With or without the participation of party president, a 12-member faction within the Botswana National Front Central Committee plans to hold an emergency meeting as soon as possible where the main agenda will be the convening of a special congress this year.
Through the planned congress, this faction hopes to unseat party president, Duma Boko, with whom it has a toxic relationship. The insistence on the special congress being held this year stems from the fact that in terms of the BNF constitution, no national congregations can be held in an election year. Botswana goes to the polls next year and the BNF will be contesting as part of an opposition collective, the Umbrella for Democratic Change, which is also led by Boko.
The 18-member central committee is divided into factions that separate Boko and his deputy president, Reverend Prince Dibeela. Boko is said to have the support of only four members (Moeti Mohwasa, the Secretary General; Justin Hunyepa, the Publicity Secretary; Tona Mooketsi, the Organising Secretary; and Kwenantle Gaseitsiwe, an additional member appointed by Boko himself). On the other hand, Dibeela has the support of 12 members while one lady member is said to be sitting on the fence.
This situation gives Dibeela’s faction the upper hand when it comes to contentious issues that have to be settled by voting. Boko’s faction is said to have been avoiding a central committee for a long time, knowing full well what the agenda and outcome will be. Dibeela’s now wants to go for broke by calling this meeting, secure in the knowledge that it can use its numerical strength to produce a result that suits it.
At one point, the idea of Dibeela’s faction resigning en masse to force a special congress was mooted but abandoned on the advice of a loosely-confederated brain trust outside the committee that reasoned that such scenario could give Boko’s faction an advantage. The party’s constitution says that when something like that happens, an elective congress should be held within 90 days. The brain trust’s advice was that Boko would fill the vacant posts with his own people and gain more leverage.
The biggest prize in this war is ejecting of the Botswana Movement for Democracy from UDC and replacing it with its offshoot, the Alliance for Progressives. BMD is seen as a deadweight and AP as a more viable partner. Even outside Dibeela’s faction, some BNF members fear that BMD may have a working relationship with the Directorate on Intelligence Services and in its present constitution, could be part of an operation to destabilise UDC.
Whatever advantage it may have, the Dibeela faction is itself taking a huge risk because there is no absolute guarantee that a special congress will produce a central committee it wants. Another group that is hellbent on toppling Boko is that of party veterans which, at press time, was to meet members of Dibeela’s faction in Mahalapye on Saturday.
Having long simmered behind closed doors, the tension between the two factions is boiling over into the open. One of the adverse results of such development will be the exposure of secrets that have remained out of public view for a long time. Questions are being asked and allegations being made about the money that the party raised for its 50th anniversary. Apparently no financial report was ever presented to the central committee as is customary. A deal to produce party-branded merchandise was reportedly nixed without the involvement of the central committee. The supplier was mysteriously replaced with one that the committee was not aware of that had been engaged by an employee at the party office in Gaborone.