Sources at both the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) say that it is just a matter of time before the Francistown East MP, Ignatius Moswaane, joins the latter party. Such defection was actually expected to happen last year before the general election but was deferred to a later date. Moswaane’s actions also show that he is setting up a scenario that will force President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s hand.
Masisi suspended Moswaane last Wednesday through a letter whose very last sentence states: “You are directed not to share this internal party communication with third parties.” It is unclear when Moswaane received a copy of the letter but at 1659 hours of the same day, he posted its photocopy to his Facebook page. The latter means that in addition to “behaving in a grossly disorderly and unruly manner that might put the party name into disrepute” and behaving in a manner calculated to bring the party name into disrepute”, Moswaane has managed to add another charge that Masisi will certainly haul him over the coals for if he stays in the BDP.
BDP and BPF sources say that Moswaane is going for broke because he is headed to the BPF, which was founded by Masisi’s predecessor and nemesis, General Ian Khama. Ahead of last year’s elections, Moswaane didn’t even seek to make his political relationship with Khama a secret. Khama actively and publicly supported Moswaane’s re-election bid and according to BPF sources, around that time the Francistown East MP was being wooed to leave BDP. They add that while he remained put, he also indicated that he would join BPF at a later stage. In parliament, Moswaane operated almost like an opposition MP, in one instance deviating from positions taken by the parliamentary party.
Since the lockdown, Moswaane has been publicly criticising the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the food distribution programme and tendering process related to it. His suspension letter accuses him of engaging in anti-government social media activity.
Interestingly, Moswaane also fell out with President Khama, who accused him of engaging in the very same activities that have resulted in his suspension. The no-nonsense Khama, who is a former army commander, would use the opportunity of the 2015 BDP national congress in Mmadinare to warn Moswaane that he would take disciplinary action against him if he persisted in anti-government rhetoric.
“I am warning those that attack the party to stop doing so. Some MP here has gone into that habit, forgetting the hard work the party put in to have him elected,” said Khama. “I am warning him to desist from his tendencies, failing which I will take action.”
Moswaane desisted from his tendencies and Khama never took any disciplinary action against him. On the other hand, his latest action that immediately followed his suspension shows that he has no fear this time around. Ironically, in joining BPF, the rabble-rousing MP wouldn’t be able to be as assertive and as daring with Khama as he can be with Masisi.
Moswaane engages in this brinkmanship at a time that he doesn’t have the power he had going into the 2019 general election. Then Masisi had to treat dissident BDP MPs with kid gloves out of fear that they might decamp to the opposition and cost him votes he desperately needed in what everybody thought would be a do-or-die election. Having won with a comfortable margin, Masisi also has no such fear. He would retain that margin even if three more BDP MPs (Reggie Reatile, Molebatsi Molebatsi and Paulson Majaga) decamp to the BPF as been alleged in the media.