Members of the Kedikilwe/Kwelagobe faction have accused President Seretse Khama Ian Khama of somersaulting on his initial ultimatum that Botswana Democratic Party members should choose between central committee and cabinet positions, and adopting a mellowed approach that they say is meant to endear him to the BDP faithful ahead of the highly anticipated Kanye congress this weekend.
This accusation comes after the president told a BDP meeting in Francistown that he had only suggested that those who are perceived to be faction leaders should not stand for central committee positions as it would only fuel the factional disputes that have engulfed the BDP.
If they insisted on campaigning, the faction leaders would have to choose between a cabinet position and a central committee position.
“Leaders of the A-team being Jacob Nkate, Mompati Merafhe and Kentse Rammidi chose to heed the president’s plea because they had the interest of the party at heart. Sadly, members of the barata-phathi, being Daniel Kwelagobe, Wynter Mmolotsi and Gomolemo Motswaledi, chose not to heed the president’s plea and forged ahead with their campaign for central committee positions, citing the constitution as their messiah,” Serema told The Sunday Standard after the BDP meet last week.
Because he chose a central committee position over a cabinet position, Kwelagobe was eventually dropped from cabinet.
The president is said to have told democrats in Francistown that, true to his assertion, the factional disputes in the BDP grew into an uncontrollable conflagration primarily because the Kedikilwe-Kwelagobe faction refused to heed his warnings.
Asked why he allowed Lesego Motsumi to retain her position as Minister of Health even though she is cited as a secretary general candidate in the A-team lobby list, Khama replied that Lesego Motsumi was allowed to retain her cabinet position because she is not a leader of any faction and most importantly, she is a woman.
Khama is said to have told the delegates that he was of the view that women have for a long time been sidelined in the BDP power mongering, and it is important that the BDP, as the ruling party, is seen as advocating for women empowerment.
The president further told the Francistown meet that he also held a strong conviction that members who are representing marginal constituencies like Wynter Mmolotsi (Francistown South), Botsalo Ntuane (Gaborone West South) and Gomolemo Motswaledi (Gaborone Central), should also shy away from central committee campaigns and rather channel all their energies at ensuring that they win their respective constituencies.
But the president’s latest stance has been shot down by Kedikilwe-Kwelagobe protagonists who said that it is a belated effort by the president to draw sympathy from democrats ahead of the Kanye congress.
Speaking to The Sunday Standard on Friday, members of the barata-phathi maintained that they had perfectly understood the president when he tabled his carrot and stick ultimatum earlier this year.
“The president made it very clear to all parliamentarians that those who chose to stand for central committee positions should kiss their cabinet ambitions goodbye. There was never any talk of party unity, but rather a blatant ultimatum, with the MP’s given a week to make their choices. Kwelagobe exercised his constitutional right and chose to resign from cabinet to serve the party because, in the end, cabinet appointments are at the pleasure of the president,” they said.
They dismissed the president’s latest statement as belated shenanigans by an embattled leader who, after realizing that things might not go his way, chose to mislead his charges.
“The president is essentially trying to close the gate after the horse has bolted. Why did he take so long to clarify his stance?” they asked.
They said that for the president to insist that BDP members should not exercise their constitutional right by standing for elections because they represent marginal constituencies is very suspicious.
“We must all remember that some of these candidates did not choose to stand in the constituencies where they are campaigning today, but were rather forced to migrate from their constituencies of choice to these so-called marginal constituencies. Must we now suspect that the president pushed these candidates into the marginal constituencies because he wanted to curtail their ambitions of standing for central committee elections?”
They also maintained that it should be left to the candidates to decide if they can manage to sustain both the central committee and the constituency campaign.
“Choice is a very integral part of every democratic institution, and people must be left to decide what is right for them,” they charged.
The barata-phathi also dismissed president Khama’s contention that he allowed Lesego Motsumi to retain her cabinet position because she is not a factional leader as unfounded because one is either a member of a particular faction or not. They said that the mere fact that Lesego Motsumi is listed as a contender in a particular faction’s lobby list is evidence enough that she belongs to the A-team and, therefore, should be removed from cabinet as per the president’s ultimatum.
“We also dismiss the issue of women empowerment as a fallacy because the president has since coming into power never done anything to suggest that he supports women empowerment. If anything, he has reversed the gains that were made by former president Festus Mogae in so far as women empowerment is concerned,” they charged.
In conclusion, the barata-phathi said that it is surprising that the president would talk of factionalism and factional leaders in abstract when he is, in fact, part and parcel of the factional disputes that continue to rip the BDP apart. They added that by endorsing one faction over another, and publicly denigrating another factional leader and washing the party’s dirty linen in public, Khama was in fact displaying the worst factional tendencies.