Sunday, September 27, 2020

Balikani trashes reports of resignation

The embattled Botswana Peoples Party could be headed for another leadership crisis if allegations that party President, Bernard Balikani, and Acting Secretary General, Edward Mpoloka, are to resign at the party conference in July are true.

The pair has been embroiled in a row with party structures following Balikani’s appointment of Mpoloka to the position of Secretary General.
But party president Bernard Balikani laughs off allegations that he is going to resign as wishful thinking by his detractors. He told The Sunday Standard that the only BPP elections that he knows of will be held in 2010 at the party’s national congress and not at the July congress.
Balikani said that those who do not want Mpoloka to be appointed Secretary General will have a chance to exercise their democratic right and nominate a candidate of their choice at the July conference.

” I am empowered by the BPP constitution to appoint any member of the central committee to an acting position,” he said, adding that Mpoloka has been endorsed by both the executive and the central committee and it will be up to the BPP masses to endorse him at the July congress, failing which an election would be held to elect a popular secretary general.
Balikani said that he was perturbed by the fact that though “a few handful elements” within the BPP have protested Mpoloka’s appointment, none of them have come up with a valid reason or nominated a candidate of their choice.

He also said that in their various meetings with the central committee, the representatives of the youth league have never expressed discontent with Mpoloka on behalf of the youth league.

Balikani also dismissed allegations of his frustration with the ungratefulness of BPP members who do not appreciate that his leadership has to dig deep into their personal coffers to keep the party running.

”Ours is a thankless profession and we cannot be derailed from our responsibilities by unfounded allegations and insults,” he said.

But the man at the eye of the storm, Edward Mpoloka, does not cut such a convincing picture as that of Balikani. He told The Sunday Standard that he has long made a personal decision to serve the BPP at a lower level but was urged by some friends to assume higher positions as they viewed him as capable.

“If indeed I resign from the central committee at the July congress it will not be because I was pushed out but because of personal treasons,” he said.

Mpoloka added that the people who are sowing discord within the BPP are just a small minority who seem not to understand the constitution of the BPP, especially since they demanded that Balikani renege on his decision to appoint him as secretary general when the constitution empowers him to do so
Some key members of the party are understood to have launched a whispering campaign to push Balikani out of the party presidency, and the July conference has been targeted as the day of reckoning. Though his detractors appreciate Balikani’s contribution to the BPP, they say that his main undoing is his close association with former Deputy Secretary General Mpoloka whom he elevated to the position of Secretary General after the controversial departure of incumbent Cornelius Gopolang, a man who many say commands a lot of respect and support within the BPP structures.
Mpoloka is accused of influencing Balikani to turn his back on Gopolang because of his stance on opposition unity talks.

It has emerged that the July conference will be forced to divert from its mandate and call for elections as Balikani and Mpoloka will drop a bombshell and announce their resignation, igniting a controversial leadership crisis that will force the dissolution of the whole committee.

Information reaching The Sunday Standard is that Balikani’s detractors are also expected to force a stalemate as they are expected to nominate a Secretary General candidate of their own to compete against Mpoloka. The incumbent was nominated by the President and endorsed by the central and executive committee, and he only needs to be approved by the masses at the July conference.

The BPP has always been embroiled in leadership tussles between the central committee and some of its younger members, especially those in the youth wing.

Major cracks started showing after the resignation of Gopolang. It emerged that Gopolang was disgruntled with the apparent laxity of the BPP leadership and the lack of cohesion between the central and the executive committee. The executive committee would pass motions that the central committee would invariably fail to endorse thus frustrating the efforts of the party structures.
This is reported to have trickled down to ordinary members, creating disgruntlement and the collapse of the party structures. At the recent Mathangwane North by-elections, the BPP launched a half-hearted campaign only managing to garner a negligible number votes, a fact that many attribute to the collapse of the party structures.

The BPP Youth League is said to have been so aggrieved by Balikani’s appointment of Mpoloka as Secretary General that their National Organizing Secretary, Tongomani Dan, who is also the sole BPP representative at the North East District Council, wrote a letter to Balikani threatening to boycott party activities if the appointment was not reversed.
The youth league labeled Mpoloka as an autocratic and uncooperative man who made unanimous party decisions without consulting other members of the party. Fingers were pointed to Mpoloka as the main culprit behind Gopolang’s departure.

The BPP’s woes took an even deeper turn when it emerged that there exists within the party a dissident group who call themselves the caring committee. This group had for a long time not been participating in party activities, in protest against some decisions taken by the party leadership, especially the decision to engage in a PACT model with the BNF and BAM. The caring committee resurfaced recently, manned by, among others, Moses Mpuchane, Dickson Mwampole and Boipuso Mothoosele, and declared that they now wanted to engage in dialogue with Balikani because they had seen that their continuous boycotting of party activities did not augur well for the party growth.

Balikani, on the other hand, is said to be unhappy that the party leadership is continuously berated and accused of not doing enough for the party when they, in actual fact, regularly dig deep into their personal coffers to maintain the BPP.
“The central committee is continuously subjected to ridicule and insults by some party members who feel that they are not doing enough or they are beginning to think that the party belongs to them,” said a close Balikani aide.

With all these factors coming into play, Balikani and Mpoloka are said to be very frustrated with their respective positions as BPP President and Secretary General and they have both taken a decision to resign at the July conference.

The insiders have revealed that some key members of the party have been secretly informed of the duo‘s decision, and the greatest crisis for the BPP at present is that there seems to be no one within the party structures who is willing to step up to the podium to inherit the desperate party.

Mpoloka’s decision to resign is viewed by many as capitulation to pressure from the youth league who have been clamoring for his expulsion from the Secretary General’s position.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.