Following recent sustained reports that President Ian Khama is impudently breaching traditional Botswana Democratic Party constitution ahead of the national congress, the party secretary Friday came to his aid, defending his position to disallow renowned factional leaders to contest the party executive positions.
By barring faction leaders from competing for executive positions, Jacob Nkate argued president Khama was looking beyond the horizon, particularly as the country gears for the national elections, which the president vehemently desires to win by a landslide.
“Reports have been rife of late to the effect that President Khama is breaching the BDP constitution by disallowing notable leaders of the party to contest for the executive positions… but by doing so the president was informed by his wisdom to elude acrimonious situations, particularly as the national elections are looming,” said Nkate, adding “It is important to approach the national elections as a united force and in accordance with powers bestowed upon him by virtue of his position; President Khama was in the right.”
Khama this year suggested party factional leaders should consider stepping aside and pave way for non-factional party members, in particular women.
But this suggestion has polarized the party significantly, with the KwelagobeÔÇôKedikilwe axis, commonly dubbed ‘Barati phati’, saying it would not compromise as proposed by the Merafe-Nkate faction.
Nkate is obsessed with differences of opinion, which he says is a feature common in every institution or organization but the embattled Education Minister dislikes it when such differences boarder on hatred and malice, as reported at Matshelagabedi launch where Kwelagobe-Kedikilwe axis reportedly snubbed vice president Merafhe.
“The president is a very disappointed man at this turn of events as the decision was agreed upon by the party caucus. We voluntarily accepted his suggestions but it now looks the president and faction led by Kwelagobe are not singing from the same hymn book,” the secretary general lamented, adding however, “The party will not thwart the ambitions of individuals as they are free to exercise their constitutional rights.”
If the status quo is maintained, the boxing ring would be saturated with heavyweight party champions. The incumbent party chairman, Kwelagobe, would lock horns with the former Serowe South MP, Tebelelo Seretse, for the position, while Nkate takes on the ambitious Gomolemo Motswaledi for the secretary general’s post.
For the position of the deputy secretary general, Kentse Rammidi would flex muscles with Wynter Mmolotsi from the Kwelagobe-Kedikilwe faction- all ugly scenes which could see the party go to the national polls limping beyond repair.
As regards another controversial matter about the refusal by the secretariat or the treasury to fund the chairman when on official party trips, Nkate denied allegations Kwelagobe was intentionally starved of funds when on official party duties.
“Since he became the chairman of the party in 2007, Kwelagobe has never run short of finances whilst performing party duties. Recently, he was in Tshane and Matshelagabedi on official duties and was funded by the party. It is only when not on official duties that the party could not fund him,” argued Nkate, referring to the latest fiasco where Kwelagobe says he was denied funding by the party to attend the launch of Boteti North candidate, Slumber Tsogwane. He argues Kwelagobe was not a guest speaker at the event but only attended the ceremony at his own volition and capacity as a BDP member.
The Kwelagobe-Kedikilwe faction has since established a fund designed purposefully to supply their leader with funds solicited from the public.
Asked to which particular faction Tebelelo Seretse belonged, Nkate replied she belonged to their group, adding it was impossible to aspire to such a position as a neutral.
Queried that if, by pleading with fellow democrats to rally behind Seretse for the chairperson’s position, the president was not fuelling further factionalism, Nkate replied: “Tebelelo Seretse is not heavily involved. The president only told the leaders of the factions to back off.”
On why Khama dismissed Kwelagobe from cabinet for holding party position and cabinet post, while the Minister of Health, Lesego Motsumi, remains in office although reportedly eyeing an executive position at the coming national congress, Nkate eluded the question, reserving it for the president who made the decision.
Kwelagobe-Kedikilwe faction has, however, translated the decision as double standards and, as things stand, the BDP is poised for a bruising congress.
Kwelagobe could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.