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BY THOBO MOTLHOKA
FORMER President Lt Gen Ian Khama will be a speaker at a meeting called by Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi’s supporters in Serowe today (Sunday) to try and overturn last weekend’s decision by the Central Region to nominate President Masisi for the Botswana Democratic (BDP) Party presidency.
Khama is expected to use his influence as Chief of Bangwato to try and marshal resistance against Masisi’s nomination by the Central District which includes the seat of Bangwato supremacy- Serowe.
The historical race for the BDP presidency formally took off last week with the announcement of the date and battleground as the party faces a defining moment just months before the 2019 general elections.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi is set to become the first party president to be challenged following Serowe South Member of Parliament Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi’s shocking announcement in December 2018.
The two are expected to face off at a Special Congress in Kang village on April 5, 2019. The party’s 14 regional structures have already begun holding their respective congresses to elect committees and also nominate their preferred candidate for presidency.
Venson-Moitoi has already suffered a major vote of no confidence with the Central Region, also comprising all Serowe branches of the BDP, nominating Masisi. Venson-Motoi, the area MP who enjoys support from former President and Bangwato Paramount Chief Ian Khama, had expected to nail the nomination.
So shocked were Venson-Motoi’s camp that they have since called a meeting today (Sunday, February 24) to discuss the results of the nomination. “The meeting is convened on the instance of the BDP elders in Serowe who have demanded clarification on what transpired at the Regional Meeting held on February 16, 2019,” reads a formal invitation from one of the conveners, Councillor Kadiimo Oremeng of Mogorosi-Thabala ward in Serowe.
Speaking to Sunday Standard on Friday Oremeng said procedure was not followed when making invitations for the regional congress. He said the ‘elders’ were caught off-guard as they did not know there was going to be a nomination for presidency. “The aim of the meeting is to eventually come up with a way to reverse the decision of the regional congress to endorse Masisi for Presidency,” Oremeng said.
He also confirmed former President Khama would be one of the speakers at the meeting, to be held at Lady Khama Centre in Serowe.
President Masisi has, at a recent BDP gathering in his home village of Moshupa, hinted at Khama being the driving force behind Venson-Moitoi’s candidacy.
“We all know she is not really the one running for president,” Masisi told the gathering. Venson-Moitoi has done little (if anything) to distance herself from the former president and his possible influence.
Khama has himself revealed he supports Venson-Moitoi for the party presidency. The gloves have now come off in the fight between the former president and his predecessor with the two exchanging words through the media. In their most recent ‘altercation’ Khama made a statement in response to Masisi’s accusations that he had, completely out of character, adopted the habit of conveniently showing up late for party activities involving his successor as a way to disrupt proceedings and boast his perceived popularity with the party faithful.
Khama’s new ‘tendency’ began at Ave Maria in 2018 shortly following Masisi’s ascendency to the country’s presidency and consequent BDP leadership position during the party’s non-elective Special Congress. Most recently the former President showed up late for the BDP Retreat at Majestic Five Hotel in Palapye, a move he later justified by saying he had informed the party of his prior commitments.
Meanwhile, addressing the media this week Secretary General Mpho Balopi said a total of eight regions had already held their congresses as part of preparations for the April 5-7 Special Congress and National Council. While the 14 regions may nominate their preferred candidate for presidency any member not nominated by a region, may express their wish to contest at least 24 hours prior to the congress accompanied by at least 50 signatures of BDP members ‘in good standing’.