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BDP to cancel 2019 congress to save Masisi

Publishing Date : 03 September, 2018


The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Central Committee’s intentions to have party congresses postponed have been met with resistance by party structures and party veterans who believe the move is against the party constitution and its democratic credentials.

According to informants, last week, party secretary general, Mpho Balopi proposed to Ghanzi region that the National Youth Executive Committee (NYEC), Women Wing as well as the National Congress, all scheduled for next year, should not be held as expected. Balopi’s reason to have the congresses postponed is premised on the fact that the party is going through a transition period, following the ascendance of Masisi to the party presidency in April this year.

To add salt to an injury, Masisi’s ascendancy have been marred by fallout with his predecessor, with some believing that he is ill-treating his former boss, while others believe that Lt Gen Ian Khama wants to undermine Masisi’s presidency. Another reason reportedly advanced by Balopi at the Ghanzi region is that, the party is still dealing with preparations for primary elections, something which he believes is delicate and that handling more congresses will prove to be more problematic subsequently affecting the party prospects in next year general elections.

BDP is scheduled to go through the last batch of primary elections on the 11th of August 2017 in the 38 BDP held constituencies. However, some democrats believe that Balopi’s proposal is self-serving in that he wants to protect his position, which has already attracted strong challengers.

According to information gathered by this publication, President Masisi is likely to be endorsed by the party unopposed at the party’s Special Congress next year. The BDP constitution stipulates that during an election year, the party shall convene a special congress specifically for electing the party’s presidential candidate.

The BDP tradition shows that no sitting president has been challenged since independence. Masisi’s number two, Slumber Tsogwane also enjoys the good will so far. Tsogwane is the current party Chairman, having assumed the position when Masisi became party president. However, Balopi has not been that very lucky, at least few individuals known to this publication, including his former ally, Moyo Guma are reportedly lining themselves up for the position.

Guma is among the five central committee additional members who were elected at last held party congress in Tonota. Party veteran and long time secretary general, Daniel Kwelagobe has disagreed with what has been proposed by the central committee, indicating that it is not provided for in the constitution of the BDP.

“I am a constitutionalist and I believe in what is in the constitution. The only thing we can do that is in the interest of the party, will be implementing the provisions of the constitution,” said Kwelagobe, who spent 27 years as BDP secretary general. “BDP does not have in its constitution a provision that talks about transition. We must do what is in the constitution.” Kwelagobe, has over the years proved to be pro-party traditions, and has never supported efforts to undermine them.

In 2009, in the initial years of Khama’s presidency, this debate cropped up again, with many believing that there was a need to either postpone the party congress scheduled for Kanye or adopt compromise list to avoid contestation. This idea, during the factional divide of A-Team and Barataphathi was rejected by the democrats. Khama, who sympathised with A-Team had spoken in favour of a compromise where he argued other party members to let an all-women contestants to go unchallenged.

Khama lost out, as Barataphathi got support for a democratic congress, in which the latter won all the contested central committee positions except one. In 1999, BDP following the ascendance of Festus Mogae to the party presidency, the party adopted a compromise, with Kwelagobe/Kedikilwe faction members, who were in control of central committee positions retaining them unchallenged.  

BDP deputy secretary general, Shaw Kgathi declined to comment on the matter, referring this publication to secretary general, whom he said is the party chief spokesperson. Balopi was unable to take his calls, with reports indicating that he was outside the country at the time of going to press. Meanwhile Chairman of Publicity and International Relation Sub-Committee, Thapelo Pabalinga indicated that he is not aware of such development, indicating that it could have been discussed in a forum where he was not in attendance.



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