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PHK warns against Endorsements

Publishing Date : 15 June, 2015

Author : ALFRED MASOKOLA and UTLWANANG GASENNELWE

Former Vice President, Ponatshego Kedikilwe


The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) race for positions in the party’s governing structures has led to endorsement of candidates by party elders and there are fears that this may revive factionalism and bring divisions.


As the race for the chairmanship heats up, a number of candidates have lately enjoyed endorsement from party elders the latest being of former President Sir Ketumile Masire and long-time party ‘strongman’ Daniel Kwelagobe.


Masire’s statement was read by some mean a declaration of support for Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi to ascend to the position of the chairman at the upcoming party congress billed for Mmadinare in July. The former leader has since clarified his statement, distancing it from any form of endorsement.


President Masire had rubbed party stalwarts the wrong way when he made remarks to the effect that his support for Masisi was based on his origin as a “Southerner”. The remarks have been seen as divisive and peeling off the old wounds of factionalism.


In the late 1980s and early 1990s during the emergence of party factions, the dictum of “Southerner” and “Northerner” became a hot potato in defining party factions. The Mmusi-Kwelagobe faction was predominately made up of those who came from the southern part of Botswana while ‘The Big Five’ comprising (Mompati Merafhe, Bahiti Temane, Roy Blackbeard, Chapson Butale and David Magang) was dominated by ‘northerners.’


Although BDP has made it clear that factionalism should never be the basis of campaign for central committee, the endorsement by party elders may see factions manifesting slowly within the party.


Following the suspected endorsement of Masisi by Masire, another chairmanship candidate Ramadeluka Seretse has criticised the gesture and said it was regrettable – especially for such endorsement to have been carried out in the presence of other candidates.


The former cabinet minister however downplayed suggestions that Masire’s endorsement was based merely on the origin of Masisi as a ‘southerner’. “I never understood the tone of the letter to say the Chairman of the BDP for 2015-2017 period must come from the south as opposed to the north,” he said in a statement.

“Yes, any form of endorsement of one candidate by whoever at such gathering, in the presence of other candidates would be unfortunate and a mistake never to be repeated.”


Ramadeluka Seretse was in pole position for the Vice Presidency in the run up to the 2014 general elections but went out of favour after losing to Kgotla Autlwetse in the primary elections. The party chairmanship has been traditionally associated with the vice presidency.


Meanwhile Cabinet member and Specially Elected Member of Parliament Kitso Mokaila also confirmed to this publication that he has a preferred candidate whom he refused to mention citing that he was confident the aspirant will triumph.


Mokaila said this at the backdrop of strong speculations from highly placed sources in the party that he supports former Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Ramadeluka Seretse for Chairmanship. Ramadeluka enters the race bruised from the party primary elections after being defeated twice by Kgotla Autlwetse.


Wedging in on the ongoing debate, former Vice President and outgoing BDP Chairman Ponatshego Kedikilwe expressed discontentment with those publicly endorsing candidates for BDP chairmanship. Kedikilwe told WeekendPost in an interview that behavior (of public endorsements) is utterly uncalled for and denounced it with the strongest terms possible.


The BDP heavyweight stated boldly that logic would not allow him to endorse any aspiring candidate for any position, including chairmanship, in the party Central Committee. “I disagree that there should be public endorsements, it is not the right thing to do. Consequently, as an outgoing Chairman and former Vice president – I would not endorse any candidate,” he stressed to this publication.


However, the BDP strongman Daniel Kwelagobe has publicly declared his perpetual support for Tebelelo Seretse. The former chairman maintained to WeekendPost that, “every party member has freedom of choice and so there is nothing wrong with public endorsements,” while refusing to accede that it was disadvantaging the other candidates.


Ironically, the long-time party secretary is now endorsing his former nemesis. Tebelelo Seretse battled with Kwelagobe for chairmanship in a bloody skirmish that left the party divided after the 2009 Kanye congress - out of which followed the formation of the splinter party, the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD).


Nonetheless, it seems like Kwelagobe and Seretse have since buried that hatchet and Kwelagobe is now rooting for the only woman contender in the race.


Kwelagobe also supports his political prodigal son, Botsalo Ntuane for the position of the Secretary General, a position which Kwelagobe himself managed to hold for 27 consecutive years. This support comes at the expense of his former Barataphathi ally Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri, who is seen as Khama’s favourite for the position.


The upcoming BDP congress will be followed by two elective congresses before the next general elections. BDP will meet again for the biennial event in 2017 and 2019. While Masisi maybe steps ahead of his colleagues in the bid for presidency, he will need congress support in 2019 to be retained as party president. Traditionally, a seating president has never been challenged in the BDP, despite the constitution allowing it.


Masisi became a surprise package in November last year when President Lt Gen Ian Khama announced him as the Republic’s Vice President. Initially viewed as a stopgap, it seems like the Moshupa-Manyana Member of Parliament has everything under his control and will do everything to consolidate his power.   


Meanwhile University of Botswana lecturer in Public Administration, and renowned Political Analyst, Daniel Molaodi told this publication that the endorsements may just spark further divisions in the party.


“The endorsements are going to further create room for vacillations among members of the BDP as they will begin to look more into why each elder is endorsing a particular candidate over the other and that might just spark further divisions,” he stated.


He added that it might even regenerate the factions that were supposedly killed, “the question though would be how the elders themselves justify their choices and whether their reasoning resonates well with BDP members as a collective or in their old or new formations/factions,” Molaodi pointed out.


According to the UB lecturer, that the former president Sir Ketumile Masire is apparently endorsing Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi for chairmanship on account and consideration of him being Southerner is deplorable and raises more questions.  


“The question would be: is Masire saying that there is need to balance regional representation (specifically the south vs north) in leadership positions of the BDP and by implication that of Botswana? If so what does this say about our democracy, issues of quality and traits of leaders we want,” he asserted.


 “I am wondering if this is a concern within the BDP itself, if it is then how pervasive is it such that you will still have a southerner in the form of Daniel Kwelagobe endorsing a northerner Tebelelo Seretse?” Molaodi rhetorically asked.


The political analyst conceded that the reasons for Kwelagobe’s endorsement of Tebelelo were based more on current trends of the party torn between the emerging ‘tenderpreneurs’ and the traditional BDP stalwarts who fear an erosion of the party culture and principles, although at the same time one would have expected President Masire to be with the traditional BDP thinking.


According to Molaodi, “it’s simply a question of which issue each of the elders view as more crucial in this particular contest and therefore not necessarily their permanent view.”

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