A court action by the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) suspended Secretary General, Gomolemo Motswaledi, this week pushed the party to the brink of a free fall as the stalemate between the two warring BDP factions in the central committee threatens to escalate into a collapse of central authority.
Motswaledi filed an urgent application on Thursday, citing the BDP as the first respondent, President Lt Gen Ian Khama as the second respondent and Chairman of the Gaborone Central Constituency Branch of the BDP as the third respondent.
By Friday, the BDP central committee had not met to decide on the party’s response to Motswaledi’s application and agree on the choice of lawyers to defend the party.
Barata-phathi faction members in the Central Committee support Motswaledi’s affidavit and agree that party lawyers, Collins Newman & Company, should not be engaged to defend the party. Party Chairperson, Daniel Kwelagobe has already filed a confirmatory affidavit, supporting Motswaledi.
In his affidavit, Kwelagobe stated that his position is shared by most other central committee members.
Members of the A-Team faction, on the other hand, are expected to insist that the party should defend against Motswaledi’s application and retain Collins Newman & Company as party lawyers.
The dispute is expected to go down to numbers when the issues are put to a vote in the central committee.
With Motswaledi suspended the Barata-phathi faction now has eight members while the A-team faction also has eight members in the central committee. Party treasurer, Satar Dada, is not linked to any faction. The stalemate is expected to paralyze the party’s institutional decision making.
Motswaledi states in his affidavit that his suspension from the party was a slight of hand by Khama to neutralize the Barata-phathi faction who hitherto was controlling the BDP Central Committee.
He explains that at the recent BDP congress in Kanye, “all but one of those elected were in the grouping commonly referred to as Barata-phathi”. He says Khama, “in terms of Article 30.5, appointed additional members, all of whom were aligned to the grouping associated with him”.
“The result was that of the 18 members, the Barata-phathi had a solid 9 supporters and the grouping aligned with Khama had a solid 8 supporters, and one member was not aligned. (The effect of my suspension is to disturb the balance of alignment within the Central Committee and was, in my contention, a deliberate objective of the second respondent” (Khama).
Motswaledi argues in his affidavit that Khama “misused his power… to try to tip the balance of power in the Central Committee”.
Party Executive Secretary, Comma Serema, confirmed that the party was seized with a law suit and will refer the matter to its attorneys, Collins Newman & Co.
Members of Barata-Phathi faction, however, maintain that the party secretariat has no mandate to refer the case to Collins Newman and Co.