The Secretary General of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party, Mpho Balopi, has called on members to desist from starting their campaigns for both party positions and national offices.
He said other than that, the campaigns could destabilize the party, adding that it is important that incumbents be given space to lead until such time that campaigns are officially opened.
He said starting campaigns so early could distract incumbents from their mandates as they could be forced to physically guard their turfs at the expense of national duties.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Balopi said although he has been in the key position only for a short while, he can look back with pride.
He said for him, the jewel in the crown so far is the Mokoboxane by-election which he delivered against a buoyant and united opposition collective.
He said although the margin was not that big, it is important to note that the BDP went into the by-election as an underdog as per the results of the 2009 General Elections.
“Some people might look at the by-election results as marginal, the important thing though is that as a departure of all other previous by-elections, there was voter apathy. In fact, the by-elections turned to be better than the General Election,” said Balopi.
In a surprise tone coming from a BDP leader, Balopi said it is not proper for BDP members to celebrate the collapse of opposition unity.
He said the BDP should also refrain from castigating the opposition, but instead offer them the respect that is due to them.
Calling for tolerance, he said it is important for the BDP to learn from the circumstances that led to the split two years ago which resulted in the formation of the opposition Botswana Movement for Democracy.
“As the BDP, we should avoid being one dimensional. The split was a wake-up call. It has taught us that we are ordinary mortals. In a big way, it has shown us that we can lose power.”
He said going forward the BDP should not open an opportunity for another split.
Balopi admitted that the lack of unity prevailing at the opposition ranks will in the medium to long terms produce a backlash within the BDP.
“Because the opposition is in disarray, every BDP member tends to fancy their chances and wants to put their name for office. This has the potential to destabilise the party because there will be too many people jostling for position,” he said.
On how the BDP has managed to turn the corner and bring about an air of unity, Balopi said the party’s 50th anniversary has played a role in that the celebrations offered all concerned something around which to rally.
He said as the Secretary General he deliberately went out of his way to use the recent 50th celebrations to unite the party.
“My idea was to use the celebrations to unify the party. I wanted people from all over the country for the first time in our history to come wearing the same shirts. That cemented unity and sameness. There was no opportunity to use the printed shirts to campaign for anyone individual or anyone faction.”
Among his achievements, Balopi points to the fact that he has been able to engage the Council of Elders, who he said now feel very much appreciated.
Although there have been some resistance to some of his reforms, he says generally it is agreed that whatever changes he has brought are for the good of the party.
“I have made it very clear that all party communication shall be handled by [Lesang] Magang other than him only myself as Secretary General, National Chairperson and Party President can speak on behalf of the party,” said Balopi.
He said for the first time there are attempts at branding the party.
This has attracted criticism from internal detractors who say the communications expert that he is, Balopi wants to corporatize BDP. The concern is that by so doing he may leave the general members outside if they feel the modernization does not reflect their values.
“I know that some people were looking at me with suspicion. I have gone at length to make it clear that I will not be using my position to seek other offices like becoming a Member of Parliament. By declaring that I will not be standing for anything outside the party, people now trust me more,” he said.