Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Balopi breaks his silence

Before we could even settle down for an interview with the outgoing Secretary General of the Botswana Democratic Party at his residence in Phakalane, Mpho Balopi gets way ahead of us to tell us that he remains a loyal member of the BDP.

It is a refrain that is to run through the interview – not to burnish his image, he says, but to show that he is in it to serve.

He reminds us that he never wanted to become Secretary General of the BDP, but instead became one by fate after Kentse Rammidi, a man so elected at a Congress in Mahalapye unexpectedly resigned.

He has barely finished a sentence on making his point on how he became a Secretary General before he jumped onto yet another related matter.

He tells us that he is a loyal member of the BDP.

That loyalty, he says extends to the party president.

It turns out that some BDP members had told the president at some time in the past that Balopi had ambitions to challenge him in future for the position of president.

His anecdote of how he never went out of his way to work at becoming the BDP Secretary General is in a way intended also to disavow all insinuations that he wanted to succeed or worse challenge Masisi.

He is clearly hurt that people worked so hard to create an imaginary rift between him and Masisi.

For the first time Balopi goes public on the fact that president Masisi has in the past asked him to step down as Secretary General.

The idea, he says was so that he could concentrate on his cabinet position.

“I agreed to step down. I did not want to be seen to be defying the leader,” he says.

But instead of stepping down as secretary General, Balopi stepped down as minister.

Some felt he was snubbing the president.

To the contrary, he says he has been loyal to President Mokgweetsi Masisi and will continue to  be. He will not participate in effort aimed at undermining Masisi’s success as a president. And his decision not to defend his position was so that nobody points a finger at him.

But has President Masisi ever asked Mpho Balopi to resign from the position of BDP Secretary General? We ask. Yes, he has. It’s the answer that comes our reluctantly with some hurt in the tone of the voice.

And he immediately moves on signalling that there are more important things for him to talk about in the interview.

Balopi is adamant that history is on his side. And that his track record speaks volumes.

He tells us that he has been Secretary General of the BDP for a total of eleven years.

That makes him the third longest serving Secretary General after Daniel Kwelagobe who served for 27 years and the late Sir Ketumile who served as BDP Secretary General for 18 years.

More than twice during the interview he reminds us that when his friends and peers like Gomolemo Motswaledi, Ndaba Gaolathe, Samson Moyo Guma Botsalo Ntuane, Wynter Mmolotsi and others  left the BDP he stayed put. And his decision has over time been vindicated, he says.

“The BDP is a very strong brand. My worry is that the BDP of today is contaminating a very strong brand. It is the BDP members who keep diluting this brand,” says Balopi.

To those who say he resigned from cabinet and is now leaving the position of Secretary General so that he can start fighting the party or Masisi, Balopi says there will be nothing like that.

“There is no way I am going to fight the BDP,” he says as a matter of fact.

He says President Masisi should be allowed to run his government undisturbed.

“I cannot be the one disturbing the president in doing his job. We don’t want the party to lose focus. We don’t want to disturb government on how they want to run their affairs,” he says.

People have been coming to him asking him to contest other central committee positions.

He says he is worried by people joining the BDP who are themselves not well versed in the ethos of the BDP.

“I don’t want to contest any positions. I was wired as a businessman. I was wired in team work. I am shocked by politicians who believe in separating people. The BDP today has people who are not unifiers,” says Balopi.

Is it a coincidence that just as he is exiting top political positions, many of his political nemesis are coming back in large numbers?

He says he has no idea, but adds that he is aware of ongoing propaganda that is gaining momentum to the effect that he had wanted to become Vice president.

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