress has been slow so I doubt if we will be able to hold a congress this year. We need 29 constituencies to form a quorum.

We have been holding virtual meetings and also holding mini branch zonal meetings to revive our structures but that is not enough in politics.” Alliance for Progressives (AP) secretary-general, Phenyo Butale said the Central Committee will decide on the dates for the congress but of course it has to be soon. "Again we will assess the current situation of COVID-19 and whether people are vaccinated or not,” he said.

The Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) spokesperson, Lawrence Ookeditse said he is not sure whether or not the party will not hold its congress this year since time is not on their side. “We have to be considerate of what is happening now especially when people are losing lives due to COVID-19. The party cannot force to hold a congress when the situation does not allow it. We will consider it when people are fully vaccinated because we have an obligation to protect our own members,” Ookeditse said.

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