Troubled BDP engages in spring cleaning

With focus on unity and another national election victory as the ultimate prize, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has embarked on sweeping reforms that the party hopes will help solidify its position.

When it went into its national council meeting over weekend, the BDP went in a troubled party. Chief among issues of contention, which have also threatened to split the party was the selection of candidates.

Other contentious issues were participation of party structures, re-admission of disgruntled members who became independent candidates, neglected party veterans and transparency in the party’s electoral process.

The huge number of disgruntled members who lost their appeals during primary elections, who subsequently went on to stand as independent candidates in particular became a chronic worry for the BDP.

Prior to the election, and in a bid to stem the loss of members caused by dissenters, the BDP resolved not to allow disgruntled members who became independents back into its fold. 

Now the party found itself in a catch 22-situation: On the one hand it had to pass a clear message that it would deal firmly with ‘unreasonable’ dissent.

It also  had to contend with the fact many of those who left had, like the biblical Lucifer, taken many members along with them.

Allowing them back is geared at regaining those who left with them, argued some members.

They wanted the party to forgive the dissenters, failing which they would themselves leave.

The BDP ship was sinking and the party leadership had to find a solution, and quick. Thus it set up a commission, headed by former Local Government and Rural Development Minister Peter Siele to assess the party’s Bulela Ditswe election process.

Siele himself is a viction of the BDP primary elections, which he lost to Assistant Minister of Health Dr Alfred Madigele.

Siele commission reports: “At the end of 2013 primary elections it would seem that some had now become experts at cheating the system and fully corrupting the initiative of primary elections as there were many complaints with more than 108 appeals recorded than ever before.

Following the appeals process, the  emergence of independent candidates from the party had more than doubled.”

The report notes that there were 38 independent candidates for parliament as opposed to 15 in 2009 and 254 for council seats as opposed to 132 in 2009.

It further notes the 2014 general election saw the opposition getting 20 parliament seats compared to 12 in 2009, and that the BDP failed in its strongholds, following these “highly contested primary elections which there were more aspiring candidates than ever before and had highest record of appeal cases”.

“It must be noted that in 1999 general elections before Bulela Ditswe system, the BDP won 82.5 percent of seats in parliament as compared to 64.91 percent of 2014. “Our popular vote has declined from 54.34 percent in 1999 before Bulela Ditswe, to 50.63 percent in 2004, starting of Bulela Ditswe to 53.26 percent in 2009 and to 46.455 percent of 2014 elections report,” it states.

The commission now wants all those who left but want to rejoin the part to be allowed back. 

Not only that, it has come up with a raft of recommendations relating to the issue.

These include setting a comprehensive cut-off date for registration of submission of registers of new members.

The register must be available to the party 12 months prior to polling dates; that the BDP membership number should match the Omang number of that member.

Aspirant candidates must not be involved in the registration of members, but rather the structures and all those who are aspirant candidates must not be members of any party structures for a period of two years before the primary elections and otherwise would have vetted themselves out.

Furthermore the party should introduce a system of selection of candidates that is simple, transparent, sustainable, cost effective, practical and cannot be infiltrated by opposition.

Many within the BDP believe this would go a long way in reducing the number of disgruntled members following Bulela Ditswe.

Moreover, the commission called for the party to avail its Final Voter’s rolls to members  way in advance of polling days.

As there will always be disgruntled people, the commission recommended that the party should appoint “credible and experienced people, who can also counsel those not successful” to the Appeals Board, ahead of primary elections. A major issue of dissatisfaction within the party was the fact that relatively new people were taking control of the party, at both party structures and as parliamentary and council candidates. 

The party would do well to start taking vetting seriously and consider only those with a two –year service to the party for any leadership position.

At the height of Bulela Ditswe bickering, many BDP faithful expressed discontent over the fact the party’s Legal Advisor was the prosecutor, judge and jury as he/she sat in both the Electoral and Appeals Boards.

To avoid this apparent conflict of roles, the commission says the legal advisor should not be a member of the electoral board. In that case the person can better advise both boards.

The BDP neglecting party elders still remains a major issue within the BDP, but these are the people that can take the party back to the “old paths” to find the right path where the roads fork, some BDP members have argued.

In light of this, the commission has recommended that party veterans should be involved at all levels.

The Commission has also suggested an improvement of the Bulela Ditswe system by coming up with a larger and manageable electoral college such as Ward Congress and Branch Congress to elect council and parliamentary candidates respectively.

This, says the commission, “will deal with opposition infiltration as delegates would be democrats who are elected and know each other from cells and wards”

The commission’s recommendations will be presented for debate and adoption at the party’s congress in July.

More recommendations are expected as the commission continues to get views from various districts.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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