The Botswana Democratic Party’s factional wars in Francistown are once again tearing the party asunder, and this time Vice President Mompati Merafhe is right in the thick of things.
Information reaching the Sunday Standard indicates that Merafhe’s recent visit to Francistown, which was meant to quell the BDP’s widening factional rifts, has instead worsened the situation and further divided the Francistown region along factional axis, a la pre 2009 general elections.
Things came to a head after the general elections, when the barata-phathi wrestled control of the Francistown City Council from the A-team councilors. Thus the A-team went into the mayoral race in Francistown badly bruised, and it was widely expected that they will be trounced by the barata-phathi. But a BDP caucus meeting prevented the annihilation, as it fingered Shadreck Nyeku and Stanley Masalila as BDP candidates for mayor and deputy mayor respectively. Both are staunch barata-phathi foot-soldiers.
But the vanquished A-team councilors still had an ace up their sleeve. Ousted mayor and A-team activist Buti Billy and councilor James Kgalajwe defied the caucus agreement, contesting the mayoral and deputy mayoral seat respectively.
They were supported by councilors Johnson Moremi, Ford Moiteela and Masego Pule. Their reasons for standing were that they were not invited to the caucus meeting that nominated Nyeku and Masalila. In the end, the caucus agreement prevailed as Nyeku and Masalila parried the A-team councilors’ challenges.
Incensed by the insubordination of the A-team councilors, the Francistown regional committee reported the matter to the party central committee and called for the councilors to be disciplined.
In December, the central committee resolved to send Merafhe to Francistown to address the issue. It has emerged that Merafhe‘s visit only served to reignite the factional fires that are eating away at the BDP.
Information reaching the Sunday Standard indicates that the barata-phathi are incensed that, instead of addressing the culprits and bringing them to book, Merafhe chose to address the BDP councilors collectively and give them a blanket tongue lashing. Barata-phathi insiders have revealed that Merafhe used abrasive language to address the Francistown councilors, and he was biased in that he failed to address the specific complaints that they had raised against the five A-team councilors.
“The vice President was extremely biased. We gave all evidence to disprove the A team councilors’ claim that they had not been invited to the caucus meeting. Instead of addressing the issue, he decided to read us the riot act and tell us off like school children. It is evident that he was protecting the five A-team councilors” they said.
In the end the regional committee wrote a letter to the central committee complaining about Merafhe’s conduct. But Francistown region chairperson, Botho Ntirang, on Friday shot down the letter of complaint as “irresponsible, contemptuous and insubordinate behavior that will only work to destabilize the party”.
Ntirang said that he attended Merafhe’s meeting, together with Serema and Women‘s Wing Chair Angelina Sengalo. He added that there was never any sign of discontent from the BDP members, as all of them promised to work together and even shook hands with the people against whom the complaint was raised.
“It is disappointing for them to now raise such an unfounded complaint. They are out of order,” charged Ntirang.
He also said that the letter was not written by the regional committee because the committee never met to discuss the issue.
“These people must divorce this issue from the regional committee. My committee never met to discuss any such complaints. In fact, that issue is a non starter because proper channels were not followed. It should have been routed through the regional committee,” he said. Ntirang also confirmed seeing a copy of the complaint letter.
It has also emerged that seven other Francistown councilors have written a letter to the central committee supporting the barata phathi’s complaints against Merafhe. They are said to have cited Phikwe mayor Lekang Mukokomani, who was suspended from the BDP after defying the party caucus.
They argue that what Mukokomani did is no different from what the A-team members did in Francistown. Instead, they said, Mukokomani was suspended while the A-team councilors only earned innocent party members a tongue lashing from the vice president.
BDP Executive Secretary Comma Serema confirmed receiving the letter, but said that he cannot say anything at the moment until after Merafhe delivers the report on the Francistown visit to the central committee on Monday.