You Can't Have Your Cake And Eat It - Khama

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Members of cabinet will no longer be allowed to contest for positions in the Central Committee of the Botswana Democratic Party, according to a national council resolution passed on Saturday at the Maharaj conference centre in Gaborone.

Neither will Central Committee members be permitted to sit in cabinet.

This will be read as a momentary victory over the Barata Phati faction, led by Daniel Kwelagobe which is fiercely opposed to the idea on the grounds that it runs counter to the constitution of the party.

But it will count as a victory for the president of the party and the country, Ian Khama who proposed "broadening the party leadership by voting into the Central Committee  party members who are not already in leadership positions" like cabinet.

Khama accused the private press of distorting his idea, adding that his proposal was that party positions should be spread among members.

"What I have in mind is that members holding cabinet positions, who as we know are also members of Parliament, should give their undivided attention to those functions in order that we may serve Batswana better," he said on Saturday.

The issue surrounding the Central Committee  elections has rekindled factional wars which had been dampened following a truce between the Merafhe and Kwelagobe factions.

It is understood that cabinet members, Vice President Mompati Merafhe, Minister of Education, Jacob Nkate, bought into Khama's idea and prefer cabinet posts rather than party positions.

On the other hand, members of the Kwelagobe-Kedikilwe faction have pledged their loyalty to the party by choosing to contest Central Committee positions.

Khama stated that his proposal recognised the need to place women in leadership positions, as well as combining experience and service in the party with new blood and fresh ideas.

Khama's victory will further heighten tensions within the party as some argue that the idea was a tactic to annihilate the Kwelagobe-Kedikilwe faction by taking them out of the executive.  He would then ensure that his supporters run the party office.Kwelagobe has made clear his intentions for the position of party chairperson where he will face Mahalapye East MP, Botlogile Tshireletso.

Gomolemo Motswaledi, who is also running for Gaborone Central, is mentioned among others who want to run for senior leadership positions, along with Lesego Motsumi, who might return to Parliament as a specially elected member.

Another resolution that was adopted calls for a review of the party primary elections system. This follows a report by secretary-general, Jacob Nkate, who said that the system caused problems for the party.

Nkate openly told delegates at the BDP National Council that ever since its inception in 2003, 'Bulela Ditswe' has brought more harm than good, adding that the system is abused and manipulated to serve sectarian interests in the party.

He stated that some people have gone to the extent of paying staff to defraud the system.

He said that in some instances activists hide election forms, only giving them to their preferred candidates.

On policy issues, Nkate said that the party's policy forum that he launched last year had already met once this year.

Nkate also announced that the BDP had opened a regional office in Kang and was in the process of opening another one in Maun. He also wants to open an office in Francistown.
Meanwhile, Khama's proposal will be on the agenda of the forthcoming congress due in July.

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